Geeks, steampunk fans and Secret Cinema aficionados take note: Gingerline is right up your street. As I mentioned in my roundup of the best geeky places to eat and drink in London, the company (named after the orange-coloured Overground’s nickname, because that’s the line they’re on) puts on secret, immersive dining experiences, including the popular Chambers of Flavour which is now in its third incarnation.
We went along to Chambers of Flavour V3 in East London, and while we’re strictly prohibited from revealing anything that might spoil the surprises (all the photos are from the bar area), we can certainly give you a flavour (get it) of what’s in store. Here’s our Chambers of Flavour V3 review.
Pull your socks up
On the day of your Gingerline experience, you get a text letting you know the exact directions to the building. It’s not the simplest to find, so we’d recommend leaving a bit of extra time — not least because they’re quite strict about latecomers. You do get a phone call if you’re late, though, so you can give them a heads-up if you’re five minutes away.
Part of the Chambers of Flavour experience involves wearing brightly-coloured socks. The FAQs‘ reason why is pretty typical of the whole thing:
While you travel through dimensions, the team of egg-head engineers operating the machine need to track your trajectory from one world to the next. If colours mix, confusion ensues, causing fragmentation of friends and divides amongst dining dimensions. Disaster! To combat this, we require your careful choice of attire.
We had a massive panic on the day because we’d forgotten to wear any, and had to leg it to Primark to sort ourselves out. Note: brightly coloured knee socks are HARD TO FIND, even on Oxford Street. We’re glad we made the effort though, because literally everyone there was wearing extravagant socks and we’d have felt like total foolios if we hadn’t been.
There’s a bar at the beginning, where you need to order drinks for the whole experience. They recommend about 3, and that seemed like the right amount to us too. Drinks aren’t included in the ticket price, which is £50-£75ish depending on times and dates, and the alcoholic ones are quite pricey. Being a mostly-teetotal type, I went for Diet Coke instead, which cost me £1.50 a can.
You do also get a free welcome drink, though on my night it was Sipsmith gin and I don’t drink, so Zack had two.
Once you’ve ordered the drinks, had a wee (they recommend it and so do I) and put your stuff in the cloakroom (leave your phone behind — you’re not allowed to use it in the machine anyway), the experience begins. Extravagantly-dressed actors explain the storyline, which involves a mission you have to complete by the end. Shy types, bear in mind that you’ll have to talk to, shake and possibly even hold hands with other members of your group, so if you’re social-phobic this might not be the dining experience for you.
Socks are inspected and commented on, and everyone gets to know each other a bit. Then, it’s time to depart for adventure.
Into the machine
The concept of Chambers of Flavour is an inter-dimensional time machine with a different food course in every room. The whole thing takes about two hours, and there are different actors in each room who keep the story going. Most of the actors on our night were brilliant, though one was so nervous, we wanted to remind them they’d already passed the job interview.
Since the whole thing is a fantasy experience, it can be a bit tricky to raise queries and problems without feeling really awkward — I managed to put a big dent in my ring trying to get the top off a bottle of beer because we didn’t want to interrupt the costumed character leading the room with something as mundane as “can we have a bottle opener please.” There are bottle openers scattered about, but it’s not always obvious where, and sometimes they don’t appear for a while — if you have one on a keyring, we’d recommend keeping it in your pocket through the experience for minimum hassle.
Similarly, it was really awkward to bring up the fact that one of our diners was missing some food, and another had to go through a whole embarrassing rigmarole with a costumed actor trying not to break character to work out a mistake with their drinks order. The drinks are delivered through a cupboard in the first room based on your order at the bar, but there were several mix-ups, which interrupted the flow of the narrative.
Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for, though you have to notify them when you book — you can’t tell them on the day. We had a vegan in our group and there was some good-natured ribbing by the actors as they gave her her special individual meals. For people with serious food allergies, though, even notifying them in advance might not be enough — the FAQs say “while we do our best, we cannot guarantee any menu is 100% free of allergens.”
The only other issue we had was how reliant the whole thing is on being physically capable. The FAQs say you can still do Chambers of Flavour V3 if you’re in a wheelchair or have mobility issues, but:
“An alternative path through the experience will be provided for those with mobility requirements or wheelchairs. Please also note that due to the nature of the building, unfortunately wheelchair users and guests who are unable to use staircases will have an alternative interaction at certain points of the experience.”
Which sounds like a nice way of saying the story flow totally breaks down if you’re disabled. There are quite a few staircases and crawly bits, so we’d imagine anyone who couldn’t do those would feel a bit left out. Still, it’s good that they cater for less able-bodied people, albeit in a not-so-fun way.
Fellow thimble-bladders will be pleased to hear there are two toilets along the way.
Food, drinks and fun
While we can’t tell you much at all about the individual rooms in Chambers of Flavour V3, we can promise they’re all really cool and very impressive. Each room has a different theme, its own actors and a themed set menu. The dialogue is funny and engaging, and though it does get a bit team-building-exercise at times, that’s just how it goes with a group of strangers having dinner together.
The food itself was mostly really tasty, and although we could definitely have eaten more, we were full when we left. Quite a few of the earlier courses are quite small, so don’t turn up ravenously hungry.
You get a little card in each room that tells you exactly what you’re eating. There were some pretty exotic ingredients on ours, and we got to try things we’d never had before, like celeriac purée and plum lamingtons. We’d eat pretty much any of it again.
Most of the rooms have pre-portioned food, but one of the later ones has bowls of nosh you can serve yourself from, so that’s the time to grab extra helpings if you have a big appetite.
Back to the real world
After two hours and twenty minutes, you’re ejected from the machine and back into the real world (well, the bar, which stays open ’til 11pm and has seating areas). We felt the length of the experience was just about right — long enough to feel like value for money, not so long that it dragged.
It’s a bit cheesy at times, but we felt decently engaged with the story, and — no spoilers — we completed our mission. We even made a few new friends along the way, although in typical British fashion no one remembered anyone’s names or exchanged contact details, so we’ll never see each other again.
Still, it’s nice to know all twelve of us took the same interdimensional journey, saved the world (sort of) and saved ourselves from a bland chain-dining experience that would probably have cost more and been forgotten almost instantly.
If you fancy a steampunk food adventure of your own (it’d make an amazing date), Gingerline is still offering tickets for Chambers of Flavour V3 on various days, and there’s a new experience called The Grand Expedition coming soon, too.
Don’t forget your socks.