The Art of Dining are known as pop-up dining experience masters and they like to keep you on your toes, literally! The Art of Dining is a solid partnership between set designer Alice Hodge and moro-trained chef Ellen Parr, they organise stunning events in unique locations, whipping out a stimulating food, design, theatre and interactive element.
Abigail’s Party was their latest pop-up to hit the streets, cheekily situated in The Rose Lipman Centre in a primary school in East London’s De Beauvoir. The event setting was a solid conversion of a school hall, resembling what felt like a 70’s movie where a massive surprise five-course dinner party was taking place, Inspired by legendary play director Mike Leigh’s.
It’s not everyday you walk into a school playground at 8pm led by a hand-written chalk sign on the street directing you to ‘Abigail’s Party’ via the playground. I must admit, I did feel rather naughty mooching in, I was a little late too and my stomach dropped like I was about to be told off for being late to class. I arrived at the cloakroom, after following a few signs, leading me through the school maze. My first stop was the bathroom which looked like it had recently been invaded by school kids, lipstick marks, naughty words and hearts were drawn on all the mirrors, I’m not sure what the boys loo’s were like…but I was tempted to peek!
Finally I walked in to the school hall, arriving at Abigail’s Party. A large room with banquet style dining, which was packed with guests dressed up in 70’s attire, sipping on cocktails, chattering loudly in the middle of a 70’s living room scene, complete with lava lamps, hostess trolleys, shag-pile rugs, loud wallpaper, vinyl walls, vintage sofas, retro drinks cabinets and every shade of beige and music to match! We even got a personal introduction to Forever by Dennis Wilson.
The host for the night was an eccentric actress dressed in an orange vintage dress. She delved into the manners of her relationship, a satire, mimicking the new middle class of the 70’s. She grabbed me and led me to the end of the hall and up some stairs to a bar, adjacent to a wall made entirely from Vinyl. The bar was themed and sponsored by Orangina. Orangina was free all night and was the main ingredient for our Gingina welcome cocktail, a balanced bright mix of gin, Orangina, basil and lime, served in a jam jar. The menu’s were printed like magazines and included everything from their cocktail menu to illustrated hair style tips on the perfect do’s and don’t on setting your hair.
Finally hydrated, I was invited to my table, a sharing with 6 people. The table had blu electric cigarettes and was beautifully decorated on theme. Ellen Parr’s five-course dinner was a modern upgrade on food classics from the era. The menu included a prawn cocktail, served in the classic glass but containing a delicious crunchy Thai prawn salad with a chilli and coriander kick. Next, we dipped and dunked a plate of vegetables and two bowls of bread in an irresistible fondue pot to share, encouraging socialising and a playful unity on the table. The food was generous, pork belly with crunchy Indian- style rice and then a succulent duck salad finished us off with Asian- style hoisin dressing. Dessert was a silver foil coated potato with three toothpicks speared into it; each stick was packed with a deconstructed slice of cheesecake. It lasted a whole 3 minutes…
Drinks were flowing all night, we even had a top up from a lady in an apron ferrying a trolley full of gin, ice and mixers between tables. Many guests had a wine flight to compliment each course; the delicious liquids were served in what looked like laboratory containers. We stuck with the cocktails, trying their Tom Jones and Heart Attack cocktails. The night was a flight of fun and cheer. I can’t wait to see what The Art of Dining muster up for their next shindig. Tickets were £55 per person.