Bompas & Parr: boating on Selfridges’ roof

Breakfast on Selfridges’ roof—the boat on the far right will be floating on the rooftop lake in 2 weeks

My mother always used to say that “no news is good news.” But I’m not sure. When it comes to naughty boys, no news usually means that they’re concocting some sort of cunning plan.

And that’s the thing about Bompas and Parr. They are two naughty boys who have carved out their own niche in the market as ‘jellymongers’ (or “architectural foodsmiths”)… and when there’s no news, it’s because they’re planning something bigger and madder and even more extravagant than their previous stunt.

This morning, I was lucky enough to find myself breakfasting on the roof of Selfridges, nibbling on frog’s legs and slurping whisky-flavoured jelly while Sam Bompas regaled us with his extraordinary plans for The Jellymongers’ next event…

Breakfast cocktails

Breakfast buffet

Frog’s leg with sweetcorn porridge puree

In a nutshell, the plan is to flood Selfridges’ roof and turn it into a boat lake. The inspiration comes from a gondola party that was thrown at The Savoy in 1905, where one of the courtyards was flooded. Elephants and opera singers were employed as entertainment, and guests were basically shown the most indescribably brilliant and lavish evening.

1905 gondola party at The Savoy

Now, that was back in 1905 when money was no object, and health and safety regulations didn’t exist. Transporting a party of such epic proportions into the 21st century will have its difficulties. The first hurdle in this madcap scheme is the structural soundness of Selfridges’ roof. It has only been used twice since WWII –Pierre Koffmann’s pop-up restaurant in 2009, and then breakfast this morning.

Apart from these two events, there were vague rumors about it being a firing range during the war. In the 1920s it was a garden and occasional catwalk, but the roof isn’t really designed for recreation… certainly not for boating – so one of the first tasks is to reinforce it so that it can support a rooftop lake.

A fashion show on the roof in the 1920s – for the last 60 years it has been pretty much unused

The second hurdle is getting a pleasure boat license. Much to his delight, Bompas told us that Westminster Council have had to train up somebody specially, and create a pleasure boat application form for the occasion because no one had ever requested one before in Westminster borough.

If this didn’t all sound bizarre enough, Bompas and Parr are turning the rooftop lift into an adventure-book-themed library. They’re installing an animated snake-pit and employing a rollercoaster designer to create runs for the 12 rowing boats which will steer guests through a fountain. There will also be 8,000 stevia plants around the lake, as the excuse for the whole shindig is the UK launch of Truvia – a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the South American stevia plant.

Sam Bompas

The bar will open in two weeks time. Seeing as access to the roof is entirely dependent on a rather temperamental lift, the lucky people who manage to wangle a ticket (via ticketweb) will be allocated a specific time slot to visit the lake, have a drink and some eats.

I thought the rabbit cafe, and the chocolate waterfall were pretty ambitious projects – but this one’s really pushing the boat out. Will pray for good weather, and hope that I get a ticket to row on the roof.

For more information, click on Bompas & Parr’s website here. For tickets, click here.

21-24 July 2011

Selfridges rooftop
Selfridges & Co
400 Oxford Street



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