If you knew you were about to eat your last meal, what would it be? Rob Cope, director at Remember A Charity, had visions of a Sunday roast with all the trimmings - but nothing prepared him for the killer menu at Café de Mort earlier this year.
Until a few months ago it was a question that I’d never even considered. And I’m sure I’m not alone.Many of us have a phobia of discussing death. It’s something that we simply don’t want to think about. But that all changed one dark and gloomy February evening when I was unlucky enough to dine at Café de Mort.
Pop up restaurant Café de Mort, located in a creepy candlelit Church crypt in Holborn in central London, opened its doors to 120 daring diners for two nights only on 26 and 27 February. Fronted by television presenter and food expert Gregg Wallace the restaurant served only potentially dangerous food to its diners as part of Remember A Charity’s campaign to encourage more people to leave a gift to charity in their Wills. After all, nobody knows the importance of having a Will more than someone who could be about to eat their last meal!
Both evenings were fully booked weeks in advance, with charity supporters and members of the public travelling from across the UK for a taste of Café de Mort’s killer cuisine. TV personalities Christopher Biggins and Donna Air were even amongst some of guests who joined Gregg Wallace on the opening night.
Upon arrival all guests were greeted with a smile, an absinthe martini fittingly known as ‘Death in the Afternoon’, and a waiver, which we were required to sign before taking on the six-course menu of deadly delicacies from around the world - None of which did much to settle the nerves that were inherent in the room.
After signing our lives away, we were treated to a range of dangerous dishes that could be potentially lethal if not prepared or cooked properly. The menu included perilous Fugu otherwise known as the infamous ‘Pufferfish’, flown in all the way from Japan. This deadly dish contains lethal levels of Tetrodotoxin and can only be prepared by a specially qualified chef. In fact, the training for this often takes years and requires great skill. Unfortunately there’s no known antidote and if not served correctly, the consequences are fatal.
We also tucked into Ghost Chilli, officially the world’s hottest chilli, currently being developed into a self-defense weapon. This was served alongside an aptly named Bloody Hell Mary, made with a substance known as Irish Moonshine. It might sound pleasant but this deadly drink has been known to cause blindness in the past.
Other highlights of the evening included snake wine, where a venomous snake is steeped in rice wine, ‘Sunset Very Strong Rum’ of a shocking 84.5% ABV, and several dishes containing the lethal poison Hydrogen Cyanide.
The night was rounded off nicely with a sweet trio of potential toxins – Aflatoxin, Theobromine and Myristicin, all skillfully presented in the Peanut, Cacao and Nutmeg Sweetmeats dessert. When consumed in large amounts, these toxins can cause vomiting, wild hallucinations and even death. What a happy ending!
After polishing off the final course of deadly delicacies, diners were invited to complete their last Will and Final Testament. A fitting end to such a daring evening. Despite the potential for peril on its plates, Café de Mort was a complete success. Although potentially lethal, the dishes co-created by Chef Erol Defoe and food writer Matt Day were all simply delicious. And most importantly, everyone left with their lives fully intact.
But behind the light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek nature of the campaign there was a serious message.
Remember A Charity created Café de Mort in the hope that diners would be reminded of the unpredictability of life and the importance of taking care of family, friends and the causes they hold dear.
Whilst three quarters of Britons regularly give to charity in their lifetimes, just 7% include a charity in their Will. Yet charities rely heavily on gifts in Wills, which bring in almost £2 billion each year, the equivalent of 19 Comic Reliefs. Many charities would not exist without this income and others would have to cut crucial services. Two out of three guide dogs and six out of ten life boat launches are paid for by gifts in Wills, as is over a third of Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work.
Remember A Charity was formed in 2000 and is now made up of over 140 of the UK's favourite charities, who work together to encourage more people to consider leaving a charitable gift in their Will, once they've looked after their family and friends. Together, we aim to do what no single charity can do alone, making legacy giving a social norm.
For further information about the campaign please visit Remember a Charity or telephone 020 7840 1030.
You can find out more about leaving a legacy to charity on the Charity Choice Gifts in Wills page.
This article first appeared in Charity Choice magazine, issue 13