If you asked most people to make a list of their favourite festive activities, a cosy Christmas movie would definitely come in somewhere near the top. This year, fresh from sell-out success at their first pop-up in Marlow, The Gourmet Picture Company has come to Bath with the aim of taking that cosy Christmas movie experience and giving it a serious upgrade, with a luxury pop-up cinema that pairs classic films and delicious menus by Rick Stein and Tom Kerridge.
I have to admit, although I absolutely loved the concept, I was a bit sceptical about how it might actually translate into reality, especially when I heard the word ‘marquee’ (which is enough to give anyone the shivers at this time of year). But I’m delighted to say that as soon as I stepped inside, I was enchanted – the whole thing was utterly magical from start to finish.
The aforementioned marquee has a little of the Tardis about it – rather plain and simple on the outside, you pass through the doors and discover a softly candlelight cavern inside, with twinkling Christmas trees, festive tunes and rows of plump, squashy red sofas facing the huge cinema screen, each perfectly proportioned to seat two people with a little snuggling. Every detail has been carefully considered to make the experience absolutely perfect – from the soft grey blankets neatly folded over the arm of each sofa, to the little pots of popcorn waiting for you to nibble before the film begins. Each course is delivered, very quietly, to your seat during the movie, and the dishes are slotted neatly into a tray that you can place on your lap (for anyone wondering about eating on the sofa without risk of spillage). There’s a short interval during which an usher comes round with trays of homemade ice cream, and you can also order drinks for the interval too, so that once you’ve settled in, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your sofa. And for anyone wondering, yes, it is wonderfully warm in there.
The menus are all about comfort food, but with a Michelin-starred-chef upgrade – until the 24th of December, you can try Rick Stein’s delicious curries, or from the 27th to the 31st, sample Tom Kerridge’s chilli con carne, plus starters and desserts. For each showing, there’s a veggie and non-veggie option, so we naturally had to try both. My starter of prawn cocktail was classic, but delicious, and although I wasn’t terribly keen on my dining companion’s veggie starter of aubergine and feta, he really enjoyed it. For the main course, I had a delicious cod curry – just the right level of spice, with bursts of fresh coriander, and the fish was firm, juicy and perfectly cooked. The stand-out for both of us, though, was the vegetarian option, a tomato madras with halloumi that was packed with flavour. The ice cream was absolutely gorgeous too – I particularly recommend the banana with toffee sauce which was just scrumptious. By the way, I do apologise for the lack of foodie photos, but even the most diehard food blogger (one unafraid to hop on a chair for the perfect overhead shot, or ask a restaurant to turn the lights up – you know who you are) would baulk at taking photos in the cinema, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Oh, and just so you know I wasn’t focused purely on the food, I should mention that we saw everyone’s favourite Christmas movie, Elf. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always had a few problems with this film (in the Elf universe, Santa Claus delivers all the presents, so why don’t adults believe in him? Where do they think the presents come from?) but it did definitely get us in the festive mood.
Between now and New Year’s Eve, you can choose from a whole range of brilliant movies, from Christmas classics like Love Actually, It’s A Wonderful Life and Die Hard (it’s a Christmas movie, don’t @ me) to guaranteed crowd-pleasers like Back To The Future, Ocean’s Eleven and Top Gun. And honestly, I can’t recommend it highly enough – it is, quite simply, one of the loveliest things I’ve done this festive season. The combination of wonderfully cosy, comfy surroundings, fabulous service, delicious food and great movies is pure, indulgent escapism. Book your tickets now folks.