I sit here writing this on a cold, October afternoon in 2016. Outside is grey. Very grey. This weekend the clocks go back, and our alarm clocks will start going off while the mornings are still dark, and we’ll be getting home long after the sun has bid the day adieu. It’s depressing, looking forward to the next few months. But by the time this post is actually published, we’ll be through the worst of winter. We’ll be approaching Summer. We might even be IN Summer. The clocks will have gone forward and the dark nights will be shorter… how wonderful*.
As I write this, I wonder how future me is doing right now. How’s that “healthy” lifestyle that I’ve planned to start in January coming along**? Have I got a boyfriend yet, or have I fully given up and invested in a “boyfriend pillow” to comfort me on my lonely nights in***? What’s happened in the world? Did Trump become President, and are we now living in a post-apocalyptic world because someone trolled him too hard on Twitter and he pushed The Button in retaliation****? Have we triggered Article 50 yet or was it all just an elaborate hoax to scare the shit out of us all*****? After the way 2016 has panned out, the possibilities are endless.
So why am I writing this post so far in advance when I don’t plan to publish it until next year? Well, because there is a HUGE embargo on the details of what I am reviewing. If you have read my other Gingerline review from 2014 you’ll understand a bit better, because Gingerline is a secret dining experience that can be found at any number of stations along the London Overground Line. Secret is the keyword!
All guests who journey to the clandestine Gingerline dinners are asked to refrain from spilling the secrets of the event – that means NO photos, NO details, NO social media. In a world where hashtags have infiltrated our actual spoken words, it’s a tricky one. But I respect it, and kinda love them for it because the surprise is a huge part of the fun!
Gingerline in its classic form tends to feature mass dining with one underlying story line which continues through the evening. The Chambers of Flavour, however, features multi-dimensional dining across many themes with one common story thread running through each. In short – several rooms with multiple themes, and a different delicious dish in each! This was my third venture into the chambers – and each time has been different so we had no idea what to expect!
Now, photos within the chambers are strictly forbidden, but Bella, my rebellious dining companion, just didn’t really give a toss and snuck a few cheeky photos on our way around when our room hosts weren’t looking! Naughty, but ultimately quite handy for this post – and we PROMISE, none of these photos have featured anywhere else on the web until now!
So, into the Chambers of Flavour we ventured for the third time!
The story? Well… something has happened with the flux and people are becoming trapped within the machine! In some cases, they’re being completely dismembered… but we were (almost) assured this wouldn’t happen to us as we entered into the first phase of the adventure!
A Matter of Taste
We departed the real world and ended up in the middle of a TV Gameshow! A white room with podiums, bright lights and a host with a sparkly microphone. Once the 15 of us in the exploration group were in the room, the game show began. The name of the game (A Matter of Taste) was to identify the flavours in our starters! Three pretty little canapes found within pastry shells. Myself and Milly were on one team with a vegetarian and a vegan which I think hindered us quite a lot (we came last so the blame *has* to be placed somewhere, and it can’t lie with the two food critics) but we were able to identify the smoked salmon and grapefruit from the first canape which also included nori seaweed and black sesame. It was delicious and creamy.
The second included a beautiful dollop of tangy damson on top of mushroom, Jerusalem artichoke and chilli (we got mushroom and chilli) and the final one contained tomato, quinoa, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, creamy egg yolk and kumquat – we got quinoa. Epic fail.
Inside The Bubble
Suddenly, the “flux” began to have a wobbly and we were told to escape the room and get to safety… and we landed in a beautiful cove, and were greeted by a mermaid perched on a rock!
We each took a seat within the cove, and in front of us we found a bowl of Sea Bed Pickle; scallops, baby squid, sweet potato, turnip, palm hearts, rhubarb, ginger, samphire and apple pickle. It was beautiful. The scallop was perfectly cooked, tender and elegant. The baby squid had an enjoyable chewiness to them (not too tough as they can sometimes be) and the sweet potato gave some sweet relief from the very sharp, tangy pickle. I wasn’t hugely fond of the turnip or palm hearts – they were much of a nothingness but coated in the pickle, they were okay. I made the mistake of slurping the pickle juice dregs from the bowl (classy) which felt like being kicked in the mouth by a bowl of vinegar. Not advised at all!
Suddenly the lights began to flicker and it was time to make yet another escape, through a ball pit (yay!) and into the next stage of the machine!
The Lost Room
So, some many years ago a chap became trapped within the machine when the flux suddenly gobbled him up and locked him inside. Turns out that chap was in the next room we reached, which was filled with bike wheels, pedals, random trinkets and hanging pull handles. It was dark and extraordinary, and where we were to be served our palate cleanser of mandarin, coconut and matcha sorbet! It did as it was designed… it cleansed, and was delicious!
Our host told us how he’d been trapped in this room for ages, occasionally having visions and musings about something to do with someone called Jack… It’s a bit random, and before we can ponder it much longer the flux started to ruin our pedalling fun, and we were forced to scarper into the next room, but not before our host gave us a vaccine made of some kind of healing agent within a syringe and a handy tool “just in case”…
We descend some stairs and entered the dining room of a couple currently sitting on the ceiling. It appears we’ve gone back in time… looks like we’re in the 50’s or 60’s in the home of Bunny & her hubby who has recently decided to retire from relationship counselling (he has his work cut out with our group). Anyway, the pair were on the ceiling until we administered the vaccine brought from the previous room (convenient, that!) – turned out the flux had been playing havoc with the gravity.
Unfortunately, by this point Bella had lost her nerve and didn’t take any further pictures… if/when the lovely Gingerline gang release their pics I’ll post them (but in the meantime see the video at the bottom)
The couple introduced themselves and explain they’ve been hoping to have the neighbours round for supper since they moved in not too long ago. We were treated to Bunny’s Sticky Beef Pie which was made with braised Ox Cheek and served with seasonal veg (carrots and parsnips) and mashed potato. The meat falls apart – it’s unbelievably tender, but in comparison to the other dishes we’d enjoyed throughout the night, it fell ever so slightly flat. After all it was quite literally only meat and two veg… It just lacked the imagination and excitement of flavours that the others did.
As we dined the couple performed some of their dance competition routine (they do couples ballroom, dontcha know) and the hubby proceeded to dish out relationship advice (for all the good it did us) before once again, the flux stuck its nose in and started to meddle with our evening. Bunny and hubby ushered us out through a crawl space in the corner of the room and one after one we emerged in a room filled with toy boxes, bean bags and giant letter cubes. We made ourselves comfortable and suddenly out pops our final room host!
Our hosts in the final room of the machine were hand puppets. Quite foul-mouthed hand puppets actually. Hilarious and inquisitive, they told us how they haven’t always been puppets… turns out they were quite literally fluxed up the arse!
Soon we are handed our Toy Capsule desserts which have been hiding in the cupboards. This rich, thick and indulgent chocolate pudding was cut with a deliciously sharp blackberry sauce with pineapple and hazelnut. It was heavy and delicious, with a small surprise of popping candy (my faaavrouite, always) hidden within. As I scraped my plate clean the puppets began to work out who was behind the flux malfunctions! With the handy tool we had been given in the lost room (it was very handy after all!), we released the evil Jack In The Box from the corner (I hadn’t worked out what Jack was until then!). A terrifying bugger who proceeded to sing about our imminent demise… It all becomes a little hazy for my memory at this point because I was now mopping up the last bits of chocolate from Tessa’s plate with my fingers (pig) and giggling with my girlfriends about something rude the puppets had just said… but all of a sudden, we were rescued, and given our escape route out of the fluxed up machine and back into the bar area!
Our journey into the Chambers of Flavour had come to an end!
Because you are now reading this it sadly means that the available journey’s into the Chamber’s of Flavour v2.0 has come to an end, and the chambers have been closed… But hopefully, this will inspire you to grab yourself some tickets for the next instalment when they come available, or you might even be tempted to try the current Gingerline x Sipsmith experience taking place; Juniper Manor which sees guests enjoy a plethora of delicious food and gin pairings throughout the multi-room experience (and which I personally highly recommend, too!) Tickets to most Gingerline events start from about £62 (which gets you about 2 hour experience) and usually run Wednesdays through to Saturdays. And of course, they always take place at a secret location somewhere along the Gingerline.
* LOL this instalment of CoF lasted a lot longer than I predicted. Hello again, October!
** I’ve just had two lunches, so…
*** Well it’s a long story…
**** Holy shit this was funny when I wrote it and now I’m actually scared for humanity
***** Don’t make me laugh!