When is a meal not a meal? When it involves five courses, five cocktails and a generous helping of art and magic. Alexandra Fraser paid a visit to the Banquet of Hoshena to experience erring kings, talking tables and mystical lands in need of rescue.
For something that we do three times a day every day, it’s baffling that eating somehow never gets boring.
After all – there are so many flavours and cuisines that it would be possible (probably) to live your whole life without eating the same thing twice. More than that, there are some foods that people can eat over and over again without getting bored.
All in all, dining is probably one of the only activities we do daily which is in no need of spicing up.
People keep on trying to do exactly that, however, and nowhere have they tried hard than in the Banquet of Hoshena, a pop-up restaurant which bills itself as ‘an immersive dinner experience’, nestled in the heart of Westfield Shepherd’s Bush until mid-August.
Created by by Dinner Time Story co-founder, Nadine Beshir, the Banquet of Hoshena tells the tale of a land torn by negative emotions striving to return to its former glory through the most important medium of all; food.
The meal is, in a word, magical. A macaroon (in no way medicinal, they promised) transports you to the mystical land of Hoshena, where the Queen, your narrator for the evening, is desperately trying to save her land from the well-meaning but ultimately misguided attempts of the king to improve his kingdom.
From there a mushroom falafel was made to taste like a forest floor by the cleverness of the immersive, projected show. Cleverly crafted (provided that you do not, as instructed, move your plate or cutlery one inch after sitting down), the dinner flows seamlessly through narrations with sequences displayed both on your table and the screen above it. If you resist the very British urge to know how everything is accomplished (the floating falafel plate was one such instance where restraint was required not to knock the dish off its magnetic axis) and give yourself over to the show, you’ll enjoy it ten times more.
‘Magic’ ice cubes are left at your table – the queen tells you to whisper your fears to them and then throw them into a delicious soup to get rid of them. If your biggest fear is ‘hunger’, you’re in for some instant relief; the soup is filling and only the second course of many.
A show-stopping dish came next; a delicious chicken burger served with an array of spices and instructions to ‘season according to how angry you are’. Ignoring the urge to throw all three pots of spice onto the chicken (if only to prove a point) is difficult but necessary – a few chilli flakes and a sprinkle of chilli powder is all that is needed to make the taste match the projected flames dancing around your plate. Pace yourself – you’re only halfway through the menu at this point and there’s plenty more to come.
Courses follow as the story goes on, all paired with cleverly concocted cocktails that sweep you along with the show. You’ll perform magic tricks – changing from blue to purple, un-stopping blocked rivers and, if you’re lucky, saving Hoshena along the way.
Give yourself over to the spectacle and you’ll enjoy it a lot more than if you’re constantly questioning why the king would block the river that supplies his own nation with water. If you haven’t fully committed to the pageantry in the first few courses, you certainly will have after the negroni-esque dessert cocktail.
After five courses (and five cocktails) we rolled back into the mortal realm, truly entertained and thoroughly replete, with no room spare to consider how they managed to cook up such a delicious meal in the back kitchens of a Westfield. But, as with the floating falafel plate and the mystical land of Hoshena, some magic is best kept a secret.
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