All this and more has been brought to Londoners by Gingerline, the cult Kiwi-helmed outfit responsible for making immersive pop-up dining a trend set to take over the city in 2013.
“When you’ve got a captive audience, why not give them more than just dinner?” asks Suz Mountfort, the Christchurch-born co-founder of Gingerline.
Along with friends Kerry and Syd, Mountfort has been doing just that, and changing the face of London’s foodie scene in the process.
Here’s how it works: guests book without knowing where or what they’ll be eating.
An hour before dinner starts, they receive a text message telling them where to turn up, with only the guarantee that it’ll be a stop on the Overground, or ‘gingerline’.
As punters make their way to the secret location, Mountfort and her team will be putting the finishing touches to whatever elaborate concept they’ve masterminded, using performance, bespoke artworks and interior design to create an alternate reality.
This ‘on the hoof’ approach comes with its pros and cons – Mountfort reveals that at one event held in a fancy dress shop, she spoiled the main course in their makeshift kitchen 20 minutes before the guests arrived.
“We thought we had an oven with six burners, but didn’t realise until the night that only two worked,” she remembers.
“But when no one knows what’s on the menu anyway, they can’t be disappointed if it changes at the last minute!”
Crushingly, Mountfort is packing up the project at the end of March to go travelling and then return to Sydney, where she lived for five years before moving to London.
Her plans for the future are fluid: “Maybe we’ll set up a Gingerline thing over there, or there’s the opportunity to bring it back here later in the year,” she muses.
Still, the gap left by Mountfort and co. can be competently filled by The Art of Dining, which has been gathering legions of fans since first popping up 18 months ago.
Set designer Alice Hodge and chef Ellen Parr also create theatrical dining experiences in different spaces; this month’s ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ transported guests back to the Victorian era, with actors giving lessons in Victorian romance.
“We’ve nailed a good formula,” Hodge responds when asked why she thinks the enterprise has taken off so quickly.
“There are interesting locations, theatrical set designs and amazing food, and we really invest ourselves in it.
“We’re not in it for a quick buck, and people appreciate that.” The project has become a full-time job, however.
At the start, Hodge was working as a PA, but got so preoccupied with the event designs she outsourced her job to a friend, who emailed her work over at the end of each day.
She’s since quit as a PA, which she admits makes a lot more sense …Does that whet your appetite for more quirky eats? Read on.
Places are still available at Gingerline events on March 19-23 and March 27-29. 7pm. £50.
Join The Art of Dining’s mailing list to receive details of the next pop-up. Tickets are £50.
Pipsdish – Islington
The lease keeps getting extended on this pop-up restaurant set within an old Citroën garage – we assume because it’s so damn good.
The space is sparsely decorated but that’s all part of the charm, and the £30 for three courses Sunday lunch deal – plus BYOB – is a steal.
Expect menus based around seasonal fare. Booking essential.
£30, Thurs, 7.30pm; Fri & Sat, 7.45pm
Sun, 12.45pm 133B Upper Street, N1 1QP
Tube | Angel; Highbury & Islington
Disappearing Dining Club – Across London
On the first Saturday of every month, there’s dinner and late-night dancing courtesy of this cracking supperclub – in a secret location, of course, and with DJs playing late into the night.
Also try their intimate Back In 5 Minutes dining room, hidden behind Ante clothes shop at 224 Brick Lane. Booking essential.
£55, Next event March 2
Secret location TBC
Death by Burrito – Shoreditch
Immersive dining outfit The Rebel Dining Society has popped up this Mexican grill and cocktail bar in east London watering hole Catch.
No word on when it’ll be popping down again, but you’d be a fool to miss out on its experimental tequila cocktails and duck burritos, so be sure to pay a visit while you still can.
You can get in without a reservation (in theory), but be prepared to share a booth with other diners as it gets packed.
A meal with drinks should set you back about £25pp.
£25, Mon-Sat, 5pm-10pm 22
Kingsland Road, E2 8DA
Station | Shoreditch High Street
This sometime supperclub has been going for four years now, popping up sporadically to offer a four-course Italian-inspired menu by candlelight. It’s BYOB.
£45, March dates TBC Unit 6,
The Huntingdon Estate,
Corner of Chance Street and Whitby, E1 6JU
Tube | Liverpool Street
Eat the World – East London
A series of thematic pop-up kitchens, with a different chef each week and accompanying music, guest speakers and digital installations at ‘experimental centre’ Lime Wharf.
£55, March 6-8, 13-15 & 20-22,
6.30pm Vyner Street, E2 9DJ
Tube | Bethnal Green, Cambridge Heath
After Hours Dessert – Bloomsbury
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the pop-up supperclub for you.
Appearing in coffee shops across the city now and then, you can try a three-course dessert menu for £20 or a dessert, coffee and petit four for a tenner.
£10+, March 8-9 & 22-23, 8pm-11pm
40 Store St, WC1E 7DB
Tube | Goodge Street
Sugarhouse Studios – Stratford
This regular Sunday event serves up two courses and a mystery movie for £15.
The studios are currently closed for refurbishment, but join the mailing list for updates.
£15, Sundays, 7pm 107
High Street, E15 2QQ
Tube | Pudding Mill Lane
Portugese Conspiracy – Dalston
This new supperclub launches on Thursday at furniture-shop-cum-cafe L’Atelier Dalston, promising to “contaminate London with Portuguese contemporary culture” – its art, music, design and, most importantly, food and wine.
There’ll be five courses matched with vino.
£40, Feb 28, 7.30pm 31
Stoke Newington Rd, N16 8BJ
Station | Dalston Kingsland
The Foragers at Dead Dolls Club – Dalston
While not strictly a pop-up, this is a meeting of minds borne of London’s pop-up movement.
The Foragers – or Gerald and George to their mums – cook wild food they’ve hunted and gathered, and are now the resident chefs at Dead Dolls Club (above), a former design studio turned pop-up experiential dining outfit that has now opened up a permanent space.
It’s a ‘small plates designed to share’ deal, with the likes of pigeon kebab and BBQ sauce starting at £6.50.
£13+, Wed & Thur, 6pm-12.30am;
Fri & Sat, 5pm-3am;
428 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA
Station | Dalston Junction
WIGWAMBAM! – East London
This heated rooftop wigwam at the Queen of Hoxton (above) is a regular winter pop-up offering a cosy setting for some outdoor BBQ action.
Fairylights and a fire pit will warm your cockles as you order up a feast of red meat, from whole lamb, hog roast and haunches of venison to wild boar sausages and burgers, all served with gravy and stuffing.
Even better, you can wash it all down with a toasty tipple, namely their hot buttered rum. What are you waiting for? Get freaky in the tipi.
£5+ Mon-Sat, 5pm-10pm,
Until March 31
1-5 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX
Tube | Liverpool Street
The Artist Dining Room – Bethnal Green
This rather high- brow dining club invites you to “engage with the ideas of a well-known artist through food”.
The menu is designed bearing the “fundamental, social and intellectual content of the artist’s work” in mind, and the three-course meal is accompanied by a talk about the artist’s work. Er, eek.
£30, Next dinner April 4,
7pm 1 Andrews Road, E8 4QL
Tube | Bethnal Green
These immersive dining events promise to whisk you away on a ‘city break’, welcoming you first to a ‘departure lounge’ with cocktails and canapes, before you’re taken to a themed dining room and a four-course meal.
The first ‘break’ is Gothenburg, serving Scandinavian delights (think char-grilled elk) in a Swedish-inspired setting.
£65, March 13-16 & 20-23,
7pm Secret location TBC
Spit and Roast
This awesome street food outfit is popping up in The Princess Alice pub until March.
Best known for their tear-inducing buttermilk fried chicken, they also do a devastating line in pork belly and rotisserie chicken.
£7, Thur-Sun, 6pm-11pm.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Tube | Aldgate East
Pop Up Tuesday – Westminster
Bag a cheap feed as hospitality students at Kingsway College create three different pop-up restaurants to feed the paying public. Menus range from ‘traditional’ to ‘technicolour’.
£25, March 5, 12 & 19, 6pm
76 Vincent Square, SW12 2PD
Tube | Victoria
A ‘secret foodie extravaganza’, this perennially popular supperclub, run by ‘the chef and the slave’, offers five courses, a ‘secret dessert’ and good company in a cosy southeast London flat. Sign up to receive updates.
£30, Next date TBC Provided upon booking
Tube | Bermondsey
Burger Monday – Bayswater
For one night only, this oyster bar will transform into a burger bar, only the burgers will contain – well, oysters.
The price includes three courses and a glass of red, and sittings are limited to 90 minutes.
£36.50, March 25, from 6.30pm
8 Porchester Gardens, W2 4DB
Tube | Bayswater
Backyard Cinema – Shoreditch
This temporary secret cinema in the attic of Beach Blanket Babylon offers a limited number of deluxe meal tickets, bagging you a two-course meal and wine or beer before the screening at 8pm.
The next three events are sold out, but you can join the mailing list to get updated on the next lot.
£10+, Future screenings TBC 19-23
Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA
Station | Shoreditch High Street
Portside Parlour – East London
Last but not least, we’ve selected a pop-up that, while it doesn’t include food, is simply too cool to exclude. Patrons enter this temporary rum club via, um, a toilet (above).
Pull the dunny chain and a super-sexy speakeasy will be revealed, with red leather sofas, candlelight, oil lamps and an inevitably achingly trendy clientele all crammed in.
Angostura rum is the drink of choice (well, it’s not really a choice, cos it’s the only drink available). Slated to stay until May.
Mon-Fri, 5pm til late;
Sat-Sun, 4pm til late 63-65
Broadway Market, E8 4PH
Tube | Haggerston
Photos: Emli Bendixen; Sophia Schorr-kon; Oleg Tolstoy; Organic Sounds; Dan Spinney; Addie Chinn