With fine dining becoming ever less accessible – particularly in the capital – average Joes have been calling out for new and affordable ways to have an unforgettable experience at the dinner table. Well, one way Londoners have been getting their gastronomic buzz is by gorging on one of London’s various immersive dining experiences.
If 2016 was the Year of the Escape Game, 2017 is set to become the Year of Immersive Dining. The concept is fairly simple; part-fine dining/part-theatre, a night of immersive dining rolls all the best things about a night out in London into one delicious package; art, performance, food, drink and design.
One company leading the way in London is dining adventurers Gingerline. What started out as (and still is) ‘a love project’ with small scale dinner parties hosted by co-founder Suz Mountfort, has quickly turned into one of the capital’s most sort-after tickets with weird and wonderful menus and productions that would rival almost anything on the West End.
Since breaking all the rules with their experimental dining phenomenon during Chambers of Flavour v1.0, a multi-dimensional dining Machine which catapults brave diners through a tongue-tangling taste adventure in a top secret London location, Gingerline are set to reboot, rewire and recalibrate the machine for Chambers of Flavour v2.0. Launched in September and currently sold out into 2017, we’re warned the experience is ‘not for the meek or the cautious of palette’.
Head ‘Flavourologist’ at Gingerline Alejandro Bello says the balance between theatre and gastronomy is ‘extremely difficult’ to nail, mainly because people have different expectations of what a Gingerline event will offer. But as Bello suggest, ‘there are aspects of each, which challenge the other, but therein lies the magic and the reason people keep coming back for more.’ For him, the menu acts as ‘the final prop during the adventure.’
‘We want to take our guests out of their dining comfort zones and into worlds where they encounter the finest of foods, the most fantastical characters and test every sense that they possess.’
For CoF v2.0, Suz promises a night of ‘the unexpected,’ adding, ‘It’s best to come along to any Gingerline event with an empty stomach and an open mind. We want to take our guests out of their dining comfort zones and into world’s where they encounter the finest of foods, the most fantastical characters and test every sense that they possess.’
The great thing about immersive dining is its accessibility. While the majority on offer are all the culinary marvels, there’s a real lack of pretence about the scene. Whether you’re a foodie or foodphobe, they’ll be at least something to tickle your fancy. Last year, for example, saw an immersive dining experience for fans of David Lynch with ‘The Owls Are Not What They Seem’. With lots of the grub served in the guise of a ‘damn fine cup of coffee’, guests were transported back to Twin Peaks to solve the mystery of Laura Palmer.
There’s also an immersive dining experience for teenagers and adults alike currently running at The Vaults in Waterloo with ‘Dinner at The Twits’. Sardine bones in a beard, cornflakes up the nose… all of Roald Dahl’s gruesome concoctions are on show for guests as young as 14 years old.
Next year, the craze shows no signs of letting up either with ‘Diner at The Twits’ in full flow and another one of the big boys in London, the Inception Group, extending their eccentric restaurant portfolio with a new addition to its Bunga Bunga brand in Covent Garden. Inspired by the likes of Goodfellas and the Godfather, Bunga Bunga will only be accessible through a giant meat freezer in the back of BungaTINI, an Italian bar and all-day pizzeria owned by the Inception Group on Drury Lane. Once there, Joes will need to negotiate with the resident butcher to enter the haunt before heading into the 200-cover restaurant for a night of pasta, pizza, comedy and even live opera.
Then there’s Maman Le Mot, an immersive dining experience inspired by classic camp comedies like ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dads Army which will continue until March 2017. Set 74 years earlier in 1943 Paris, a newly formed Special Operations Executive is recruiting secret agents to join La Resistance. Presumably with copious amounts of foie gras and escargot. And why not!?
‘We’re all looking for a way to escape the mundane and bring that sense of freedom and experience we enjoy so often as children.’
The reasons for immersive dining’s rise are naturally numerous. But for Suz Mountfort, it’s partly that it brings the ‘sense of freedom and experience we enjoy so often as children.’ It’s also clear that ‘attitudes towards dining have changed,’ with Joes and Janes wanting more from their night’s out and food becoming ‘a far more fundamental part of the evening.’ Whatever the reasons, London’s appetite for immersive dining is showing no signs of being sated.
Gingerline’s Chambers of Flavour v2.0 is sold out until February 2017 but the next batch of tickets for late February – March 2017 run will go on sale this Wednesday 30th November at midday. Head over to the Chambers of Flavour Website for more info.
Image 1: Planet Gingerline, Emli Bendixen
Image 2: Chambers of Flavour v1.0, Emma Nathan
Image 6: Gingerline Royale, Emli Bendixen
Image 7: Gingerline Jubilee, Emli Bendixen