Last week we got to share a dining table with a steam engine at the latest pop-up restaurant by the Art of Dining team, who provided us with a cholera free trip to the Victorian era.
Victorian London with its associations of dampness, darkness and disease might not be the first choice of themes for a tempting night out but pop-up experts, the Art of Dining, have never done obvious and have a proven record of taking the most unlikely of themes and venues and creating the most extraordinary night out. Carefully curating food, theatre, music and set design their previous incarnations include The Servants Supper at Ham House, The Colour Palette at Carousel and Gone Camping at the Pickle Factory.
Specialising in immersive pop-up dining experiences set designer Alice Hodge can transform the most unlikely of settings whilst chef Ellen Parr, who spent her formative years working at Moro, brings her trademark Middle Eastern and Spanish influences to each of her menus. From National Trust houses to community halls, gardens and warehouses their diverse selection of dining venues are one of a kind and provide a wonderful opportunity to dine in a venue that may not always be open to the public.
Their most recent pop up, The Engine Room, saw us being entertained at the London Museum of Steam and Water, where we were transported 160 years into the past to Victorian London and the industrial age. If you were going on a Steam Punk date night, this is would be the place to come.
We were shown into the beam engine room, a cathedral commemoration of industry housing a pump engine so mind-boggling that Charles Dickens named it ‘a monster’. Our welcome drink was a jar of Monster Soup; a clever winter warming cocktail, which paid homage to the Victorian’s nickname for the River Thames.
The ghost of the former foreman then took us on a tour into the heart of the museum where a collection of magnificent steam pumping engines are housed and formed an incredible backdrop to the long tables where we were seated for our five-course dinner. The menu was a celebration of oil, smoke, steel, steam and fire and included interactive treats such as a shared oil cans for pouring the dressing, vegetables hidden inside salt dough pockets and a flight of wine in assorted vintage glass bottles. All this was enjoyed against the pulsing drum beat of a working steam engine. If you’re looking for a different kind of dinner, the sort that is more of a fully immersive experience with amazing food in stunning settings, you’ll find this team hard to beat.
What We Ate:
Cuttlefish braised in ink, fennel and tomato with pickled green peppers and garlic toast
Salt dough baked vegetables with pickled za’atar, date puree and labneh
Marinated steamed salmon with giner, lemongrass and garlic brussel tops
Smoked lamb shoulder with whipped feta, kalamata olives and tomato salad
Spiced apple cake, burnt apple puree, clotted cream and charred white chocolate