Curious Londoner #3: Suz Mountfort of Gingerline

By now you’ll have heard of Gingerline, the maverick supperclub that pops up at secret locations along the East London Overground. I’ve been to a couple myself and there’s nothing like them – think Secret Cinema or Punchdrunk Productions…with food! Attendees are sworn to secrecy, but past events have included drag queens, ball pits and mirror rooms. (All the photos in this post are from events long-past, but you get the idea!)

Gingerline pictures East LondonTo celebrate the return of Classic Gingerline, a single ‘parallel reality’ where interactive set design and art installation combine with five courses of gastronomic storytelling, we’ve got two tickets to give away to the event on Thursday 29th September, together worth £120. To enter, just scroll to the bottom of the page.

We got together with Suz Mountfort, one half of the dynamic duo behind Gingerline, to talk about their new upcoming season, Chambers of Flavour 2.0. The first wave of tickets have already sold out, but our intel suggests there may be more on the way…keep an eye on www.gingerline.co.uk (or follow @gingerline on Twitter) to be the first to know!

Hey Suz! So, tell us, how did Gingerline begin?

Gingerline was born out of our love for great food, great performance and unusual experiences. My partner Kerry Adamson and I decided we wanted to create amazing dinner parties which really challenged the way people dine out. So out of our kitchen we hosted pop-up supper clubs which brought together food, art and performance. We ended up inventing this thing called ‘immersive dining’ and people seemed to love it just as much as we did. It grew and grew into the Gingerline we know and love today.

Gingerline pictures East LondonDescribe the process in creating a new immersive experience, from start to finish.

It differs from project to project but it starts with a big idea. One that feels right – there’s no better way to define it than that. The concept is usually suggested by the space we are working in. For me, there has to be a satisfying title pun before I believe it can make a good Gingerline, like ‘Once Upon a Gingerline’, or ‘Every Cloud has a Ginger Lining.’, ‘HMS Gingerline’ etc etc. Then the team builds the concept from there, thrashing out an overarching narrative. Once we are happy, we issue briefs to all our collaborators and everyone gets started.

Then it is a process of honing the experience, back and forth between the collaborators, tweaking, refining, rewriting and embellishing. We are always trying to balance the different needs of our guests so we are asking ourselves ‘Will this matter to people who are just here for the food?’ ‘Is this too crazy to make people do this after eating four courses?’, ‘Is it safe to do this, when they are carrying bottles of wine?’ ‘Will the food still be warm if we serve it this way?’. There is no shortcut through these questions when developing the experience, but we are getting faster and better at it, each time we run a project.

Gingerline pictures East LondonAnd how is each Gingerline menu brought to life?

The food is the last thing to be designed, not because it is less important, but just because the logistics will then be set in place and we know the practical challenges that will be faced when serving the food. The food is essentially a delicious prop that we use to reinforce the overall concept. It’s like the cherry on top. We have a series of tastings with our amazing new Head Flavourologist, Alejandro Bello Rodriguez, which often last a couple of weeks before the menu goes to print. It’s important to give as much freedom to the chefs as possible, because they are the one’s who have to make the menu every day.”

Gingerline pictures East LondonWhat are the biggest challenges you face whenever you start thinking about a new design?

Logistics, logistics logistics…

inWhich Gingerline world has been your favourite and why?

Most probably our last project, Chambers of Flavour, because it massively pushed the perception of what is possible with immersive events. Plus, it challenged us logistically! It was a giant shift away from the Classic format we are known for, where 100 people collectively experience an evening of food, fun and frivolities, and into multi-dimensional dining – which I again believe is something we’ve created. It is a far more intimate and intense experience because you move in groups of 16 people between five different ‘realities’ within which you dine on one of your five courses.

To deliver something like this, timing is crucial, and so I have to pay credit to our kitchen and serving team who ensured that in each of the five rooms, five different courses were served to dining perfection.

The whole thing was a massive success, with 17,000 guests over nine months. We’ll be launching a new series of realities in September – tickets sold out in less than 36 hours, but the smoke signals suggest more will be released imminently. Sign up at www.chambersofflavour.co.uk to be one of the first to find out when!

Gingerline pictures East LondonFive realities sounds like a LOT of set design. What inspires each of the dimensions?

Sometimes you can be doing the most inane thing and you go, ‘Why not put them in a ballpit and pretend it’s the ocean?’, or, ‘Wouldn’t it would be amazing to suspend a car engine and dispense soup from it?’.  We have brainstorming sessions as a team, but more often than not, it is in the quiet times, or while you are sleeping, that the idea will tumble forth fully formed and you know it’s the right thing to do.

When you are obsessed by a project, then you start to see the world through a different lens. Every interaction you have suggests a new possibility and your brain just files it away and works on it subconsciously until it’s ready.

Gingerline pictures East LondonComplete the sentence: if you love Gingerline, you’ll also love _________.

The Institute of Flavourology. It’s our newest project which allows people to sprinkle a little Ginger magic within their very own events. So whether it’s a birthday, wedding or corporate event; if you want to jazz up the food side of things or incorporate an immersive element to the party, we can help you do that. It’s headed up by Alejandro Bello {Head Flavourologist], who is a master in molecular gastronomy. Think smoke, storytelling and surprises…

Gingerline pictures East LondonWhat’s your favourite thing to do in London?

You would think it would be going out to all the fabulous creative theatrical happenings in the capital, but I’m a homebody and a feeder. My favourite thing to do is have dinner with friends. I still get a buzz from laying on a great spread and relaxing with good wine and conversation. The immersive world we create through Gingerline is just an attempt to embellish the joy you get from this simplest of simple pleasures.

Gingerline pictures East LondonWhat’s planned for the future of Gingerline?

We’re currently running our Classic Gingerline Returns event in a secret location on the London Overground and so far have catered for over 5,000 people. This will run until later this year and though tickets are all sold out until September, we’re sure there will be more released soon…

We’re also planning to add a little festive spirit to the Classic experience between 22nd November and 22nd December, so if you fancy a Christmas party with a difference (and definitely no turkey) contact events@gingerline.co.uk for more info.

Our Chambers of Flavour experience is also back with a bang, whirr and splutter from September. While the location will remain the same, the mighty behemoth has created five new realities through which intrepid explorers can leap, jump and hop while meeting some fantastically curious creatures and eating the most incredible delights.

Finally, we understand there are other Machines located in the UK, so our energetic engineers are currently roaming the country in search for signs of inter-dimensional life…

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.