Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Until 4pm on the day of our visit to Gingerline’s latest theatrical pop-up restaurant, we had no idea where we would be going. When the text arrived with directions, we were hardly any the wiser.
Such secrecy is part of the Gingerline ethos. Their latest dining experience, The Grand Expedition, certainly starts with a spirit of adventure, situated as it is in an industrial estate just round the corner from a Tube station I have previously only ever used to change train lines.
There are no outward indications outside the building as to what is contained therein, save for the small groups of people huddled outside, unsure whether they have arrived at the right place. And then a door opens, and we are bundled inside. Stepping – literally – into the pages of a storybook, we are transported into a fantasy world where Britain explored the world by hot air balloon.
Gingerline has constructed a five-course meal of world cuisine. Each course is introduced with a hand-drawn 360° animation which is projected onto the circular walls. The accompanying narrative, which anthropomorphises winds from the four principal compass points, is not great, and at times the pre-recorded narration is barely audible above the clamour of the increasingly well-lubricated diners.
But the animation is just a taster. Each stop along the way precipitates a change in outfit from the team of dancers who also double up as waiters. Depending on one’s tolerance for circus clowning, the dancers’ attempts at comedy antics will either come across as charming or grating.
Better are their dances, performed among the gangplanks and walkways between tables. And the presentation of each course, each delivered with a great flourish, does contribute to the convivial ambience.
To maintain the air of secrecy, we have been requested not to describe the courses in too much detail lest it give away the route of the expedition. Suffice to say that there is a great variety, each course delivering a tasty slice of world cuisine. Nor is there any skimping: many is the time I have dined at comparably priced venue and risen from the table still hungry. Not so here: Gingerline’s set menu is certainly filling.
My dining companion and I also opted for the wine flight, with which each course is paired with a glass of a different wine from a smooth organic Picpoul de Pinter to a lightly fruity Pinot Noir, with a whisky-based liqueur to accompany dessert. Wines and food are well matched here, so the wine flight is recommended. That does increase the price, though: with the food and experience costing £60-75 a head with drinks on top, this is not a cheap evening out (although I would suggest that at £25 a head, the wine flight offers the best value of the evening).
And while the cast of dancers is endearing, there isn’t enough theatrical content for one to really consider them as anything more than a side dressing for the food. But one cannot envy that the mood is an effective and unusual setting for some delicious food. If one has a special occasion to celebrate, The Grand Expedition would be a welcome and unusual location to mark the occasion.
Reviewed on 26 February 2019