Review of The Novel Diner (The Bell Jar), W12, London
I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to popular and unique The Novel Diner, a dining experience with a difference, blending classic literature, performance art, set design with food.
Having already had huge praise and rave reviews from previous popups including The Great Gatsby and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Novel Diner held a two night stint at the Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush. The Bell Jar by American author Sylvia Plath was tonight’s theme, a modern chic lit book set in the 1950’s. Lead character Esther Greenwood struggles with two battles; depression and strive for perfection. An odd to book to choose however Esther’s passion for food is seen as an escapism from her troubles as a young woman.
The venue couldn’t have been more perfect for this event, vintage, quaint and theatrical setting set the atmosphere of post war America.
Dark wooden tables, simply lined with candles, silverware and roses with a different quote from the book at each plate setting.
Guests were encouraged to dress for the occasion in their 50’s costumes in keeping with the theme and ambience of the night.
In between each course was a reading from The Bell Jar and even an expert literature lecturer explaining in-depth the connection to the book and dining and what influences food had on Sylvia Plath.
The menu was a history of American foods each course representing the past, present and future of dining. A mixture of retro dishes, Southern style wholesome meals like grandma used to make and a modern dessert bringing us up to the present day.
Starting the night with a gin and elderflower cocktail and for one who’s not a gin fan this drink packed a punch and bowled me over with the sweetness of the elderflower against the tart gin
The entrees were luxurious yet humble, chicken delecatley flavoured with lemon thyme and topped with salty caviar was delightful.
Starter was a 70’s inspired dish; avocado with fresh crab and pear salad with poet’s leaves. A light seafood starter, not over done on the mayo, the crab’s sweetness with the subtle pear flavour was splendid.
The main was spectacular! Grandma’s meatloaf with pancetta, fondant potatoes, butter beans and green beans took me back to my summers in America. Complete comfort at it’s finest, the meatloaf’s mix of pork and beef (I think) was not too fatty but a large slice of moist, well seasoned beefy goodness. I am now a butter beans convert, served in an adorable pot the rich garlicy creamy beans were great accompaniment to the meal.
The dessert of brandy icecream in a pastry case topped with molasses and a mini meringue was definitely a ladies delight. The brandy icecream remained sweet lightly flavoured with brandy, the thick dark sticky molasses added a layer of luxury to the dish. The white meringue was perfect, crispy coating with a chewy interior was a great palette cleanser.
The Novel Diner experience was fantastic, I’ll put my hands up and say that I’m not the biggest book worm in the world however I thoroughly enjoyed the evening of intellectual sophisticated dining. The whole night was well organised, cosy, relaxed and the attention to detail was excellent. Huge congrats to the Dirty Aprons for their brilliant cooking skills, I can’t wait to attend the next popup.
Thank you to Liv at Grub Club for hooking me up with a ticket. Grub Club connects foodies with new and creative Chefs across London. Part dining table in your house and part experimental kitchen, it’s like your kitchen table because it’s a great place to socialise and get to know people; its experimental because it’s a space for Chefs to try out their latest creations on a curious set of foodies. Want to host your own supperclub or Grub Club get in touch: @grub_club or www.grubclub.com