Like most of our ideas for Root + Bone, I am fairly certain we were drunk at the time we thought of this. Why are we doing it? What the hell we are we trying to achieve? Will anyone care? None of these logical questions seem to matter when one is as pissed as a chook, which is the fundamental reason why here at Root + Bone HQ, we make no decisions without first consulting a pint of Guinness. Easily done when our HQ is a pub.
We drew inspiration from two of our favourite subjects: birds you can eat and classic 1970s films. When it comes to eating birds, it doesn’t get much more kick ass than The Roast Royalè, aka: the bird inside the bird inside the bird inside the bird and so on. My personal best with this dish is seven birds, surgically de-boned and lovingly shoved inside each other before being wrapped in the carcass of a turkey, sewn back together and slow roasted.
Our other inspiration was the 1975 movie, Jaws. There’s a scene in Jaws in which they think they have caught the rogue shark. Brody and Hooper (who, I might add, looks a lot like our photographer Steve Ryan) go to the pier late at night to cut open the dead shark, hoping to find the victim inside the stomach of the beast and put to rest any doubt that they have caught their killer fishy. They cut it open only to find dead fish, beer cans and a Louisiana licence plate, but no eaten youngster. We all know what happens next.
We wanted to cook a Roast Royalè and wondered if we could use fish in place of birds. The idea was to cook a huge fish, then cut it open like they did in Jaws to reveal lots of other cooked fish in its belly. More beers became more beers, as they tend to, and we figured we could do it; we’d just need a large ‘mother’ fish with a big enough stomach cavity that we could fill with smaller fish…better still, would be to find a shark to use as the mother fish. Alex, with his penchant for authenticity, even made a replica licence plate from the movie, purchased a tiny set of wellington boots and a ‘Scuba Steve’ figurine for effect. Nice one Alex.
Saturday morning, we set off at 7am. Hitting Billingsgate Market nursing a raging hangover is sheer stupidity, but combining this with my recovery from a most brutal case of oyster-induced food poisoning was tantamount to insanity. Nonetheless, although we couldn’t find a shark, we succeeded in acquiring the necessary ingredients without me blowing chunks and hightailed it back to the local greasy spoon where we planned out how we were going to pull this together.
Somewhere between black pudding and baked beans we devised our plan: cut open the big fish, stuff lots of little fish in there, shove it in the oven and see what happens. The genius was in its simplicity. Back at Greenwood Studios (Steve’s house) we got to work. Unfortunately, we had so much fun fucking around taking photos and making video footage with the vast array of seafood we had purchased that, by the time the beast went in the oven, it had turned quite stinky and none of us were game to eat it.
We also stank out Steve’s house out with a pungent perfume of hot, steaming fish, so it’s here we thank Steve’s gracious housemates for letting us use their house as a laboratory, again. All of this pointless fun posed another problem: how do you get rid of 15kg of assorted cooked and uncooked fish, at various stages of decomposition, without attracting every cat on the block? Simple: we employed the bag inside the bag inside the bag trick, dumped them in the bin at the council estate at the end of the street and proceeded to the pub, where we celebrated with eight pints of Guinness each. Apparently.