The Hendricks Horseless Carriage of Curiosities chugs into London for a second year from 11 - 17 October as part of London Cocktail Week. This converted Victorian carriage is opening its slam-doors in Clerkenwell for dinners created by Bompas & Parr, free G&Ts for visitors with 'unusual libation-inspired stories' and a bartender croquet cup.
I was lucky enough to visit the Curious Carriage on its visit to Manchester last year. To give you a taste of what to expect in 2010, here's a piece I wrote for the Londonpaper (RIP) about the Curious Carriage which never ran as the paper folded before the article was due out...
"When a dinner invite arrives in the form of a magnifying glass hidden in a spy novel, you know you're in for a peculiar night.
It turns out the invite is the least random thing about the Horsless Carriage of Curiosities. This 1890s railway car has been converted into a travelling collection of eccentric objects, dining room and bar by Hendrick's Gin. It reaches London in October.
The carriage is easy to spot. In Manchester, I just follow the chaps on penny farthings and ladies with parasols. Bemused locals are encouraged to join in by donating their "weirdest possessions" to the collection. Everyone who contributes gets a gin and tonic. Some don't quite get it - peering into the glass case I spot some Charles Worthington hair serum and a Nokia phone.
The improbably-named Louis Xavier Lewis-Smith, Hendrick's brand ambassador, saunters over with a G&T. "We've had some exceptional oddities," he assures me. "In Edinburgh someone donated a pair of duelling pistols."
|Louis Xavier Lewis-Smith|
Dinner is hosted by David Piper, a "dandy performer" with a Terry Thomas accent and some natty harem pants. As Louis hands round the cocktails, David reads from Rudyard Kipling. There are ten of us crowded around a table surrounded by objects of suspicious authenticity - a skeleton of Siamese twins, a 'Victorian tickling device'. Are they real? It doesn't really matter.
The 'Degu-station' menu has been conjured up by cult jellymongers Bompas & Parr. Sam Bompas appears, brandishing some quails' eggs and what looks like Turkish Delight. They're actually lavender marshmallows with methylamine - a potent aphrodisiac. Maybe it's the cocktails, but conversation immediately takes a fruity turn.
National Rail refreshment trollies inspire the next course, except the 'frazzles' are shards of crisp bacon and the egg sarnies are Scotch Woodcock - the egg yolks, cream and anchovy concoction beloved of Queen Victoria. By contrast, a platter of quails with marmalade feels almost conventional.
Pud is Bompas & Parr's famed glow-in-the-dark jelly - there are UV lights hidden under the table. Petit fours cement the vague Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole feeling I've harboured all evening: pills of 'miracle fruit', a West African berry that makes everything taste sweet. Eating a 'sweet' gherkin after five cocktails feels all kinds of wrong but marks an appropriately strange end to the evening. "
For more information and to book visit: www.londoncocktailweek.com or www.hendrickshorselesscarriage.com
12-16 October, 100 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ