Not since George Francis Child Villiers the 9th Earl of Jersey and his family last sat down to eat there has the long gallery of Osterley House witnessed a meal being consumed within its grand walls.

In the late 1940s (having apparently grown tired of the fact it took 12 staff to bring him a boiled egg in the morning which always arrived cold) the Earl gave the house to the National Trust.

From that day on no-one has been permitted to have so much as a chocolate bar or can of drink in any of the opulent and historic rooms of the property which was designed in its current form by architect Robert Adam in 1761.

Flashing forward to the present day, my friend and I arrived on our chosen night to be greeted by Alice Hodge, who is one half of the genius duo behind the Art of Dining concept.

Her role, as she explained during the night, is set designer while her colleague Ellen Parr is the chef. She joked: “I don’t go into her kitchen, she doesn’t come into my dining room - that’s how we stay friends!”

In a nice mix of dinner and theatre we were given a welcome drink before being shown into the library to meet our ‘host’ Mr Robert Child who emerged from the secret door in one of the bookcases which any film fans will know also leads to Bruce Wayne’s batcave in the most recent Batman flick.

Robert Child was the head of the Child family which owned Osterley before the Jerseys and he invited us to join him in the year 1715 and to imagine ourselves as potential investors in his East India Company.

Despite not even having enough spare cash to invest in an East Indian takeaway, let alone a shipping company, it was a nice touch and set the tone for the night ahead perfectly.

Next we were shown into the dining room, where the 50 guests each took a seat at a table running the length of the gallery which had been decorated with flowers, lights, and even origami flapping birds.

A sealed document at each place setting turned out when opened to be a map of the Far East tracing the locations of each of the five courses we were about to enjoy.

We also chose the option of a wine flight which meant at the start of each course we received a glass of wine specially selected to compliment the ingredients and flavours.

Some of the bottles the measures were delivered in were beautifully designed especially the one which came in the shape of a perfume sprayer.

So keen were the NT to protect the treasurers for which the house is rightly famous, no stiletto heels were allowed in case they damaged the soft wood floors, no red wine was served in case of spillages and staff were only allowed to carry two plates at a time to avoid disaster should anyone knock into something and drop them!

 

First up was a starter of blackened cod with pickled ginger from Japan, from there we ‘sailed’ west to China for my favourite of the dishes, slow braised pork cheeks with sichuan greens.

These were able to eaten with the accompanying (and stylish) chopsticks because the meat was so tender it simply fell apart the minute you touched it.

With the wine and conversations flowing nicely, interspersed with visits by Mr Child to share some mythical tales from the countries our food came from, it was impossible not to pinch yourself to check you weren’t in some delightful Downton Abbey inspired dream.

Course three had Indonesia as its inspiration with a satay salad known as Gado Gado, which came with a dry Tokaji Prince Tamas wine much beloved of my friend as it is from her homeland of Hungary.

This was swiftly followed by a colourful and delicious main course from India consisting of spiced lamb served with roasted cauliflower and carrot salad.

All too soon we were tucking into the dessert of a Sri Lankan cardamom rice pudding with mango and pistachio with a farewell from Mr Childs ringing in our ears.

Stepping outside of the estate and being jolted back to the 21st Century reality of night buses and tubes was a bit disconcerting as the perfect way to have rounded off such a delightful evening would have been to be ushered by a footman into a horse-drawn carriage and swept away into the dark.

Wherever the next pop up event organised by Art of Dining takes place I would strongly advise getting a ticket as the experience is one not to be missed.

Visit http://www.theartofdining.co.uk/ and request to join the mailing list for updates on all upcoming events.