”The Extraordinary Banquet” for Friends of the Earth

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What an evening!  One year in the planning, it raised the bar not just for Zafferano, but for charity fund-raising events everywhere. Two hundred guests were wowed by an evening of playfulness, theatricality and wizardry – and that was just the (vegetarian) food. Zafferano’s Jo Moody, the enchantress behind this bewitching event, tells us how it was done.

Guests entering One Mayfair might well have thought they’d stumbled across a moonlit glen – all stippled forest lighting, luxuriant ferns and mossy banks.

They found themselves ‘foraging’ for their ‘Edible Garden’ starters, embedded in moss around the table –  mini kilner jars of truffled honey and agave nectar, perhaps, or flower pots filled with salsa verde and ‘edible dirt’, planted with pickled baby vegetables and herb cresses.

The press was particularly tickled by the ‘glow in the dark’ cucumber canapes, served on an ultraviolet tray.

In a tribute to Linda McCartney, meat was off the menu. Instead, guests (who included designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett, and director Mike Figgis) were tantalized with dishes such as a truffle risotto ‘drumstick’ with fennel fronds and wild mushrooms, and fish-free scallops (carrot juice pastry Gyoza dumplings, poached in a kombu dashi with samphire and seaweed salad).

‘Friends of the Earth had a really clear idea of what they wanted,’ says Jo, who worked alongside the ‘amazing’ A-Lister florist Chantal Francis-Flores to make this fantasy happen.

The brief was ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, with ‘See things differently’as the subtext. With each dish came some sort of tongue-in cheek surprise (desserts served in seed trays; jeweled quails’ eggs to be gathered from  birds nests). Zafferano’s menu writer Jon Gilbert provided the artist’s eye. ‘Jon’s an art graduate from St Martin’s,’ says Jo, ‘and he approaches things from an incredibly visual stance. He’s also very witty, very playful.’

Jo thinks the future for charity fund-raisers looks very different after this Friends of the Earth event. ‘They wanted to move away from “rubber chicken” charity dinners. They wanted the meal to be the focal point of the evening. Now I think people will want more wizardry; they’ll want the food to be remembered.’