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and greens), Donna Tartt’s dark classic The Secret History (wild mushrooms on sourdough, roast lamb, marmalade cheesecake) and, this summer, The Great Gatsby and American Psycho. They also use live music, readings, costumes and props to embellish the mood of the book.

Holland, a food and arts journalist (who also contributes to Business First) and Coutinho, an ex-Merrill Lynch Oxford graduate, say, ‘Traditionally, reading is a solitary exercise and lives in the reader’s imaginative world. Everyone eats and most people love food, so The Novel Diner uses a meal setting to make people’s favourite novels real and communal just for one night.’

 At Woolf's 'To The Lighthouse' feast

Supper clubs have become a new feature of London’s bulging foodie scene, but two young women have recently given theirs a USP with a bookish slant. The Novel Diner, brainchild of Claire Coutinho and Mina Holland, recreates the world of particular novels with a menu that draws on food references in books like Woolf’s To The Lighthouse (a ‘homely trinity’ of boeuf en daube with spuds

There are many more examples of the marriage of food and the arts. Portobello Road’s Electric Cinema recently enhanced the surrealism of Spanish fairy tale

Pan’s Labyrinth with a tray of labelled foods. Intellectual events collective The School of Life have branched out from talks into meals, using food to pose futuristic questions, with events like ‘Sci Fi Supper on Spaceship Earth’. And lastly, at The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal gives diners headphones that play sounds of lapping waves and squawking gulls to augment their experience of seafood dish, Sound of the Sea.


The horror stories about what the Olympics will do to the capital’s commute could well frighten so many people away that everything works as well, if not better, than normal. (Cynics are suggesting that in the case of stay-away civil servants everything, including the country itself, will definitely work better...see our story on page 18 for more.)

But many firms are not taking any chances, setting up procedures for remote working, staggered shifts and in some cases establishing entirely new off-site locations for their staff to work at during the event. One company is servicing the off-site need by establishing 20,000 temporary desks at London’s colleges of further education. Tom Ball of NearDesk, a new business that runs systems to bind the vast array of cafes, hot desks, temporary offices and workplaces into one cohesive market, says his plan provides the perfect solution for businesses who want to save their staff from the nightmares of the Olympic commute yet also fear a productivity drop if they all stay at home.

‘This is so easy and flexible. FE Colleges have undergone a massive refurbishment programme in the last few years which means the working facilities they will be providing are every bit as modern, wired and wifi’d as the best offices. We are as prepared to cater for whole teams or divisions as we are for individuals, so that during those 10 disruptive days it will be business as usual.’

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