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Why go out to dinner in a boring old restaurant when you could be served a five-course feast in a surrealist casino? Or go deep-sea dining in a submarine mess hall?

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.  

More pop-up and immersive dining >>


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