The phrase ‘unique dining experience’ usually makes me want to puke. East London, for all its charm, has become a haven for ludicrous events rendering me breathless and thinking ‘what the HELL will they come up with next?!’ Film screenings on fridges, fashion shows in abandoned car parks – ‘pop-up’ bars in your own loo – you get the picture. But I think the latest collaboration between Disappearing Dining Club and 123 Bethnal Green Road is something special: Christ, it was a complete treat.
All photography by Matt Bramford
On entering 123, you’re greeted and given cocktails. This, in my opinion, should be mandatory in all retail outlets. This gives guests a chance to peruse what’s on offer on the lower floor and in the newly refurbished Scout Hut. There’s an excellent range of gifts available in the newly-organised front, and I spent more than a reasonable amount of time cooing over the Beyoncé paper-doll making kit. There’s also a good selection of candles, tea cups, furnishings – the lot. The Scout Hut has now been transformed into a showroom for the latest in new and ethical fashion – it was great to see William Richard Green’s latest collection with a stockist, as well as many designers we’ve enjoyed on the catwalks recently – Lako Bukia being one of my favourites.
When we’d had a browse we were informed to climb the three flights of stairs to the very top of the building to begin our feast. The newly-refurbished, gentlemen’s lounge-style menswear floor (above) is breathtaking. Old wood panels, cabinets with trinkets and a roaring fire greeted us, as did two bowls of punch – one rum & pineapple, the other a wintery mix of gin, cranberries and spices. Small canapés were served, with plenty to choose from: butternut squash soup in vintage sherry glasses, potted meat on sourdough chunks and cheese pastries.
Beef Bourguignon by Gareth A Hopkins
You’re given an allocated time for your main course, which takes place on the first floor surrounded by ladieswear and lingerie. A guide told us to grab a plate and a knife and fork and tuck in, which I did with ease. Two huge cast iron hot pots of beef bourguignon and aubergine and chickpea stew were on offer in the centre of a large wooden table, giving off aromas only achievable through slow-cooking techniques that, frankly, I can never be arsed with.
Breads were aplenty and wine free-flowed at one end. We took our seats and tucked in – savouring every mouthful as if it might be our last. It’s no use organising these experimental evenings if your cooking isn’t up to scratch – but I couldn’t raise a single criticism about any of this hearty food. In addition, bowls of heaped salads were there for the taking – featuring tasty combinations like couscous & pomegranate and butternut squash & honey orange. Unfortunately we were seated at the same time as a rather rowdy bunch who were celebrating an even rowdier friend’s birthday. He was a little annoying.
Cocktails by Gareth A Hopkins
As if that wasn’t enough, desert was served in the bunker café – the original venue for the Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration (ACOFI) launch party. We were greeted with a cocktail – we opted for a whiskey and Canadian maple syrup option – delicious and the perfect wash-down for a mince pie. I skipped the ice-cold rum shots – by this point I was already questioning my own name, and we left pretty soon afterwards, leaving Rowdy McRowd and his pals to party the night away, guzzling even more cocktails while a DJ played.
A great concept – and diners get 10% off to stock up on ethical fashion designers and Christmas gift ideas. It’s not cheap – at £50 a head, this sort of thing is best saved for a special occasion, but it’s definitely worth it if you’ve got one coming up. Don’t eat lunch, though, and don’t expect to leave sober – sometimes too much can be enough.
Too Much is Never Enough runs every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 123 Bethnal Green Road from Tuesday 22 November to Thursday 22 December.
123 Bethnal Green Road, Beef Bourguignon, beyonce, Cocktails, Disappearing Dining Club, ethical, fashion, Food, Gareth A Hopkins, Gentlemen's Club, Gin, Hotpot, lako bukia, lingerie, london, Matt Bramford, Pop-up, Punch, Restaurant, review, Rum, Scout Hut, Stew, William Richard Green, Womenswear
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