Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Some say the dinner party is dead. There is a lot of expense and effort involved in cooking and serving people up a whole lot of courses. Then there is your reciprocal role as guest of paying equal attention to the person sitting on your right and your left and your attempts at captivating conversation.
While in the main the dinner party tradition may have gone the way of all things 1980s, it does live on in a house with polished floorboards and warm hearts in the suburb of Northcote.
This is an ambitious dinner party as it caters for around 30 guests. But this dinner party has a point of difference as the guests don't know their host or often each other for that matter.
But the premise is otherwise the same. You are visiting someone's private home for some of their best cooking and with an expectation that you will have an evening filled with good food, wine and charming company.
And in these arenas, Cherry, Cherry: A Dining Room Tale, an evening with a difference comes up trumps.
This is a very different theatrical experience. When you arrive you are ushered in, and as at any dinner party given a drink. No good standing around idly. Might as well walk up to someone and introduce yourself.
I meet a lovely couple who have driven up all the way from Ocean Grove for the experience. They love trying out different things and this is decidedly something a bit different than the norm.
Neda Rahmani, our host, arrives with a flourish. She is a young 40 something with a bundle of corkscrew curls and an equally charged powerhouse of radiating inner energy. She has a round face, framed by all that hair and a captivating smile. The term "cheeky monkey" pops into my head and stays there for the rest of the night. And that hair, I just have to keep coming back to it as it is just so electric. As Neda says "I am hair in public."
This is not traditional stage style antics. Neda is amongst us and simply starts telling us a little bit about herself and her family mainly in reference to objects scattered around the room. One of the objects is quite telling--a couch where her Dad used to slouch when he was drunk while Neda as a precocious young child would dance and perform for him trying to engage his attention: "Look at me, Dad. Look at me." Regardless to say Dad just slumped.
She soon has us in a circle clapping while she performs an energetic dance to some Persian Funk music. This cheeky money can sing, dance, play instruments and tell stories. What a dynamo. Then she asks us to move across to the opposite side of the room which we do as the music plays.
There is something about getting your dinner guests moving which bodes well for the rest of the evening. Nothing is demanding. All is pleasant. No-one is taken out of their comfort zone.
Then it is up to the kitchen for dinner. The table is set with centrepiece clusters of fruits such as pomegranates and apples amidst glowing candles.
As we tuck into nuts, bread and Eastern dips and hard boiled eggs Neda continues to tell us about her family. For each anecdote she shows a photo. The stories involve family weddings, matriarchs, cousins, sadness and joy.
Then it's over to the kitchen where she stirs the pots on the stove and explains each dish. She is obviously a fabulous cook and the dishes are all part of her mixed Iranian-Mauritian heritage. She tells us that the sauce for the prawns is a mix of coriander, curry and ginger. Then she turns over the mould of rice with a decided flourish whilst pointing out the Persian berries and telling us her recipes for brown lentils. Everything is served with copious amounts of steamed vegetables and fresh salad. There is also a side dish of chilli in garlic and lemon that knocks the socks off most of us but is a real talking point.
Writing a letter. Cherry, Cherry (photo: Jim McDonagh)
Most of the produce is picked from her own backyard and she and her partner are obviously into health, vitality and eating a diet that recharges them with the boundless amount of energy they seem to share.
Over dinner we all do the usual dinner party chit chat. The normal person to your right and left and across the table. I am surrounded by interesting people. I guess a performance such as this attracts a certain audience.
Neda tells us that when she travels by plane she always takes a clean paper sick bag and then writes a love letter to a fellow passenger. One that she can see but has never met. Not a risqué love letter but one that just says what she feels and thinks about that person from what she can see of them. Then she gets one of the flight attendants to deliver it.
She invites someone from our dinner table to write on one of these bags and then another guest, who is a bit of wag, plays the hostie delivering it to someone else at the far end of the table.
It is party games for grown ups and everyone gets involved. There is an immediate sense of freedom and acceptance in Neda's house which makes everyone feel at home.
After the meal we all join in her performance with some musical instruments which is fun and Neda entertains us with an energetic dance. Josephine Baker would have been envious. To wrap up the evening plenty of the guests continue to stand around and chat with Neda and her back up team.
I get talking to the man behind the concept, Xan Colman. The whole idea of these events, of which the company are organising a number, is to get people together over food with entertainers who are also born storytellers, such as Neda. If you are interested in learning more about this great events then check out A is for Atlas and its Dining Room Tales series.
Apparently the evening is scripted but a lot of it is impromptu, dependent on who says what in the audience.
This is a great value night's entertainment because you are fed and entertained. The food was excellent and the company delightful. Time to bring back the dinner party if they can be anything like this.
Cherry, Cherry season runs from February 28-March 16 at 131 St George's Road, Northcote. You can book tickets here.