The inaugural Musical Menus Festival has been created in collaboration with Professor Charles Spence, a University of Oxford gastrophysicist and psychologist, and Swedish music producer Axel Bonan.
Set to take place over the next few weeks at a range of sites, the festival will pair specially-curated playlists with restaurant menus, in a bid to enhance the dining experience, and investigate the link between food and music.
Partner restaurants taking part include Cigalon, Heliot Steak House (The Hippodrome Casino), Hilton Double Tree, Marco Pierre White Wheeler’s Oyster Bar & Grill Room, and RAW. Each will play songs that have been specifically selected to enhance individual tastes in the menu.
These will include sea sounds played alongside a seafood dish, a fast-tempo tune aimed at highlighting strong spice, or a bitter-sweet melody aiming to heighten the contrasting sharp and sweet tastes of a dessert. There will also be songs designed to highlight texture and heat.
Bookatable research done to coincide with the festival launch found that 82 per cent of diners were unconvinced that music or different sounds could improve or enhance their meal, with 65 per cent saying that they only enjoyed background music in restaurants if they could still easily hear their dining companions talking.
Over half (53 per cent) said that they feel overwhelmed in a restaurant if the music volume is too high, and a third (33 per cent) said that the number one most off-putting factor at a restaurant is overly-loud music. In fact, 55 per cent said they would walk out of a restaurant if the music was too loud.
Two-fifths (40 per cent) said that they don’t pay attention to music in restaurants.
Commenting on the project, Professor Spence said: “We have known for years that we can enhance the taste of sweetness, sourness, and bitterness of different foods and drinks. For instance, songs with high pitched tones bring out the sweet tastes, whereas bitter foods pair well with low pitch tones.
“The menus and playlists we’ve specially developed with Axel Boman work harmoniously to give food lovers the best possible dining experience.”
Boman added: ““This was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on. I always had a feeling that music could enhance certain tastes and eating experiences, but I had no idea to what extent.”
Josephine Ellis, head of communications for Bookatable Europe, said: “The dining experience is about much more than great food. [This partnership] has allowed us to develop these distinctive musical menus, to demonstrate that all of our senses play a significant role in enhancing flavour.”