As I rise up from the dusty Victoria line tube into the slight breeze of a city evening, I search out a warehouse space. Only slightly lost amongst the vast shops and busy roundabouts on this gritty early spring night. I wander towards my destination, via the information texted to me at 4 pm early that day, looking and finding a second-hand tyre warehouse. O.K, I’m not going to buy tyres of an evening in a suburb of London, but to an interactive dining experience. As I pass through the door from grim reality I’m handed an Asahi beer and I cross the threshold into a Jules Verne style magic kingdom.
Once inside (and after my wrist is tagged for dietary requirements) I, guided by masked actors who speak an unrecognisable language but manage to convey what is needed to know, am guided to my seat. Only my seat happens to be a balloon basket, the ‘basket’ is, in fact, a woven wood circular space with table and chairs built in, suspended (but grounded) with lamps, balloons, ropes, hoists, and lamps. The raised platform serves around 15 balloons set as dinner tables. And so the dinner experience begins..
We ‘lift off’ and ‘fly’ to our first destination. Well not actually flying out of the warehouse roof but visibly, and emotionally the sound and back-projected world scape takes us there. It is the back projections that cleverly give a real sense of momentum as the perspective moves up and down as well as side to side, unnervingly giving a sense of movement. The space morphs, shift and spin from one location to another. Are we dipping into a magical world of Phileas Fogg?
Hand drawn illustrations in a Quentin Blake meets childrens classic storybooks style animation adorn the surrounding rounded off walls which show off ‘picturebook images’ of each location, yet they move continually giving a 360 view of each location. Yes, you have guessed it, Gingerline are back and this is their newest adventure.
Considering in the past the company has received rave reviews it is interesting to see what will happen on this evening of global travel via ballon. Each new location brings out our performers suitably clad in location clue giving outfits, along with wicker baskets of dinner courses. They dance they sing they pull in the audience (only if you want) to interact and carry on speaking in their own weird and wonderful language which however much not understandable still manages to communicate and understand of what is required for each guest for each course.
And the food? Sadly we can’t give details but seeing as this company started out doing supper clubs it is fair to say the standard is not just high but exciting and not obvious but clearly linked to each location with subtle flavoring and textures. There are drinks menus to help suggest cocktails to pair with each course that can be bought from the adjacent bar too. We can say there are five courses and we land back at our original location in order to sadly leave our cocoon of uplifting immersion to exit back into grisly reality
The Grand Expedition (as it is titled) is the latest creation by food fanatics Suzannah Mountfort and Kerry Adamson who set up Gingerline eight years ago, and this is considered their most impressive project as of yet; An interaction between set design, art installation and exquisite dining combine, to create a wonderful, engaging, entertaining dining and theatre event.
Born from a love of great food, performance and unusual experiences, Suzannah and Kerry started out by hosting supper clubs in their kitchen. “We ended-up inventing this thing called immersive dining”, says Suzannah by way of explanation, “and people seemed to love it as much as we did.”
So who else is behind the team that makes this extravaganza work?
Flavourology is the creative foodie team behind Gingerline menus. Food Director, Jenny McNeill says of the project: “The Grand Expedition project is a chef’s dream to work on… It takes a culinary journey around the world landing in some places, which feel generous and comforting, others, which feel experimental and palette-pushing. As part of the show, we aim to get diners involved with what they are eating – sharing, pouring, spraying and tasting. It takes Gingerline food adventures to the next level.”
The set design is by Darling & Edge who create immersive set design for those who keep their minds and mouths open. Nurturing traditional techniques such as scenic painting and carpentry, but pairing them with up to date technology in the lighting design and immersive soundscapes they ensure that the art of theatre design is continually being reinvented to captivate and inspire their audiences. They said “Working with Gingerline is like coming home to us. We love how brave and exciting their concepts are, how beautifully detailed their projects are and what a talented team they have assembled to work with. No one understands how to lead an adventure into imagination quite like Gingerline and we’re first in line to jump aboard, clutching a paintbrush in one hand and a one-way ticket in the other.”
The amazing illustrations are by Fred Campbell a London-based Illustrator, who graduated from Middlesex University in 2013. He is interested in expressing narrative through drawing, in picture books, comics, and animation. He draws in pen and ink, but also uses digital techniques as well as watercolour when the fancy takes him. On the project: “I (Fred) was immediately taken by Suz’s story for the show and saw how my style would complement it. It’s rare to be given the reins on a project with so much scope and be given so much creative freedom. Working on Gingerline’s newest show has been one of the best commissions of my career so far and I hope the world we create is as delicious as the food they’ll serve at the shows later this year.”
Lastly, the animation is by Greenaway & Greenaway who was established in 2009. Brothers Jude and Jolyon work collaboratively through a variety of creative disciplines producing artistic and commercial work that allows for the exploration between the audio, and visual arts. Their unique skill set allows them to move freely between sound and vision, crafting work that is constantly pushing the boundaries of expression in both mediums and wherever possible, bringing both these art forms together in a single, complete project.
For more information on The Grand Expedition please see below for website details as well as pricing and booking details
PricesGeneral seating: £60 — £75 (Doors open at 7 pm arriving by 7.15pm at the latest)
Group seating£55 — £75
Matinee seating£55 (Doors open at midday, please arriving by 12.15pm at the latest)
(photographer, Rob Greig).