A dish served at The Fat Pony

'It started with the name The Fat Pony. The consequence was that we had to put horsemeat on the menu'

Basing a restaurant on the horse meat food scandal that rocked Europe's food suppliers is hardly an advisable business plan, but The Fat Pony wasn’t your average trendy pop-up.

Pieced together by Dutch artists intent on prodding people's attitudes about food, diners at The Fat Pony feasted on dishes including pulled horse meat with a bun made using horse milk, horse sausage and pastrami, and tagliatelle with horsemeat ragu.

They polished off desserts of oatcakes and horse poo-shaped chocolates and drank horse milk coffees and Dead Pony Club Brew Dog beer as horse-themed playlist rang out in the background. The chairs were, of course, shaped like our equine friends.  

Running during Dutch Design Week from 22 to 30 October, The Fat Pony was the brainchild of artists and designers Woody Veneman, Josine Beugels, Margriet Craens, and Lucas Maassen, and students at the ArtCoDe art school. So dedicated was the group to their cause that they visited an abattoir to watch the horse used for the pop-up be slaughtered.

The Independent caught up with Veneman to see how the sold out pop-up went down with its customers. 

How did the idea for The Fat Pony come about?

The project started with the name. Josine always gets greasy bangs when she’s busy in the kitchen. In Dutch bangs are called "pony" and greasy is "vet" ,pronounced "fat". So that makes: The Fat Pony. We thought this was a catchy name for a restaurant. The consequence of course was that we had to put horsemeat on the menu. 

We also like our projects to be topical and edgy. Making an animal-specific restaurant after the ‘horse meat scandal’ fits perfectly with that.

Did working with horse meat present any obstacles? Is it actually delicious?

Yes, it’s very tasty. Some people liked it better than cow, actually. It’s lean meat, rich in iron and other minerals. The most difficult dish to prepare was the ‘pulled horse’. This is a 12 hour cooked horse roast, shredded with two forks. We found out that because of the leanness of the meat you have to cook it ‘sous vide’ to save the juices and keep the meat moist.

How did you decide what to put on the menu? Did you want to make a statement by doing horse meat version of on-trend dishes like 'pulled horse'?

We tried every dish for about three or four times until we were completely satisfied. Pulled pork is very on-trend now, and because of the edgy status of horse meat (also in the Netherlands) we wanted to try to make this over popular dish in horse version to make it more approachable.

Do you think people are hypocritical when it comes to what they eat? 

Maybe they are, but on the other hand it’s hard to find out what you eat exactly because of the massive scale of the food industry. We wanted to open a conversation about what we eat and what not. That’s why we went to the abattoir and watched ‘our’ horse being slaughtered. We think the scandal is actually not the horse meat but the fact that people are not told what they eat.

How did people respond?

The diners where really ecstatic about the food, looks and ambiance of the restaurant. Every evening was fully booked.

We put a lot of effort in the furniture of the restaurant, every detail referred in some way to an aspect of horses to open the conversation about the consumption of horse meat. The seats we built in a way that you sat on it like you would sit riding a horse. The tables were divided by hurdles like they are used in horse jumping sports, and the tables were placed in the same way the hurdles were placed during the Olympic Games of 1980. 

As one guy put it: “It felt like a scene between Jilly Cooper and John Wayne as directed by Wes Anderson with sets designed by Gordon Matta-Clark and his Food project.”