“The Lost Gardens of Gingerline”
I’ve lived in London for four years now, and I have recently begun to find my brain wandering into thoughts of leaving this dirty, busy, unfriendly and expensive city and venturing somewhere where people smile, and you don’t have to take out a mortgage to buy a round of drinks. Edinburgh, maybe, or possibly Bath or Bristol… I’ve thought about it, but then something happens in London that reminds me that this city is actually incredible, and offers some things that you simply wouldn’t get to experience any where else in the world. The Gingerline is one of those things.
At the end of September last year, my lovely friend Tessa offered me a spare ticket to the most recent venture from the team that pride themselves in creating clandestine dining adventures that operate in secret and changing locations along the London Overground rail network. Previous events include a dark Victorian gothic themed dining event located at the entrance to the original Thames Tunnel, a Puppeteer’s Workshop at Forest Hill, a Night at the Circus situated at New Cross Gate and last winter’s event, Planet Gingerline set within a spaceship which took passengers on a gastronomic trip from another world! Needless to say when I was offered the spare ticket, I was incredibly excited at the prospect of what could lay in store!
Why the long wait to publish this review? Well there is a strict social media embargo on sharing the details of these secret feasts. The magic of Gingerline is that no-one knows what is to come. It’s a mystery to all, and that is one of the elements that make it such an enjoyable experience. I didn’t want to ruin it for anyone still waiting to go. And with the announcement of the next exciting instalment of secret dining just around the corner (more on that later) now seemed like the perfect time to share my thoughts!
The only instructions we were given prior to the day were a vague dress code; pastels & wellies. Try and decipher a theme from that! We heard nothing more until 6pm on the day of the event, which just so happened to be the first day of this years event. At 6 o clock, a text came through to us telling us which tube station we needed to head to, along with a few extra instructions to get us to the next stage of the hunt to find the final location.
We followed the instruction which led us to a man wearing an apron with a butterfly motif emblasened on the front. We recited the secret phrase, which in turn gave us access to a map which gave us directions to the secret location. We arrived there, were given a final set of instructions and we then entered the building. The theme became obvious as soon as we stepped inside. The floor was covered in pebbles, the walls lined with winding ivy and trellis, the sound of summer garden flitters through the air. We had entered the Lost Garden of Gingerline. Suddenly the dress code made sense.
We were offered a glass of cocktail which was poured from a watering can (and you thought cocktails served in jam jars was cute!) and were shown to our table.
The room was split up into different areas, and we were given a map and the opportunity to explore before our food was served. A treehouse was the home to several dining tables, and more could be found hidden beneath it, but you’d have to duck to get to them. Surrounding that, more tables which were decorated with giant swans could be found, all in front of a pay bar serving a selection of themed cocktails, wine and champagne.
Around the room earphones could be found hanging from the trellis which told a story of the Lost Gardens, and the actors and waiting staff also kept up the story with colourful conversation about history of the Gardens.
The menu for the meal, along with a background story was placed on our beautifully decorated table, which was complete with a bottle of champagne.
To begin we were to enjoy a picnic basket of savoury surprises, which would include a Salmon or Goats Cheese (v) ice-cream, popcorn & fairy cakes. Needless to say we were very excited by the alternative flavoured ice creams which came in small cones and a gorgeously whipped and creamy filling made with one of the ingredients. They were bite sized and full of flavour, with a wonderful mix of textures. The popcorn was sweet but with a savoury tone, like a sweet cheese or possibly even a honey glazed chicken. Please forgive me for my terrible memory, but it was 7 months ago after all!
Before each course was presented to us, the keepers of the Lost Gardens performed to us a small speech which told the story of the meal.
Conjure us a feast.
The Boating Pond Soup came next, with cured trout, pickles and a gorgeous broth. The flavours weren’t over-powering, rather fresh and delicate, while the main course of guinea fowl with the walnut salad was succulent and tender, while the salad had the crunch and texture that brought the dish a fresh new dimension.
Between the main course and the gorgeous dessert of burnt honey parfait, poached pear and gronola came one of the most delicious yet uncomplicated dishes I have ever had the pleasure of trying, and this was slices of sweet, juicy apple dipped into a gooey, luxurious caramel sauce. OH. MY. GOD! It’s so simple and yet it was like an explosion of sweet, addictive flavour in my mouth.
I may or may not have licked the caramel sauce bowl clean.
Except I definitely did. I’m a pig. And i’m bloody proud of it.
Beautiful flowers are twined around wooden beams, while vines wrap themselves around miscellaneous objects. It’s magical and beautiful and the kind of thing you’d find on a “dream garden” Pinterest board.
The attention to details for every element of the evening, from the decoration to the actors to the food was outstanding. These events are about so much more than a delicious meal, and you would hope so when you’re spending £50 per head.
So The Lost Gardens of Jubilee are on longer available to visit which is sad and if you missed it, yeah, it sucks to be you… BUT here is some good news: Gingerline is about to embark on an outlandish journey to the terrain between art, theatre, food, design and time-travel with The Secret Island! *cue excited scream*
The Secret Island is an experimental multidimensional dining adventure involving four food courses and one drink experience in a hidden location along the East London Line. Tickets went on sale on Friday and sold out pretty much straight away. If you’ve been lucky (and brave) enough to secure your place you will be texted at 4.30pm with details of our hidden gathering point. At your appointed time you will travel by ‘ferry’ to The Secret Island. If you didn’t get tickets, I’d say there’s no need to panic, as the Jubilee Gingerline also sold out but due to popular demand, they added multiple new dates, so you will probably have a good chance of getting yourself tickets. And by the sounds of it, this is definitely one you’re going to want to experience, as you will journey to not just one parallel reality, but a sequence of contrasting dining dimensions, each containing a mouth-watering course of mysterious deliciousness.