Choosing from a restaurant menu can be frustrating or overwhelming – depending on the number of options – and finding the perfect dish is sometimes a matter of luck. What's the best dish from the chef's choice of three or five in a fine-dining restaurant? Can I find something on the epic menu from that new, hip diner-style place before I get worn down and go for some small variation on the burger I always go for in these places?
Feed offers the chance to do the work of choosing for you. Kicking off with a series of launch nights at the new Old Street branch of Peruvian restaurant Ceviche – which coincided with both Digital Shoreditch and Clerkenwell Design Week – Feed offered a menu tailored to my personality. And while I still can't see a clear link between my inherent nature and what ended up on my plate and in my glass, it did get my taste buds right.
A few days before dining, I was sent a link to a web app. From this I was asked to choose between colours, holiday activities, even whether I liked The Queen or not. It also asked for access to my social media accounts and even, apparently, went searching round the web for things I'd written (hopefully being able to discern me from the former business editor of the Sunday Telegraph I share my name with).
From this, I was presented with a taster menu created by Ceviche founder Martin Morales – with a main course of pork belly rib, slow-cooked pork cheeks and a rich pudding of choclo (Peruvian corn). The food was top-notch, but – more importantly – spookily accurate: full of strong flavours and heavy on the meat in the main course; my kind of meal.
The organisers clearly had a lot of confidence in their tailoring process. One of my fellow diners was served oysters – a ballsy move considering they're the Marmite of the restaurant world. Luckily he was a fan.
"We worked closely with Martin to match the dishes to profiles," Feed's Dr Mitra Memarzia told me later. "For instance, if your profile is indicating that you are adventurous, this will lean towards more adventurous dishes such as the brain fritters. [So apparently I'm not adventurous, which I'll put up with if it means I don't have to eat brains again].
"We also had a bit of fun with it where if you chose the queen picture, you would be served a dish that Martin would serve the queen and so forth."
An artist and experience designer, Mitra co-founded Feed with Kirsteen Martin and Christopher Spiteri from installation and events company Studio Design. The web app created by digital product company Rebel Minds.
Alongside Feed, Mitra and CrowdEmotion have also created a drinks version, called Drip-Feed. This uses CrowdEmotion’s facial recognition tech to capture "your mood through your facial expressions and interpreting them into seasons displayed live on the flatscreen by the bar."
The launch of Feed at Ceviche will be followed by the creation of a private dining club that will take over restaurants around London.
“Feed is a personalised taster menu,” says Mitra. "You are greeted by name, led to your table where your bespoke menu awaits, the technology takes a back seat and you are encouraged to be in the moment uninterrupted by having to decide what to eat or drink or pay at the end. Just to discover delicious food and drink and conversations. We are very excited by many other data feeds that we can capture through FEED to enhance the personalisation, watch this space."