London restaurant, Restaurant review, Uncategorized

Experiential Dining – The New Normal?

The most ridiculous place I have ever been out for dinner was a mobile dining room attached to a crane dangling 150 feet in the air above Londons South Bank. Ridiculous in the main part because it was 5 degrees, blowing a gale and my inability to shake off the preoccupation of needing to pee was somewhat distracting.

Dinner in the sky

In the landscape of modern dining, I’m sure that dinner in the sky sounds quite modest in comparison to some of the more outlandish offerings available in the City. You can have food thrown at you by Basil Fawlty in an immersive dining performance or be quaffing moonshine while locked in a prison in the Alcotraz’ experience, where they encourage full-on Guantanamo attire and an obligatory orange jumpsuit. Staged and forced fun still seems to be more palatable than dining on the high street which continues to see a steady decline in patrons.

Seemingly the more obscure is the most popular and lets not forget ‘The Shed’ at Dulwich created primarily to expose the ease of forging TripAdvisor reviews, by creating a fake restaurant. The bi-product of the stunt was the unexpected demand for the non-existent venue which had consumers desperately scrambling to get a table at what they thought was London’s latest hot ticket. The simple truth being; it was a Shed in someones back garden, and all of the staged food photographs were a mixture of ready meals, bathroom sponges and Gillette shaving foam.

The prank had everyone fooled including The Guardians Jay Rayner who was rebuffed for a table. Nevertheless, the consumers desired to seek out something extraordinary that promoted its success. Had they have knocked out some food they might just have made a go of it, but having good food in your dining space is only one part of the essential components required for success.

Other contributing factors, include the ability to brag about it on social, and having an environment so unique that it distracts you long enough to keep off your iPhone (until you get it out to photograph your dry ice amuse-bouche). Does this mean food has become the least important factor of eating out?

This week I found myself dining on the Victoria line. This wasn’t the daily face-full of commuter armpit, but thankfully something far more palatable, in the form of a Supper Club organised by ‘Eatwith’. Supper Clubs are not a new trend and have been in existence as long as we have been hosting dinner parties. In the last few decades pop-ups such as this have been a springboard for some of the capitals favourite restaurants, such as The Clove Club which had humble beginnings in a first floor flat above a pub in Shoreditch, but seemingly what has changed over time is the way these dining concepts are being presented.

Our Victoria line dining car featured a delicate tasting menu of Andean origins curated by Head Chef Beatriz Maldonado Carreño (Bea) who originally hails from Bogotá Colombia. Bea was part of the team at Corazón Soho, which demonstrates a degree of proficiency.

Upon being presented with the menu, I struggled to link Columbian cuisine to the setting. I’m not suggesting it had to be pie and mash with jellied eels, but this menu was about as un-British as you can get. Tenuously we soldiered on with the opinion that Peruvian cuisine is trendy, Lima is the soon to be the most Michelin star rich territory in the world and London is a city on the gastronomic pulse, make sense?

The food was utterly charming, and each dish was presented by the Chef herself, which immediately has guests emotionally connected with the creator – heaven forbid you don’t like it as she’s just over there with really sharp knives.

Dishes were well balanced and colourful but after four Negronis fairly unmemorable. Although I do remember a purple potato that tasted of hay, which isn’t a criticism.

In terms of an immersive experience, there was a real feeling of discomfort due to the proportion of seating, the hot then cold ambient temperature and the tuneless din of a full tube train, all very akin to the morning rush hour – TFL would have been impressed with the re-enactment.

Tube Image

However it is all of these imperfections that ladder up to making it perfect as the modern-day foodie doesn’t just want to eat fabulous food, they need it to look good and most importantly they want it to be instagrammable.

Tube Image 2

I just wish that this particular restaurant had been hurtling back towards central London at 60mph instead of being stationary and leaving me slightly squiffy in the arse-end of London. Cocktails in an Uber anyone?

Dinner for two £49 per head for set menu, excluding alcohol and service. http://www.eatwith.com

Standard