As tiny lights signalled my ascension in what seemed to be a fairly average London flat complex, I was admittedly a little nervous. I was inching closer to my first supper club with an equally-as-clueless friend, and then another stranger who had come prepared with a gift bag containing some swanky brand of bubbly. At this point, I was unsure if I had been invited to an actual pop-up event, or if I was merely crashing a bourgeois house party. Luckily, upon ringing the door, I was greeted with the utmost warmth by the pint-sized, honestly adorable, Christabel herself, decked out in full mismatched, bright regalia. After being handed a cocktail heavy on both the glitter and the gin, and catching a whiff of whatever heavenly scent was emanating from the kitchen of the cosy flat, I knew that I was definitely in the right spot. And thank goodness I stayed because Christabel's Edible Playground hit the homey little strings of my heart in the cutest and most scrumptious ways possible.
Upon crossing the threshold of Christabel's petite, open home, I was immediately taken by an aura of garish joy. Life-size, handcrafted paper flowers, a costume box full of dress-up garb, and other quirky little trinkets too darling not to pick up and admire were all placed around in zealous abundance. Cue the actual table set, and I was sent over the edge into the most whimsical parts of my imagination. Lego blocks, coloured markers, and bubbles, yes bubbles, crowded every inch of the ten-seater dining surface. It was a call directly to the five-year-old nestled deep into the confines of my drably complicated adult brain, and I answered; fully ready to play with my food well before the courses even arrived.
First came the Quinoa Sandcastles, which we were all expected to shove into a miniature bucket, pack down with a shovel, and then set down as a sound structure fit for poking and prodding things into. If the tone of that sentence did not obviously hint the extremely early demise of my castle, then I will just warn you that the starter is easier said than done; and don't stick your slice of crispy bacon straight down the middle. It should be noted, though, that whether enjoyed in perfect tower form, or in pieces as in my case, the appetizer was a perfect mixture of subtle fill and flavour. The puffy grain was cooked to perfection, and derived a springy green hue from a quick toss in a refreshing broad bean, garlic, and lemon sauce. As accompaniment, cherry tomatoes, bacon, avocado, asparagus pieces, and balsamic-mustard dressing were interesting and delicious balances to texture and taste. Once all of this was said and done, decorated and devoured, I was itching to see what fun surprises were coming my way with the main.
While the first course was the edible version of a quiet, fresh start, the main had a zingy confidence one would equate with 'getting the groove back'. Served up sizzling, the soy ginger honey chicken was applause-worthy. No, really, I over-enthusiastically clapped upon realization that it was tender enough to cut through with a fork. After I descended back to reality from a brief stint in chicken Nirvana, I knew that I had to do my duty in the cohesive edible playground unit, and paint the pieces in a roasted red pepper sauce. While I wanted to get back to eating, coating the meat like it was a fine work of art just felt like the right way to appreciate it, and sure enough, I found that I was enjoying the sheer novelty with a silly grin across my face. Throw in the hot pink beetroot mash and crisp zucchini, carrots, and courgette spaghetti, and consider it a full-on ball. Like Cinderella, though, I knew that my time at Christabel's was coming to a not-bitter-whatsoever, sweet end with dessert.
Much to my pleasure, the glitter once again made a reappearance with the third course. At this point, I'm flying high off of the good vibes, prosecco glow, and of course, the first two parts of a feast made for a schoolyard king. So, by the time that a golden-dusted, flaky tart was placed in front of me, I practically squealed in delight. I was told to contain myself though, as it was time to try my hand at a shortbread Jenga, made for dipping into salted caramel and maple cream sauces pooling in gooey temptation before my eyes. It wasn't too difficult of a task to hold off for, as Jenga was coaxing out the inner-competitor in me, and well, I felt as if I should at least earn a fraction of the superb supper. A few games in though, everyone was getting antsy, a little sweaty, and totally ready to take a bite of the buttery, sweet rectangles. I followed suit, and fully succumbed to the addictive properties of the biscuits, which paired perfectly with the light decadence of my crisp, fresh raspberry-topped pastry. Because Christabel couldn't let the glitter alone act as the grand finale, popping candy tucked inside of the fruit left all of us in a state of amused disbelief. Talk about a culinary wow factor.
The Atmosphere and Clientele
She may be known as the queen of unique events, but Christabel also has a knack for making her pop-up supper clubs the perfect amounts of lively and low key. Prepare to first be dazzled by an atmosphere that screams playtime, but not in the same obnoxious way as some kid's themed birthday party. Then, as the night rolls on, realize that you have quite comfortably settled into a lovely meal with a mixed crowd of friendly strangers. Edible Playground truly plays off of the aspects of kid-hood that we all appreciated, and for that, don't rule out leaving the interactive, shared experience with a new friend or two.
Christabel's Edible Playground is perfect for those looking for dinner and a show, without all of the crowds and craziness. In the end, it thrives off of simple, childish pleasures served with a set of skilfully prepared and sophisticatedly tasty dishes. Trust me when I say that you'll be begging to take another hop, skip, and jump down memory lane the very minute you leave the contentment of a Christabel event. But if you play nice, you just may be able to snag a few leftover shortbread Jenga pieces to take along for your ride back to the real world. I did, and I wasn't even the best kid in class.