Hoshena beckoned us into her into her magical world of endless possibilities, where a mirror of mirages swirled in greens, blues and reds. The forests were alive with the sound of fruitful promise, the taste of imagination hung heavy, permeating the air. Our ears were tantalized by imaginary beginnings, the world of Hoshena a mythical plane where Kings and Queens, Fairies and Volcanoes collided in synchronized harmony, each story intrinsically linked to an ’emotional palette of flavour’. Emotions and taste would come together as one, where anger and fear would transcend into the fiery depths of the flaming volcano and sadness would fling itself into watery remains, plunged into its waterbed, desolation ravaging face. But The Banquet of Hoshena was more than just a fairytale narrative but an innovative dining concept that combined an ‘illusionist feast for the senses’ with mythology and folkore. It would after all be a five course meal that diners would never forget. We would taste emotions on our tongues, toy with them experimentally. We would see the colours binding universally, blue symbolizing water, green a sense of tranquility, red signifying passionate anger. And then there would be the buzzing of Hoshena’s land never far from our ears, the room was immersed in magical surrealism that one sweet evening. In Shepherds Bush we came and conquered, our hearts were full with gladness that night, as we delved into a magical world of make believe, where rules were made to be broken and bellies were meant to be sated. And so Hoshena’s story began, our seats were taken, our mouths agape, as the boundaries between reality and fantasy were blurred into surrealist submission.
We were welcomed by ‘The Empress’ our introductory cocktail, whose lychee liqueur was lovingly infused with elderflower cordial, our mouths salivating, as sharp notes of lemon sent our lips a-tingle, tart raspberries fragrant in flavour. Served in a flute and topped with prosecco, the bubbles fizzed delightfully on our tongues, almost defiantly, as the white mirror came alive before us in an act of triumph, imploring us to listen to the tale of when Hoshena was a land of glorious reign, plump bees suckling at vibrant blooms. The world was a new age back then, a people led revolution, a glorious self made land where mythology and royalty co-incided. But the world grew dark and it’s people grew weary, a land where political intrigue and skepticism clouded it’s rose tinted mentality. But for now we remained in its fantastical bubble of optimism, the ripe lychee liqueur slipping seamlessly down our parched throats. Representing ‘hope’ and ‘newness’ our welcome drink was as much a ‘hello’ to the spectators watching the Banquet of Hoshena as much as it was a foray into amuse bouche territory, where a green box lay in the centre of our plate, begging to be opened. A savory almond macaroon for me, an aubergine wonder for the others, we popped them into our mouths effortlessly, lured into a universe that existed outside the realms of our own imaginations. And boy was it magical; from image mapping to cutting edge 3D visual technology, this was no ordinary meal, not a chance.
Our eyes turned to the revolving plate in the centre of our tables, where mushroom croquettes and falafel spun in a dizzying circle, we were entranced by its circus display. The falafel, like the almond macaroon was a welcome snack, a pre-entry treat, defined as ‘The Beginning Of The End Of Time’ symbolizing both the evocation of autumn and the fall of Hoshena’s kingdom, derived from the Latin word ‘Fall’. It was an uncertain time in this mythological kingdom, its people were plagued with fear, desolation and isolation, what could be worse? People crying, tears running down their ethereal faces, children wasting away, famine clawing at humanities vulnerable edges, softness sharpening out to hard, tough exteriors. It made sense that act II was labelled as ‘Fear Through Fog’, liquid nitrogen emulating the murky uncertainty of fog, clouded smoke wafting around our faces, in a fearful scene. The fog was not cloying, but the people of Hoshena were overcome with anxiety, craving simple comfort food that would take away the pain. It would be a heartwarming lentil soup mopped up with sourdough crostini for our starters, hot liquid liquefying our insides, a sugar snap pea infused gin in a highball glass to calm our nerves, we would fight this revolution. Our bowls spoke to us animatedly, we were almost taken by surprise,handed a pouch filled with ‘ice cubes’ that pulsated with green and red lights a-flickering. With a flick of our wrists the ice cubes landed in the bowl of yellow lentils, the mist and fog barely concealing the vibrant lights that were cascading across our bowls in a triumphant march. Our fears were whispered, but resilience was doled out, we came alive that evening at The Banquet Of Hoshena.
In this display of brilliance, a message was learned, with determination and grit, your hard work will be rewarded, the people were given their second drink to celebrate, an aptly named ‘Snapdragon’ that radiated bravery through every mouthful. Sugar snap pea infused gin was melded with yuzu liquer and lime, fresh cucumber perched on a layer of watermelon and cucumber soda in a highball glass. It was a welcome apertif, a miracle blend, our courage was rising and we weren’t afraid to show it. With passion came anger, our third course took a darker turn, we would go out in a blaze of glory. Titled as evoking ‘Anger/Temper/Volcanic, act III was a burnt chaos, image mapping transforming the fog from act two into a whirlwind flurry of flames bursting through clouds, with even the narrative taking on a more menacing stance, we would sense the people’s anger. Heat and anger coursed in an irate explosion, our table alive with 3D flames, charcoal bean burgers sliding in on slaw and sirrichia sauce, chicken burgers in ashy charcoal buns. Both with a mix of chili garnishes we switched up the flavour, heat blooming on our tongues recklessly, we could taste their defiance. It was undoubtedly my favourite dish, a perfect blend of spice, with added mayo to amplify its glorious flavour. If it was a songbird it would be a crow, glossy black feathers ruffling in magnificent plumage. Anger was encapsulated victoriously in the third course, the charcoal bun pre-empting volcanic ash, anger personified through the roster of spices.
As the ashes cleared and the crows flew away, the moon broke through the fire and smoke, offering a safe haven to the passengers who had languished in the Hoshena kingdom. Blankets were wrapped around their shivering frames, doctors and nurses tending to the wounded, a drink passed underneath their noses, it smelled like rum. It was a Lunar Eclipse that symbolized the moon and new beginnings, where tranquility reared its long waited head and it’s people snuck away from the volcanoes that radiated heat so venomously. Coconut rum was cradled into yoghurt liqueur, and white chocolate and vanilla liqueur, where lime was served in a frozen coupette with fresh blackberry. It was nothing short of divine, the creamy coconut offset by the plump richness of the fresh blackberry. But while the moon had reached out its waiting hand, the people of Hoshena were plunged into a state of sadness, symbolized by the arrival of 3D water that cascaded across our table in a virile waterfall, we felt their tears instantaneously. A glass blue fish, clear as crystal swam in open waters, we poured a gusset of lemon into its caricatured mouth. In turn the fish welled up with sadness spilled into our mouths without grace, the sharpness clambering onto the tip of our tongues. It came as no surprise therefore that after anger came sadness, our main course stipulated, as we went through all 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, each emotion resonating with the courses carefully crafted by Nadine Beshir in collaboration with the Multimedia British Artists Davy and Kristin Mcguire.
And thus our main course titled ‘Sadness/ Nostalgia Through Water had arrived at our table, meat eaters and pescatarians relishing the ‘fish themed’ dish that embodied the emotion of sadness evocatively. A perfectly cooked piece of fish sat daintily on cucumber, apple and lime juice sauce, where the green ingredients symbolized a sturdy lily pad, as sadness (water) pooled around the lily pad, the fish struggling to keep afloat in its desolation. And while there was no fish for me, the simple yet effective assortment of carrot, pea and bean pakoras lightly spiced in a korma sauce, atop a bed of pristine white rice might not have been as evident a symbol of sadness, as more an emblem of ‘nostalgia’ the pakoras representing retro Indian classics that could be interpreted as being evocative of both childhood innocence but also strength, as the people of Hoshena burrowed through their sadness to find love. Not just love for the people around them but for themselves, wiping away their anger, driving around their tears in search of acceptance. Paired with a dry delicate riesling that complimented the main course perfectly, its semi sweet undertones hinted at the flowery love that would transcend this sadness, where hearts would burst with gladness and glee, happiness coursing through the people of Hoshena’s veins.
At last love was just around the corner with the arrival of dessert, Hoshena’s clipped wings had grown again and the phoenix rose from the ashes jubilantly. The water crawled back into its murky undergrowth, reds and pinks blushing out our cheeks. Summer At Hoshena had long been awaited, the stark cold of winter was a cruel one for its residents, they had suffered long enough. With the change of the seasons emotions were heightened but in a good way this time, presented with spiced and salted rum, banana liqueur and sweet vermouth, served on the rocks with a banana leaf and edible flowers. The muted flavours of the drink before suddenly exploded into a vision of rum, a complex, turbulent profiled drink that clearly encapsulated the rise and fall of the Hoshena kingdom, and what a glorious explosion it was, laced with love and passion. And so our final course, our amour, our love lay waiting in a bejeweled trinket, in cobalt blues and emerald greens, reminiscent of the Moroccan Bazaars that you procured not so long ago. You opened the trinket with delicate caress, a double chocolate and beetroot torte with desiccated coconut, accentuated by salted caramel, chocolate and cardamon ice cream. A symbol of passion, love and commitment, the decadent ingredients were the epitome of love, with its connotations as an aphrodisiac, mood elevator, and all round delicious treat.
As the lights began to dim and Hoshena began to fade out, you left together in unison, exquisitely full, your senses were aflame. That night, you rested your head on scented pillows, lavender mist, and smiled. Your dreams were filled with Hoshena and her people, emotions bubbling in a melting pot of colour and texture, the faint taste on your drooling lips. Your ears sang a merry lullaby, an opera of feelings, your eyes twitched involuntarily while you slept. And though you came to as morning reared its sleepy head, still you remembered the events of the night before, where you were swept into a world of magical make believe, where you could escape from the confines of a life conditioned by mediocrity. And what a beautiful memory it was!
Have You Ever Been To A Five Course Immersive Dining Experience?
Please note we were gifted this dining experience in exchange for this blog post but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services. This is the same company behind the glorious Dinner Time Story.