As a child of the 80’s, I fondly remember Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in The Willows novel which follows the adventures of the mischievous Mr Toad and his pals Ratty, Badger and Mole. I can easily recall my mother reading me the story before bed, and I can even picture the specific movie clip of Mr Toad zooming along in his stolen motor car as he bounced up and down the road giggling like a mad man.
The Wind in The Willows was definitely one of my fondest childhood memories, so I was elated to come across a supper club in London who were hosting a pop up themed dinner. This particular event was only running for a brief few weeks, so as soon as I saw this, I made a beeline to book my spot!
I’ve never been to anything like this and loved the concept. A literary inspired pop-up venue, a themed menu, with all the finishing touches to make you feel like you are part of the story. Our hosts for the evening, The Literary Hour, are inspired by children’s books and aim to recreate magical themed evenings complimented by their unique homemade menu. The menu is kept top secret which adds to the excitement of not quite knowing what to expect.
As we approached the wooden door set within the Willows, a small sign told us that Badger was still asleep and come back for 7pm. Looking around, we spotted an open book displaying the first of many Wind in the Willows quotes that we would see and hear that evening.
As the clock struck 7pm, the small door opened and we were invited inside by Helen, our host for the evening. We crept through a darkened burrow like passageway that opened into a woodland themed room. A boat was positioned along one wall, submerged in a shallow pool of water to recreate the scene of Mr Toad and his friends paddling through the lakes. There was a wooden swing that appeared to hang from the somewhere above, strong enough for us all to have a playful swing.
An array of herbs was displayed over a garden wall with several pairs of scissors for guests to pick their own herbs as garnish for their canapés. In another corner, a jail cell had been recreated with a small opening at the side for guests to slide in and have their moment of being jailed, just like Mr Toad himself.
The walls were adorned with Mr Toad custom made wallpaper with several framed photos of Mr Toad (and perhaps some of his family members?). My favourite part of the room was the fireplace where an open book sat between two old candlesticks, heavily covered in melted candle wax.
Upon arrival, we were given a scrummy strawberry and black pepper gin and tonic cocktail as we grazed on canapés that were placed around the room. A tree trunk held mini cones of whipped blue cheese, caramelised walnuts and apricots. A vintage looking tap and bowl allowed guests to pour their own shot of green gazpacho. And finally, caraway crackers and Labneh were placed under the herb wall so could pick our own herb garnish!
Our dinner would be a small and intimate experience that we would share with around 40 other guests. My friend Rachael and I were seated opposite each other, next to a very friendly couple who we were able to share our experience with. The best part of supper clubs like these are the people you get to meet, and we were extremely lucky to have been seated next to such nice people we had lots in common with.
The dining tables may have been communal, but each seat was decorated with a personal name plaque, and a welcome note from Mr Toad, which also included our menu for the evening. Once seated our first reading began. Between courses Helen would read out excerpts from the book, all of which linked to part of the menu that was served next.
Our first course was hidden in a picnic basket that was placed on the tables for guests to share between a group of four. Our basket contained potted crayfish, pickled cucumber, dill bread, and a bottle of ginger beer.
Next on the menu was Tempura Toad with dipping sauces – yup, you guessed it, this was frog’s legs which surprisingly wasn’t as offensive as I thought they would be! Our Toad was followed by Summer Terrine – goats cheese and beetroot with a side of bread. Our main course was a huge sharing platter of lamb with rainbow root vegetables, barley, parsley & butternut squash, finished off with a pea & mint yoghurt, and a cucumber & lemon yoghurt. It was safe to say that no-one would be going hungry!
Each course was carefully cooked on site by a small team of people behind the scenes and presented with such care and attention. Everything was running wonderfully until a ‘surprise course’ was announced. After another section of the book was read out we had to guess what the next course would be – a small jar of vodka jelly with mealworms and crickets! Ewww! I tried a small mouthful and ate one worm, but I just couldn’t finish the rest!
After a final reading, the tables were cleared and a long piece of greaseproof paper was placed on the table ready for our Riverbank Mud Plum Celebration dessert. Dollops of rosemary infused yoghurt was placed before us, garnished with passionfruit, and individual plum cakes sprinkled with chocolate crumbles.
The evening had been a success and we really enjoyed ourselves! The Literary Hour have hosted several themed dinners like this before, including a Sherlock Holmes themed dinner and a Narnia themed dinner. I’ve already signed up to their mailing list and you can too by clicking here.
I saw the event in a newsletter that I receive from the Grub Club, a London based company who specialise in Pop Up’s and Supper Clubs across London. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, then click here to sign up to their mailing list as well to ensure you hear about these types of events.