When an invite to a pop up restaurant boasting a ‘pay by picture’ initiative popped into my inbox a few weeks ago, it warranted some intrigue to say the least.
With the Instagram phenomenon growing daily and the ‘styled lifestyle’ shots of food, flowers and fashion becoming such a huge part of our everyday culture, restaurant visits today are a very different matter. Food is rarely touched before an aerial shot has been taken and waiters and waitresses are shooed away as plates and glasses are re-arranged around the table for the best composition.
Now while I don’t always advocate this behavior (sometimes when with friends or family I prefer to keep my phone in my bag and simply enjoy the food and company uninterrupted), as a blogger and keen restaurant reviewer I would be nothing without a well designed Instagram snap. I had often wondered when restaurants and food brands might start incorporating this app habit we all have into their marketing activity and offer incentives in return for the social publicity given. I certainly didn’t expect the first brand to jump on such an initiative to be frozen food giant Birds Eye, and the fact that their plush pop up in the heart of London easily mimicked the atmosphere and appeal of a top starred eatery was even more surprising.
But, as it turns out, the fish finger favourites are not a brand to be trifled with, and are just as capable of turning their everyday meal varieties into an Instagram worthy lunch plate as they are a frozen ready meal. The event was to raise awareness of Birds Eye’s new Inspirations range, which is full of gourmet style meals which can be cooked quickly and easily when you get home from work on an evening but still represent a tasty and healthy meal for any family.
I turned up to the pop up lunch venue, The Picture House, set up at the Ice Tank on Grape Street, with an open mind and a hungry stomach. Knowing that Birds Eye were behind the project I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Would we cook our own meals in their ready to steam bags? How would they make a frozen meal look appealing? But as soon as I entered the cool blue room full of interactive iPad’s, a live Instagram wall of tweets and photos, trendy decor that included cabinets full of fresh ingredients and most importantly an open kitchen complete with busy chefs preparing the ingredients right in front of us, I knew we were in for a great slap up lunch.
Each table of two was dressed beautifully to rival any restaurant and had a distinctly all natural feel, with trendy cactus plants, blue napkins and paper bags full of rustic bread, which was clearly the vibe of the event and the idea behind the Inspirations range.
Instead of menu’s we were met with an iPad on each table setting, ready with our very own list of Inspirations options and an interactive ordering system. To ensure the personal touch was still evident, friendly waiters and waitresses attended to our questions with advice and tips on what to choose and made sure we were set with both water and wine to enjoy throughout the meal (my kind of service).
There were three classic Birds Eye Dishes to choose from; their Fish Chargrills, Chicken Inspirations and a vegetarian option of an aubergine rice dish with cheese filled parcels. I chose the stuffed chicken dish as this is most likely the type of item I’d pick up in the Supermarket to eat at home and I wanted to see how it stood up. Essentially a chicken kiev, the chicken breast is stuffed with one of the following flavours; Garlic and Herb, sizzling Peri Peri, Creamy Cheese and Ham and Tangy Tomato and Basil, and then coated in breadcrumbs. The dish was served with crushed garden peas and freshly poached asparagus and garnished with Romano peppers.
I’m not sure if it was the preparation method they used or the ingredients it was teamed with, but it certainly tasted better than any kiev I’ve ever made at home and the filling oozed out as soon as I cut into it (there is nothing worse than losing the contents of a kiev before it’s finished cooking).
I had a cheeky taste of the veggie option to thanks to my date for the day, Danielle, and those cheesy parcels were delish.
We finished the meal off with a delicious dessert each, me a strawberry and mascarpone pot of goodness and Danielle a chocolate orange mousse, before a lovely cup of tea to end. It was a pretty delicious lunch and food I’d definitely be keen to recreate at home on an evening I was pushed for time.
What made the date particularly fun of course, was the interactive element to the event. Where often I might feel bad for holding up proceedings in a restaurant to take the photos I need, or owe GB too many apologies for not allowing him to eat until everything has been documented adequately, at the Birds Eye Picture House it was positively encouraged and the minute we’d snapped and posted, our pics appeared on the wall in front of us for all to see.
The idea of settling the bill through the merits of my photos certainly added an extra element of pressure to get the shots just right, but luckily we had the brilliant and talented food photographer Marte Marie Forsberg on hand to offer tips on styling and treat us to some of her insider secrets for an Instagram worthy food snap (table edges and a rustic wooden backgrounds are winners apparently). Check out her site and Instagram feed for inspiration as it’s full of dreamy photos.
If you are a complete foodie and hate the idea of anything which resembles a frozen ready meal, then I’m guessing this post probably still hasn’t convinced you to step away from the home cooked food. But I think many of us, myself included, often look for ease and speed when it comes to mid week cooking as a result of busy schedules and long working hours and the Birds Eye Inspirations range can certainly offer that. While at the weekend I’d always much rather spend a full day in the kitchen cooking up a storm, for those nights I just need a quick and tasty dinner which I can trust is well made and not ridiculously unhealthy, I’ll definitely be looking to Birds Eye to help out.
And as far as the paying through Instagram goes? Well that’s something I can definitely get on board with, if only more restaurants would offer such a service!
Follow me on Instagram @bumpkinbetty and if you try the Inspirations range be sure to join in the fun by tweeting and instagramming @birdseyeuk and #birdseyeinspirations