Dinner with aliens? Time travel? Singing fruit? Welcome to the world of immersive dining where theatre meets food and the cocktails are just part of the story.
What was once in serious cult hit in 2014 has now been promoted to full on ‘all the rage’ in 2016, immersive dining has never been so popular and setting the standard is London’s own Gingerline. Relying heavily on secret keeping and cloak and dagger marketing, immersive dining is a thrilling experience from start to finish. Tickets are initially booked and locations are kept secret until the day of the event. You know the general overall theme but until you receive that text on your phone you have no idea where you are heading or until you arrive what you will eat and what to expect. Taking the creative experience to the next level Gingerlines productions are abundantly more than just a food rave. Imagine if Neil Gaiman, CS Lewis and JK Rowling somehow had a baby and that baby grew up and had a baby with Heston Blumenthal who had a baby and then that baby was caught in a superhero creating Gamma explosion, that’s Gingerline.
Gingerline is so named because a lot of the locations are along the overground line in London marked on maps by orange or ‘ginger’. Gingerline classic is powered by founders Suz Mountfort and Kerry Adamson –two adventure-loving food fanatics who adore art, performance and design diced with daring. Started in 2010 its aim was to give London’s bravest diners an experience they could savour. After “cartwheeling and cavorting along the line, popping up in seven different pop-up locations”, Gingerline HQ was launched as their first semi-permanent project. Running for 8 sold out months and feeding 10,000 hungry guests, Gingerline “went underground” and resurfaced in November 2013 with The Hideout, a gastro and astronomical journey to the planet Gingerline aboard the good ship Gingernaught. Diners/passengers/secret aliens gathered to receive medical checks and delightfully tasty inoculations before heading off into space. Entertainment came in abundance in the form of patriotic Gingerlinean dancers, singing fruit (of course) and planetary anthems. Take a look at previous menus and events here.
Working with a host of the biggest and brightest collaborators Gingerline has worked hard to create a dramatic dining experience for its guests. With each event being a massive undertaking you would be forgiven for believing both Mountfort and Admanson were stark raving mad but perhaps it’s their special brand of madness that truly makes this work and is the reason behind their huge and devoted online fanbase. However, it’s not just madness but a microscopic attention to detail in every aspect makes Gingerline the frontrunner amongst any false pretenders. Utilising eye wateringly stunning set design, fully formed dramatic productions and incredible food, Gingerline’s evenings have been raved about constantly since its launch.
Suz Mountfort – founder of the wonderfully wacky immersive dining events company, Gingerline, shares her secrets:
How on earth did this come about?
Back in 2010 we started Gingerline as a ‘for the love’ experiment based out of our kitchen. We just wanted to create really fun dinner parties; and at the same time I wanted to see if I could make a career shift out of the office into something more creative and delicious. So decided to create a food filled happening in a secret London location. From this we ended up inventing this whole new thing called ‘immersive dining’ which seemed pretty cool and nobody else was doing anything like it. Since, we’ve cartwheeled and cavorted across London; finding hidden spaces or disused buildings to creating nights of mystery and delicious dining for our amazing Gingerlovers.
What has been your greatest triumph to date?
Wow that’s a tough one. Most probably the project we’ve just ended – Chambers of Flavour. We had this crazy idea a few years ago to try and send diners on a journey where they travel through several different experiences in one night; multi-dimensional dining so to say. Because we created this immersive dining genre, we have to stay one step ahead and keep challenging the way people eat out.
Though to make this happen it was a massive risk. Logistically it’s was tricky because over the course of the night we’d have seven groups of 16 people entering the Chambers, which consists of five different dining realities. So at any one time, we’re serving five groups of people, five different dishes or drinks. There was also the worry that as people loved our one-dimension nights which cater for 100 in one go; would they like being thrown in a boat (literally) and have a far more intimate experience with strangers?
So we ran a trial called The Secret Island which meant we could play around with the idea and get it right before deciding to take it wider. Which we did and so launched Chambers of Flavour; selling out the entire run which is over 17,000 guests over a nine-month period!
How many guests do your immersive dining experiences cater for in one evening?
Each night we have 100 brave diners entering our experiences. They book knowing nothing about the location, the concept or what they are going to eat; only receiving the directions an hour before their arrival time. You have to be rather open-minded to come along to one of our shows!
Has anything ever gone wrong in a humorous fashion?
Way too many to name them all – though that’s the nature of this game! Arriving to find no ovens, so running food down the high streets on shopping trolleys with blow torches to keep it warm having cooked it in the local pub. Burning the main course 20 minutes before the guests arrive. General managers, bar staff and servers having to step into acting roles because of actor illness. Tube strikes and train delays really scupper us – all of our events are in close proximity to the London Overground so no train = no guests. The list goes on…
How long does it take to prepare for an event?
It all depends on how wild the concept is! I keep a log of all the ideas I have and wait for the right time to bring them together. So on some projects the idea may be a few years old other a couple of months – like Chambers for example. In terms of set up, usually around five months and working with over 50 people to make it happen. Those people are set designers, actors, musicians, song writers, chefs, servers, mixologists – you name it, we work with them!
What is the future for Gingerline?
We’re currently running Classic Gingerline Returns which is a nod to our original format. With our focus on multi-dimensional for the last few years, we wanted to bring back what we were known for – an elaborate theatrical supper club on acid. So far we’re sold out until August and will most likely extend the run into September. We’ve also seen a few smoke signals from The Machine which means the engine is whirring back into action and the doors to the Chambers reopen. I’d sign up online now if you’re keen to experience inter-dimensional travel; then you’ll be the first to know about any further clinks or clanks (www.gingerline.co.uk)
We’re also launching our culinary laboratory – the Institute of Flavourology – later this year. At the moment our researchers are hard at work concocting a range of exciting menus, delectable beverages and fantastic performance for private and bespoke events. So if you fancy bringing a little Gingerline magic to your wedding, birthday or corporate event let us know!
Susannah (Suz) is the bright, sparky creature responsible for creating Gingerline and The Chambers of Flavour. She’s the co-founder, leader, ideas-spinner and motivator. With no formal background in food, art, theatre or design for that matter, she just does what she loves and feels passionate about: Gingerline!