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Drinking outside the Box at the Brunel Museum


Six days a week, Sundays through Fridays, the Brunel Museum’s riverside terrace will transform into an outdoor cafe – just in time for groups of six to meet up outdoors. Regular attendees to Dulwich market will recognise the Coffee Box van, which offers organic coffees and freshly squeezed juices. On Sundays, Coffee Box will be joined by Dhaclhini, a bespoke cake and brownie maker.  


Food is a important part of the history of the Thames Tunnel, the site of the Brunel Museum. Despite the dangers of the tunnel during it’s construction, such as the constant threat of flooding, the partially completed tunnel was used twice as a dining venue! The first time on New Year’s Eve 1826 when Isambard and 9 friends sat down to dinner.  


The second occasion was a spectacular show of bravado, designed to inject investor confidence and consequently finance into the struggling venture. On 10th November 1828 Isambard held a grand banquet in the eastern arch of the tunnel for at least 40 influential people.  It was draped in crimson and lit with gas candelabra for the occasion and dining was accompanied by the band of the Coldstream Guards. In the adjacent western arch, 120 of the workforce sat down to their own special dinner of roast beef and beer, after which they drank the health of the young Resident Engineer and presented him with a pick and shovel.  


Like then, the Museum is now looking to local food as a way of generating income following a difficult year. Katherine McAlpine, Director said: “We know how difficult the past year has been across the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors. This is a way of us working with local providers to be able to help them sustain their business at this difficult time”  


The organic coffee and freshly squeezed juices served by Coffee Box will be a world away from the roast beef and beer served at previous occasions. But Bermondsey-born Michelle Dalton of Coffee Box is delighted to be taking part. “It’s so lovely for me as a Bermondsey girl to be able to sell good quality, organic coffee to my neighbours’. Dhalchini will join Michelle on Sundays to sell and is also run by Rotherhithe resident, Ash Yadav.  

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