Bone marrow cocktail, anyone? Lab-grown meat restaurant Bistro in Vitro aims to redefine dining

The website's recipes are set to become reality in the not-too-distant future

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What would madam like to order? How about a throat tickler, a wriggling delicacy that occupies “the grey area between a sea anemone and a sex toy”? Too extreme? Why not try a test tube oyster washed down with a bone marrow cocktail? And don’t forget to sample our steak knitted into a shape of your choice.

Welcome to Bistro in Vitro, the world’s first lab-grown meat restaurant and the future of fine dining. Its dishes may sound like the stuff of macabre fantasy, but according to the Dutch scientist and philosopher Koert van Mensvoort, we can expect to be eating meals like this in the not too distant future.

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A meat oyster

In 2028, says Mr van Mensvoort, restaurant food will be ethical, sustainable and cruelty-free. Much of it will be grown in laboratories, enabling chefs to devise playful fare such as brightly coloured magic meatballs or a meat-berry tart.

At present, Bistro in Vitro exists only online. But its concepts are based on real science; the object of the exercise is to encourage chefs and scientists to be creative in planning the future of gastronomy.

 

Mr van Mensvoort, who has a background in both engineering and design, initiated the project after hearing about the world’s first lab-grown burger, created by scientists two years ago at Maastricht University.

“Immediately I knew this was an interesting field with room for creativity,” he said, “but the scientists who have been working on it so far have been concentrating on making the same food products that we already know – replacement chicken, beef, sausages. Our tastes will evolve, and as new technology becomes available so will come with it new food cultures, which is what I wanted to explore.”

The first lab-grown beef burger – created from a calf’s foetal fluids – was cooked at a demonstration in London in 2013. The dish offered a glimpse of guilt-free, sustainable meat consumption, but with a price tag of £215,000 it was not a dish for the masses. The team responsible for Bistro in Vitro predicts that the price of cultured meat will fall to €50 per kilo within the next six years.

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The meat tickler

“That’s still a lot when you compare it with quality animal meat prices today,” said Mr van Mensvoort. But once environmental costs are added to the price of producing conventional meat, the lab-grown alternative starts to look viable.

Geert van de Wetering, who helped create the Bistro in Vitro site, said the challenge for chefs is to evolve new tastes and textures.

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The IoS reports the first in vitro burger in July 2013

“Everyone who has been involved in the project is fascinated by the idea of creating new dishes with these malleable food substances,” he said. “For instance, the texture of tuna with the red meat taste of deer could soon be a possibility.”

In vitro meat also frees chefs from some of the ethical dilemmas posed by food production. “At the moment, in vitro meat is not strictly vegetarian because it is grown from animal matter,” said Mr van de Wetering. “But every chef I have spoken to is very excited by the idea that by cooking in vitro they can be as creative as they like without the worry of whether this fish was sustainable, or whether this pig was organically reared.”

Mr van Mensvoort admitted that not all the wacky dishes on the Bistro’s menu are likely to be available in 2028. But he hopes to take the project further by creating a mobile bar to demonstrate in vitro food.

“It’s impossible to say exactly how technology will have progressed by the time a restaurant like this can open,” he said. “But the important thing is to open people’s minds about the future of meat.”

* Bistro In Vitro is a co-production between Submarine Channel and Next Nature Network

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