I recall very vividly reading C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe during my top class at primary school and loving every word, writing an extensive review and having it pinned up on the wall by Mrs Scary Ormsby, I was so proud! The books were magical then and continue to capture my imagination now, proven by a flutter of childlike excitement when I learned December’s Manchester GastroClub was to be Narnia-themed. Further tempted by the released menu with it’s talk of Roast Mythical Beast and Stuffed Unicorn Horn, we booked our places and walked through the crisp, icy city streets down to The Mark Addy, spotting a glowing marquee from across the canal, where host John Mooney and GastroClub organiser Katie Brunt welcomed over a hundred guests.
One by one we were led across a cold courtyard to the marquee, to step through a deep mahogany wardrobe door into a forest of Christmas trees inside. Glowing pumpkin lanterns, draped ivy, enterRtainers and a curiously empty throne greeted each guest as they walked through into the main dining area…
…where the Ice Queen played a very sombre hostess to guide you through the candlelit room to your table. It was such a lovely way to start the evening and it was clear a huge amount of thought and effort had gone into arranging the event, at £40 a head it was quite marvellous so far even without the food!
The tables were laden with nuts and satsumas, delicate crockery and emerald glassware. Some guests were seated in brick built booths draped in fur, whilst we sat in the main dining area under twinkling chandeliers.
A whole host of knives and forks at each place setting gave an indication of quite a few courses to come and the wax-sealed parchment menu was opened with delight by the greedy Gastro Clubbers at our table, it all sounded quite fantastic when you read the Order of the Feast, seven courses of Narnia Nosh!
When you first walked through the wardrobe door, a little present awaited each guest all wrapped in a silver box. This turned out to be Course 1, the Stuffed Unicorn Horn, or to mere humans, pate piped into a chunky piece of bone wrapped in a vine leaf, not for the squeamish but then if you’ve opted for a Gastro Club and find a bit of bone tough going, you really should take up bridge.
Course 2 was delightful, a floral, china cup full of Mr Timnus’ Wild Fensey Soup poured from a giant teapot. We felt suitably honoured as other tables had a faun or an imp as a manservant, whilst we had the Ice Queen. The soup was lovely, delicate with a hint of sorrel, not so sure Waitrose stocks Wild Fensey though 😉
Mr M was a little concerned as he’s a growing boy and these courses were delicious but a little on the small side, however Mrs Reepicheeps’s Aged Cheese Fondue soon shut him up, a whole jar full of meltingly warm cheesy sauce served with Mice bread rolls. I’ve never made such a mess of a table in my life, the once-was-a-student-waitress in me yearned for a crumb brush.
The next course was my least favourite, Sardines On Toast, which was a bit curious though looked splendid. I wasn’t taken with the seaweed, wolfed the shrimps, refuse to eat cold mash or dried wafer but scoffed the tasty sardine. Some people ate the flag. Weirdos.
A bit of a wine fuelled gap then, lots of chatting with the gregarious bunch at our table, many of whom are on Twitter and I knew them even though I didn’t, if you get what I mean. Food blogger Greedy Girl, and talented p/t photographer Mark Stuttard plus other non-tweeters. They weren’t serving lager in Narnia, so if Mr M wanted a drink, owner John had given him his mobile, he rang and a pint was spirited in, now that’s magic service. He doesn’t even get that at home. And never will *in case he reads this*
Then there was a bit of taaaa-daaaaa, clearly something was going to happen and it was the moment all had been waiting for, the entrance of the Spit Roast Horned Golden Piger! The empty golden throne first seen when we’d arrived had been filled with a vertical, frazzled and quite frightening looking beast which seemed to be howling skyward. It looked like a deranged wizened geriatric being wheeled in and I kinda hoped it tasted better than it looked. The camera flashes were popping off like Brangelina has walked in, but that’s foodies for you.
He definitely looked far more edible when horizontal. The carving commenced!
It was spectacular pork. Succulent, tender, juicy and more importantly absolutely piles of it, topped with toasted, crunchy crackling, bloody delicious! Served up on wooden platters with masses of golden roasties, perfectly cooked brussels and whole chestnuts, it was a wonderfully fitting feast for the evening. Couldn’t be faulted.
I’d absolutely pigged out, literally, and struggled to face Mrs Beaver’s Marmalade Pudding, clearly that wasn’t just my portion, above! I just about found space for a final macaroon filled with turkish delight and was about ready to pop. We rolled out into the freezing Manchester night full, happy, a bit tipsy and raving about GastoClub. Can’t wait for the next one, but this one, for sheer spectacle, effort and fun, will be hard to top.