Immersive dining experiences seem to be the in thing to do in London this year. Last week I was invited alongside The Live Review to dine on The Arctic Express and learn of The Greatest Snowman.
Based in a bridge unit in Pedley Street london, on arrival you are welcomed and checked into the clock room and luggage storage, you are offered a glass of mulled wine and directed through a door to “board” the Arctic Express.
Through the door you are met with a train interior of 6 or 8 booths (I can’t quite remember!) and we were seated with a lovely lady who was treating her parents to a festive day out. Once the pleasantries were out of the way I took a moment to sink in our surroundings. Each window was a TV screen, our screen was boarded up with a “window broken” sign and there was a projector above our heads shining onto our table, giving the illusion bugs were running around our table, admittedly I hate bugs so this for me was very off putting! So first impressions not so great, I was given a drinks menu but our drink order wasn’t taken for at least half an hour after, they came across a little unorganised.
The theatre side of the dining experience begun with a little old lady welcoming us onto the the train and introducing the story line of the experience whilst interacting with the trains driver over the speakers, part of the story was that the conductor had quit so she had to take over the role so we could get to our fictional Christmas market in Birmingham. We were then introduced to Mr Ed Snow, who was a bit of a grinch, on board to get to Birmingham, he questions everything about Christmas and the greed of retailers ruining the festive period, I agreed with every word! As did the woman sitting opposite me, we had a good ol’ natter about how we have become grinches.
Once the scene was done they proceeded with the first course of the four, caramelised cauliflower volute, crispy onion and yeast flakes, it smelt like the old lady had made soup out of her old slippers, it wasn’t to my taste!
First course done….and we still had no drinks at this stage, I needed to wash down the slipper soup!
The story continued with our actors, and the train had been plunged into darkness whilst intruders boarded The Arctic Express, Mr Snow shouted “They’ve found me” and had disappeared. Our intruders revealed themselves to be Jessy Claus and two elves, bringing with them the magic of Christmas by fixing our window, switching the projectors to Christmas patterns and her elves running around with Christmas trees for the tables, Tanya and I looked at each other and thought Thank god, and then our drinks finally arrived, immediately our evening started to look better!
Jessy Claus and her elves brought humour to the entertainment, they explained why Christmas is such a magical time and interacted with the diners. Not long after the entertainment livened up, our second course was served. This was the starter course and it was varieties of Jerusalem artichoke, grilled globe artichoke and baby rocket. It was certainly better than the cauliflower soup but again not fantastic, I was so hungry though I did finish mine and polished off some of Tanya’s.
Starters have been cleared away and we are told the story of the greatest snowman, St Nicholas and the origins of Christmas, followed by our main course. A three bird roast, chicken skin, Carvolo nero, parsnip purée, potato Rosti and citrus sauce. Due to the projector lighting you couldn’t really see your meal well, as soon as your fork went in it all fell apart and in my very first mouthful I had a tiny bit of bird, chicken skin, purée and a large bone shard. I cannot eat meat on the bone, it makes me queasy so you can imagine what a mouthful of skin and bone was like, it really put me off my food.
Jessy Claus confronts Ed Snow and reveals his identity, the greatest snowman himself! His negative attitude and lack of belief in Christmas is slowly killing the spirit of Christmas and the Claus’s themselves, so with a click of his finger ed snows throws on a tiny white cap, orange scarf and white top hat and he is once again the greatest snowman, then dessert is served. I believe this part of the evening could of been so much better if it wasn’t so rushed. After being particularly unimpressed with the food so far, I was genuinely dreading dessert.
Luckily dessert was incredible, salted caramel ice cream with poached pear and vanilla snow, it was very tasty though with me you can never go wrong with salted caramel!
As soon as we started our desserts the actors wrapped up and directed us to the North Pole bar, everyone was just looking at them to say “not happening” we had barely started our desserts! So we all stayed and finished up. We said our goodbyes to the lovely family we had dined with and headed to the very chilly bar which reminded me of a hut in the woods as it was surrounded by picturesque Christmas trees and lamps.
Both Tanya and the woman opposite me had assured me that the previous murder mystery experience was spectacular and it was more enjoyable so I’m not sure whether the cast and crew was just having an off night but as pleasant and humorous the entertainment was, it’s not something I would have spent my money on as I just didn’t enjoy the food, but each to there own the may be some who found the food exquisite, but it just wasn’t to my taste.
The Greatest Snowman is produced and put together by Funicular productions and the menu was created by BBC Masterchef: The professionals 2017 finalist; Louisa Ellis.