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‘Slap a jelly on the table and everyone will smile. The
joy of it is universal,’ says Sam Bompas, co-founder of Bompas & Parr (tel: 020 7403 9403), aka Jelly Mongers. ‘Everyone has their own jelly story to recount. I met a panther-like model
recently, who, as a teenager won a jelly-eating competition, polishing off 14 bowls consecutively.’
Bompas & Parr hit the headlines in 2008 with their jelly banquet for the London Festival of Architecture and caught the attention of the couture catering world. From neon jellies at Mark Ronson’s birthday party to Umbongo-flavoured varieties at Stella McCartney’s fashion show, not to mention a red and very wobbly Buckingham Palace especially for the Royal Wedding, this avant-garde duo have taken jelly design into the spectacular.
Since then, gelatinous works of art have been showing up at events all around town. But forget plastic bowls and dollops of soft scoop, Jelly in the catering world has reached the level of haute-cuisine. Earlier this year, Champagne and gold leaf jelly was served at the press launch of the London Restaurant Festival, catered by Urban Caprice (tel: 020 7286 1700 squaremeal.co.uk/uc) at The Ivy – a restaurant whose prosecco and blood peach jelly is as popular as any of the A-listers ordering it.
Matthew Peat, co-director at Urban Caprice explains jelly’s appeal: ‘It’s a natural product, low in calories, easily flavoured or decorated and moulds into imaginative shapes. Not to mention the nostalgic memories it enchants. And, of course, it wobbles.’
At the Concerto Group’s Industry Leader’s Lunch back in July, the wobbly stuff showed up again, this time as hibiscus flower jelly with nectarines and peaches. ‘The whole nation is gripped by the molecular dishes that chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià have made so popular’, says Lulu Jones-Fenleigh, who is menu designer at Create (tel: 020 8944 4900), the catering company responsible for the dessert. ‘As a result, they have become far more accustomed to exotic flavours, textures and the elements of surprise that this style of food entails. Jelly is a very accessible way of providing all of these elements.’
So what’s next for jelly? For Jones-Fenleigh it’s going savoury. ‘One of our most popular dishes for the autumn/winter season is looking to be a cauliflower pannacotta with air-dried Cumbrian ham jelly, caramelised fennel and a ham shard. The air-dried jelly, which sits on top of the pannacotta, is going to be flecked with crispy morsels of the ham, making it a modern take on a ham hock terrine.’
Meanwhile, the chaps at Bompas & Parr have bigger ambitions. Their sights are set on beating the record for the largest jelly ever made, currently held by a platoon of engineers in the British Army, who spent 24 hours getting a swimming pool of jelly to set using seven blast chillers. The result was seven metres across and one metre deep, but ‘they didn’t unmould the jelly,’ explains Bompas ‘we’ve got plans to make a bigger one that is both unmoulded and alcoholic. We’re going to have to recruit some engineers to help us as this jelly Everest will weigh over ten tonnes!’
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events, Autumn 2011.