Shh! Have you tried London's top secret dining joints?
The capital offers meals with a bit more mystery
Put your Zagats down, chuck that Hardens in the bin, you need to find the secret gems of London’s restaurant scene.
These aren’t just any normal eateries, but as LondonlovesBusiness.com will show - they have a little more of an enigmatic twist to them.
Some have popped up in surprising places, other require a little more discovery as if you had fallen down the culinary rabbit hole.
“Drink this potion… warning you might spontaneously combust”
So a fairy told me at a Gingerline evening. Luckily, I’m still here to tell the tale.
At Gingerline dining nights you’re in for an evening of culinary indulgence, quirkily inventive theatre and a deliciously gaudy experience as you are left feeling like you’ve stepped into a fairy-tale realm.
The naughty thing about this? The diners are bound by secrecy not to spill the beans.
Conceived in August 2010 by a group of East-London loving thespian and artistic friends, this pop-up dining experiment kicked off as a way for people to discover the joys of East London (on the London Overground Line, a.k.a. the “Gingerline”). Guests are told to wait by a station and they’ll receive a text message on the night with further instructions on where to go.
Spurred by the rave reviews, Gingerline kept popping up sporadically with nights offering “immersive theatrical dining experiences”. Table menus are transformed into ornately done artworks and costumed performers wait on and entertain the guests in equal measure.
Previous visitors have been thrust into Siberian circuses, submarine mess halls and underground tunnels for Victorian banquets. On LondonlovesBusiness.com’s visit, after clambering through a mushroomy tunnel, past a library of books and etchings, we surfaced into what looked like the hollowed out inside of a tree. Fairies zipped around with course upon course of food that looked almost too good to eat. Diners howled like wolves in between courses as a projected moon introduced each meal. The night was gloriously mad, silly and delightful.
The team, like any good theatrical troupe, go on breaks and artistic hiatus to dream up new wondrous dining experiences. Make sure to catch them and chase down a Gingerline experience when you can.
Location: Sign up to find out, but somewhere near the East London Line.
Tucked away in the basement of a Vauxhall office block, Sirena’s has filled the place - formerly the base of the Royal Doulton pottery - with the bubbly chatter and decor of an Italian restaurant.
Boasting a takeaway sandwich counter, office workers can dive in and out if they can’t stay long enough for the hearty Italian food-fest.
Location: Southbank House, Black Prince Road, Vauxhall SE1 7SJ; 0207 587 0683
Housed in a Hackney studio, Platform is a very intriguing cafeteria.
Accessed via a secret doorway down a side-alleyway, the second-floor cafe provides views overlooking the East London skyline. It’s a hub for Hackney hipsters, with art displays, film nights and ping-pong fests.
Location: Studio 207, 2nd Floor, Netil House, 1-7 Westgate Street, London Fields, E8 3RL; 0203 095 9713
This is a trendsetting Mexican restaurant nestled in a cellar beneath a Soho sex shop, kid you not.
Make sure to tell the shop assistant that you have a reservation and you’ll be whisked down to the vaults to a rip-roaring Mexican fiesta like no other.
Location: 9 Old Compton Street, W1. 02077584100
Yes, it’s hidden in an old Citroden garage. No, for some reason Jeremy Clarkson hasn’t moved in to dine here every day.
Formerly a pop-up, Pipsdish proudly shows its garagey past with concrete flooring, exposed brick and corrugated roof. Basically the full service.
What’s the food like? The menu changes daily. Expect swish dishes from scratch like pork in cinnamon and milk with lemon crackling and rainbow chard.
“I never thought that the garage where I took my car to be serviced would become my first restaurant business. I wasn’t really anticipating cooking in one of London’s most fashionable streets or that I would be enjoying 3 week waiting lists for my cooking. But then life has a habit of turning up unexpected adventures,” says founder Philip Dundas.
Location: 133b Upper Street, N1. 07503 293438