To say September was a little bit busy would be like saying Brexit might work out ok, a downright, bloody lie. So I was excited about October, autumn in London and a little bit less travel, all of which would, hopefully, mean I could eat at some of the city’s new openings and try some new supperclubs. It had been ages since I had experienced any immersive theatre, and my most recent immersive dining, Chamber Of Flavours, by Gingerline which I normally adore, had been really disappointing.
By happy coincidence, R, a chum from the day job, was also around and so this is how we found ourselves being ushered into a railway arch on Pedley Street, on Thursday night, for Funicular Productions Journey to the Underworld. When immersive dining is done well, it’s brilliant but very often one of the elements lets it down; the set is incredible, but the acting half hearted or the food is second rate, or the set looks like my mum’s primary school made it out of old egg boxes and,really, you’re paying for it all, for it all to come together, like some wondrous symphony. And spoiler alert, this really did.
I don’t want to share too much of the story because part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you’re in for. I know my mum will be reading this thinking, fun? I can’t imagine anything bloody worse, but for me, I love the adventure and intrigue of it all.
So let me just share this, the setting is brilliant, a beautiful, vintage train carriage, the entire story is played out in this space, so no balancing on one leg and trying not to stick your chicken skewer in your neighbour’s eye here. There is a great balance of interaction and being able to eat and enjoy your meal and, believe me, you will. Your journey will take you to the depth of hell to help reunite star crossed lovers, the acting is good fun, of course it’s camp, it’s meant to be. And on this night, there was an extra star crossed lover element, but more of that later.
So the food, the marvellous food. The menu is from Louisa Ellis, a Masterchef Professionals 2017 finalist. If you don’t remember her, she made incredible sauces and desserts that brought Greg close to tears on occasion. She was a great chef, quiet and unassuming, with a fabulous smile when she was happy with what she served. Her food is exceptional, really. It completely exceeded my expectations for an event like this. We start with a small amuse bouche of butternut squash veloute with toasted pumpkin seeds. It is just a soupcon, to tease the tastebuds. It’s rich, silky smooth, the pumpkin seeds lending just a hint of nuttiness and bite. And as we eat, the story unfolds around us and our fellow dinners. Speaking of fellow dinners, I was quickly aware of table two, seated diagonally across from us, specifically Dave on the end. The reason I became aware of Dave is, well, there is only one way to say this, he was flirting with me across the carriage.
And I know you might be thinking, she knows his name, so maybe this ended well. Read on, dear friend, read on.
Our starter is black garlic gnocchi, sauteed wild mushrooms, truffle and nasturtium. The gnocchi are like little pillows, just perfect to soak up the cream sauce. The balance of truffle is just right, not overwhelming, little peppery leaves of nasturtium add fresh notes. I would happily eat plate after plate of this.
And the love story plays on and Dave and I make eyes at each other. And it’s not just me, R is very aware of this high level flirting. Could it be possible to meet a real person, in real life? Main is pan seared guinea fowl with celeriac textures, anne potato, braised leek and arran mustard sauce. The breast of guinea fowl is cooked to perfection, moist and succulent. It is served with thick, pickled slices of celeriac and celeriac purée. It’s the type of dish that could so easily be over cooked but everything on the plate is perfect.
As our story draws to a close, I discover Dave’s name as we get involved with the story once again and he is drafted in to help find a magical key. Desserts are served, rich and indulgent. Dense chocolate Ganache is paired with a silky, light honey ice cream, this was really gorgeous. On top, a honey crisp and bee pollen tuile to add texture and crunch.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best immersive dining events I have experienced in recent years. I like the story playing out around you so you can really enjoy the food, and it would be a shame not to see these beautiful plates and be able to enjoy them. Funicular productions have other events planned for the future and I will definitely be heading to try another.
As the plates are cleared, we move to the bar to finish our drinks. Three of Dave’s table leave, he walks towards me, puts his hand on my arm, looks straight at me. He tells me it was nice to see me and with that he departs into the dark, wet night.
Dave might have been a disappointment but nothing else about the night was. And who knows, maybe Dave and I will be reunited at another immersive dining experience.