For the last couple of summers, I have dedicated a little space here on the blog to our wedding anniversary, once reminiscing over our charming, honeymoon luxury safari lodge, which holds such a special place in our hearts and once revealing some of the wild animals we saw in Selous, Tanzania. As controversial as it might sound though, there is another anniversary that I revel in acknowledging (perhaps even a little more) and that is the anniversary of the day we met.
By the time the wedding day arrives, (at least if things are going smoothly!) most couples have already established what they mean to one another and have all but legally committed to a life together. It is a momentous and sublimely gleeful whirlwind of a day, rather in contrast to the day you first meet your (future) spouse , which tends to be filled with far less expectation and little to no awareness of what this first meeting will one day blossom into. In many ways, in my opinion, that day is even more life-changing.
I for one certainly had no idea, when I turned up for a February Sunday brunch blind date six years ago, that my entire life was about to change for the better. (Here’s more about that unusual first date.)
So when the fun-loving, innovative foodies at Tabl recently invited us to sample Christabel’s brilliantly bonkers Madder Hatter’s Sunday Brunch, exactly 6 years to the day since Pumpkin and I had met over Sunday brunch, it seemed like too strange a coincidence for us to turn down.
Rather like Alice in Wonderland, we too were entirely oblivious to the kooky, colourful pop up/ supper club world we were about to enter when we walked to the destination at a mystery location in East London.
We should have known this would be no ordinary brunch when a couple of glances at Google Maps led us to a residential area with a giant face at its epicentre.
The Mad Hatter’s Brunch Party
After taking our coats and bags on arrival, the hostess at Christabel’s suggested we grab some accessories to get into the spirit of things, from a box containing hats, giant clock chains, bunny ears – anything goes in the Mad Hatter’s world.
And you would have more luck getting through an airport without a passport than we did getting into the living area without a cocktail, so keen are they for you to walk in armed with one of their gleaming, shiny Mad Hatter’s cocktails.
A fair bit of home-envy ensued when we found ourselves ogling the plush waterside flat we had just arrived at, a property with such allure that we felt tempted to part ways with our London house and downsize into a chic urban space like this one.
The final guests arrived and took their seats and what unfolded over the next couple of hours was a curious melange of food-based games, artistic challenges, culinary experimentation and defiance of all standard restaurant convention, one of the hallmarks of exactly the type of unique, dining experience that Tabl are keen to showcase.
For example, when was the last time you went out for brunch and competed with your spouse in a round of Jenga – or rather more exciting – shortbread Jenga with a sprinkling of glitter on top, no less.
Whilst others around us took the more mature approach of conversing over some fine food, Pumpkin and I felt no shame in harnessing our competitive streaks. A LOT of shortbread was consumed in the process.
As the Christabel’s hosts were busy preparing and plating up the hot brunch dishes, we dabbled in the croissant platters circling the room. As pro wedding guests, we have become quite the experts at spotting canapes from a distance and making a bee-line so we put our skills to good use to sample one of the warm and beautifully flaky croissants, filled with Mancheego cheese, roasted red pepper and pesto.
Our hawk-eyes showed no delay in noticing the salted caramel glitter tarts and gooey chocolate brownies laid on heart-shaped, tiered cake stands mimicking grassy lawns, which were endearingly adorned with a scattering of deep red petals that added a classy and fanciful flair to the display.
More odd was when I found myself tempted by the celery. I am good with my vegetables but celery is something I plainly do not understand. I often wondered if all the size zero, smug celery eaters of the world were short of a few taste buds – but over at the Mad Hatter’s Brunch, I discovered the trick! Apparently when you slap a layer of peanut butter onto celery, a spell is cast over it that makes it absolutely addictive and leaves you in a state of mind that proactively makes you seek out more celery sticks.
Regular readers may know how much I love tea so I was pleased to find a selection of fine loose-leaf teas such as lavender and mint varieties but as nothing at this brunch could be accused of being normal, at the Mad Hatter’s Brunch, we were provided with empty tea bag cases to essentially make up our own tea choices.
The scrambled eggs with thyme and spring honey was the dish I was most excited about and were presented like little works of art. However, in the midst of bagging myself good blogger brownie points, I spent so long on my smart phone camera photographing everything on the table (and…err….playing shortbread Jenga) that I allowed my eggs to go cold #BloggerProblems
Fortunately, it was so well seasoned that even in a lukewarm state, it tasted delicious but my tip to future camera—happy visitors would be to put down your gadgets when the pancakes and eggs arrive. Brunch is for eating after all, which we bloggers sometimes forget 😀
Many restaurants will end a meal with a little plate of petits fours and whereas at most restaurants, you eat the macarons provided, here at Christabel’s pop ups and supper clubs, you paint them!
Some of us were definitely better than others at this but any art disasters (and I had a good few) can be hidden in the warmth of your tummy, since the paints are all edible. Ever the wanderluster, can you spot my hopeless attempt at painting the world?!
If you do create any Picasso-esque macaron masterpieces, these can be boxed up to take home, if you can resist the temptation of eating them immediately.
As brunch was drawing to a close, the hosts brought out some lovely candle-lit treats for a few of the girls at the event who were celebrating birthdays.
The Mad Hatters Brunch is a wonderful spot for a girly, celebratory Sunday Brunch, as it’s a wide step away from the norm and is BYOB so we saw lots of Proessco and Champagne floating around.
A couple of rounds of applause later, we packed up our hand-painted macarons and headed off to enjoy the rest of our anniversary weekend in the glorious city that we met in.
And a few weeks later, when I had run out of excuses for weekend celebrations and was back to the graft of daily routines, an unidentifiable box arrived in the post. Seeming somewhat different in shape to my standard contact lens delivery, I grabbed the scissors with curiosity and beamed with delight to find a thoughtful note from Tabl, explaining that this was an anniversary gift.
The note came accompanied by a selection of Sweet Reason tempting treats, cosily nesting inside, including brownies, fudge and millionaire’s shortbread as well as some crystallised sugar sticks for dipping into tea. These were the perfect pick-ups for Pumpkin and I after any stressful days at work, no-food-in-the-fridge moments or rapidly needed cures for hangry outbursts.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Tabl for hosting us at the Mad Hatter’s Brunch and spoiling us on our anniversary and to Christabel’s and Sweet Reasons for feeding us so well (despite the impending telling-off from the dentist!)