You should also know that I'm a bit eccentric and love different food experiences. So when Gingerline appeared on my radar last November, I decided to take the plunge.
If you've never heard of Gingerline, I can only describe it as a unique, mystery dining experience. You don't know where the venue is. You don't know what the menu is. You don't know what the theme is. You just book, wait, and be ready and waiting on a tube line in London at 6pm, where you'll receive a text message with instructions.
And this, ladies and gents, is where the story of the Lost Gardens Of Gingerline begins.
I bought the Gingerline tickets for my girlfriend for her Christmas present. She loves surprises, but also likes to have all the facts, including the 'where' and 'when's'. Sadly, she was going to have to patient.
From the point of booking in early December where we had to submit dietary requirements, we had no communication with the Gingerline team whatsoever. The evening would be a complete mystery. All we had to do was be waiting near a Jubilee line station at 6pm on the date of our booking.
I BELIEVE IN LIONEL...
Fast foward to the 27th January 2015. We were about to arrive into Euston station when we received the text message.
We were a little early when we arrived at London Bridge, so headed to a bar for a quick drink.
What on Earth was the V2 bomb? Who the hell was Lionel?! Time to find out...
We headed back to London Bridge station and followed the instructions. Then, high up on the side of the brick wall building, we spotted the V2 bomb. Well, space rocket to be precise.
And then, looking like a couple of complete loons amongst the London commuter traffic, our eyes made their way down the brick wall, searching for a figure with a butterfly insignia.
Sure enough, directly ahead stood a woman wearing an apron with a butterfly insignia.
I walked up to her. "I believe in Lionel", I whispered.
I'd just walked up to a complete stranger and spat out a complete nonsensical sentence. You can see how this could have gone very wrong.
Then, thankfully, the butterfly-insignia-apron-wearing girl spoke. "I'm so glad you believe in Lionel! And so you should!". I still had no idea who Lionel was, but the girl gave us directions to one of her colleagues, a few streets down on the right hand side. This was quite a start to the evening!
We followed her directions and were eventually met by another girl holding a clipboard. She took our names and gave us further directions, where our evening would 'officially begin'....
WELCOME TO THE LOST GARDENS OF GINGERLINE!
We walked into a deserted courtyard in a residential area, up some metal fire escape stairs, and then....SLAM....a door opened, and we were ushered into the Lost Gardens Of Gingerline!
"Welcome, welcome everyone, so glad you could make it! Grab a cup, let me fill you up with Lionel's Tipple, and then I'll show you around!"
It was like we'd just stepped into the garden of a country house. In Narnia.
We gave our names to the eccentric man on the door, who told us we were seated in the boating lake. Okay....
And so we were. Three tables had been dressed up as swan boats!
Other people were sat upstairs in the tree house....
...some people were sat in the beehive below the tree house....
...and some people were sat in the butterfly house.
It was a very grand setting! We were even given a map in case we got lost :)
The whole place had been transformed into a luxurious garden with incredibly well-crafted areas. The attention to detail was incredible, from a wishing well at one end, through to butterfly pictures and exotic bird projections at the other.
After wandering round snapping pictures, we finally sat back down at our swan table, sipped our cocktails and looked at the menu. There was an introduction from Lady Constance Whistlebottom, which gave us a little more insights into the theme of the evening.
We were the benefactors of the Lost Gardens Of Gingerline Preservation Society, and we were sat in the gorgeous surroundings of the newly restored Lost Gardens.
The gardens were created by Lionel Sterling-Grey - 1st Earl of Gingerline - and 'one of the world's most eminent Flavourologists'.
So that's who Lionel was!
We were told it was on this exact date 100 years ago that Lionel vanished, but thanks to the work of modern Flavourological experts - and the unique ingredients of the garden - we were about to be treated to fantastical recipes based on Lionel's original ideas.
So, without further adeu, we got into character, and tucked into the food!
THE LOST GARDENS OF GINGERLINE JUBILEE MENU
The room was made silent as Lady Constance's voice erupted over the hidden tannoy. The first course was announced as a picnic basket of savoury surprises!
Inside the basket there was salmon and mustard ice cream with pickled dill, caramelised onion muffins with thyme icing and spiced popcorn.
Certainly not what we were expecting, but each one was delicious!
Next up, 'boating lake soup', made with iron bark pumpkin veloute, smoked haddock, parmesan and curry caramel oil. Yum!
After this second course, it was definitely time for another round of cocktails, so I helped myself to The Bee's Sneeze (Haig Club whiskey, fresh pineapple, lemon juice, bitters & sugar, black pepper) and my girlfriend had a Lost At Sea (tequila, fresh lime & pineapple juices, coriander and Green Chartreuse).
Next up was winter garden vegetable and duck ragout, with confit turnip, roast potatoes and a 'trio of salts' (star anise, 'toasted rat' and orange).
Lionel clearly was a man to be admired. The trio of salts went down a treat!
Between this and the final course, we were given the chance to taste different flavours of honey, made by the bees that were kept near the water fountain.
Flavourology reached every corner of the Lost Gardens Of Gingerline, including the bees! The busy workers (waitresses) of the gardens squirted the flavoured honey into our mouths. We tasted mint chocolate honey, and two other yummy flavours. The bees really were busy!
After dinner, we were told more about the eccentric Lionel and some of the traditions that made the gardens a success. To communicate with the many birds in his aviary, we were made to do our best bird impressions, with prizes for the winner on each table.
Once we'd made our way through the cocktails, it was finally time to say our farewells to the folk, flowers and fascinating creatures of the Lost Gardens Of Gingerline.
Gingerline was more than just a mystery dining experience. It was a brilliant, unique attack on the senses. Like any dining experience, the food needs to be good, but the service also needs to be top drawer. The waiters & waitresses / actors & actresses had more energy than a colony of Duracell bunnies.
And that, fellow foodie friends, made Gingerline one of the best dining experiences I've ever had.