Over three nights in March 2014, we asked an adventurous group of East London diners to feast their senses on the most complex thing in the universe: the human brain. 

Hosted inside an atmospheric World War Two Bunker, the evening included a five course meal from food designers Blanch & Shock, created in collaboration with brain injury charity Headway East London. The menu explored a variety of functions of the brain, delved into neurochemistry, and explored the aesthetics of the cerebral cortex. And for daring diners, the banquet culminated with the serving of real brains, with cauliflower standing in as a vegetarian option!

Each course was accompanied with talks from psychologists, neuroscientists and medical historians. Felicity Callard (University of Durham) and Daniel Margulies (Max Planck Institute) talked about how models of the brain have changed over time, and challenged diners to consider what was going on in their brains while eating a brain…

Neuroscientist Anil Seth of the University of Sussex discussed what science can (and can’t) tell us about consciousness. And neuropsychologist Vaughan Bell (King’s College London) explored hallucinations – from hearing voices to imagined sightings of airships over the British countryside. Finally, members of Headway East London shared their personal experiences of living with a brain injury.

The bunker also contained a number of installations within its cavernous chambers. Artists Broqwiem and Agatha Haines presented works inspired by neuroanatomy and brain stimulation, and preserved animal brains and heads were on show from the Royal Veterinary College. Finally, roaming psychologist and magician Rob Teszka served up visual illusions as mental aperitifs.

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