School dinners return to Finsbury, but without the slops

Ian Ballantyne hard at work

Ian Ballantyne hard at work - Credit: Archant

If the words school and canteen in the same sentence conjure disturbing images of soggy vegetables, mysterious pink cubes and lumpy mashed potato served with an ice cream scoop, a new event on Saturday could help banish these uncomfortable memories.

School Dinners, at Central Foundation Boys School, in Cowper Street, Finsbury, aims to provide a night of top-notch food and entertainment with a playful nod to those unlamented lunches of childhood.

After a cocktail and canapé reception – including the intriguing boozy Ribena – “pupils” are treated to a four- course dinner, before a special assembly featuring live music and a variety of intriguing guest speakers.

Ian Ballantyne, who designed the menu, said: “We found this amazing school, full of beautiful wood panelling, and we’re taking it over for the evening.

“All the food is influenced by school dinners, so we have a cereal milk parfait; instead of turkey twizzlers we have confit chicken leg and thigh. And in place of the lumpy banana custard we have plantain and salted caramel ice cream.

“I am really excited about this menu. The idea is that people come in and there will be music playing and plenty of cocktails, then they’ll eat in the dining room, which is full of school canteen-style tables, and we’ve put lots of effort into the decor. After dinner everyone will go through to the assembly room for the entertainment.”

None of the guests are expected to wear school uniform.

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Speakers on the night include bestselling author, broadcaster and campaigner Ben Goldacre, who specialises in unpicking the misuse of science and statistics; performance poet Mark Grist; DJ and leader of London’s Run Dem Crew, Charlie Dark and vocalist ESKA.

Other guests are expected to be announced in the coming days, and the team is already planning a second event for November 30.

But how does the man behind the menu remember his own school dinners?

“For me, it was the regimented nature of the food. You’d get some absolutely appalling stuff that belonged in the slop bucket, but occasionally a real gem. I really liked the raspberry yoghurt. I could have eaten it all day.”

n Tickets cost £60 including four course meal and canapes. Visit