Food and events

The Cafe is the title of the art project by Luke Harding to create an independent useful-art restaurant (The Smeltery) and activate the ground floor; dining space and atrium of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art with dining, bar, social and performance events. We created the restaurant with an open theatre kitchen in the heart of the art gallery, removing an asocial ‘aesthetic’ wall to create a social community dining space and provided the gallery’s welcome, at its entrance… engaging mima’s constituents in the gallery’s programme of arte util through food and social dining, as well as participatory art projects, maker workshops and discursive activities. We often collaborated with mima’s art programme, as well as putting on our own programme of dining events, live shows, banquets and community festivals. We also worked with other large-scale community events including The Festival of Thrift, where in 2016 and 2017 we created The Town Is The… menus and banquets for 400 people at a time for Redcar and Saltburn (a Radio 4 series). The Smeltery won the “Best Restaurant in The North East” award at a national awards event in 2018, and was often cited as being one of the best cafes in an art gallery in the country. (Our ‘independence’ was undoubtedly key to this) (Link)

Redcar is The Menu by Luke Harding/The Cafe

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‘Redcar is The Menu’ – 2016:

In 2016 we created a Town is The menu for Redcar, drawn from the town’s history and folklore, and commemorated Redcar’s recent steelworks closure by creating a Salamander. The Salamander was the name given – by the men who worked there – to the molten mass at the heart of the furnace which could never be allowed to go cold and set for the furnace to ever operate again.

Our Pea Soup, Pea-shoot Fret, Zetland Lifeboat Pea Pod, and Pistachio Vertical Spiral Crouton – made reference to the thick fog and seafret of Coatham marshes – where William the Conquerer is said to have got lost. The crouton is based on Redcar’s ‘Vertical Pier’ (or regeneration office block on the shoreline).

Our main course consisted of a Salamander;- Hot Puy Lentil Chilli and molten mozzarella, in a butternut squash risotto and Panko (deep fried like an arancha). With charred allotment produce in a Smelted cheese sauce, with charcoal and toasted seed croustade, and North Gare samphire. 

Pudding was posh lemontop (made famous in Redcar by 1960’s Italian immigrants), Roseberry Topping Sauce (Rosehips from local landmark Roseberry Topping), Wind-farm wafers in a nod to Redcar’s recently changing coastal seascape…

Saltburn is The Menu – 2018:

In 2017 we created a menu for Saltburn:

SALTBURN IS THE MENU 23rd & 24th September 2017


Our menu for Saltburn this year celebrates North Yorkshire’s mineral-rich earth, stone, and sands to the sea. Our Alum Pie is a thrifty starter of preserving methods; pickles, chutney and jam.


An exotic bejewelled, tagine-filled suet pudding tribute to Victorian industrialist Henry Pease and his vision of “a city of jewels rising on the cliff”. Served with a beetroot & nettle borscht, bulgar wheat sands, and iron rich cavolo nero


Contraband candyfloss; Chocolate barrels of rum, candy cigarettes, playing cards and gold concealed in a candy-floss fog.

Saltburn is the Menu, Festival of Thrift 2017

Alum Pie, pickle, chutney and jam: Saltburn was called Sealt-Burna by the Anglo Saxons who noticed   that the burn, or stream tasted of salt as it flowed to the sea, caused, as it turns out by the earth’s natural minerals that were to become an important extract of the area to all kinds of industries. Among many other uses Alum has been traditionally used when pickling (as it combines with pectin to firm  texture) Our thrifty pie combines 3 methods of preserving; pickle, chutney and jam.

Pease Pudding, Beetroot and Nettle Borscht Sauce, Iron Rich Greens: Henry Pease was the quaker industrialist, upon who’s prophetic vision of a city of jewels “rising on the cliff” the Victorian Saltburn-by-the-sea was built. Our dish is a fruit-jewelled, tagine-filled, suet pudding, which we’re serving with a Beetroot (natural dye) Nettle and Dandelion Borscht Sauce (because Dandelions make you wee). In the 17th century ships of urine were transported up the coast from London to Saltburn, where the natural by-product of boozy Londoner’s was used to release the alum from the local shale as a fixing agent to dye cloth. Also served with iron-rich spinach leaf, in reference to Cleveland’s Ironstone upon which Middlesbrough and the railway to Saltburn were founded, and a “finest sands in England” buckwheat tabbouleh. 

Contraband Sea-fret: Our pudding commemorates Saltburn as a thriving smuggling enclave under the watchful eye of John Andrew ‘King of The Smugglers” and the cover of the North Sea’s inclemency. We serve up a candy-floss fret on a stick, with hidden treasures.