An immersive dining experience set in 1920’s New York with food by Neil Rankin
We love a good immersive dining (and non dining) experience. Our favourite is possibly Gingerline (read my piece for Italian site Agrodolce) where we have been many times and each time we love it more.
I am usually pretty aware of anything similar in London, but this time it was my husband that alerted me to a new event which sounded really cool: Lost Love Speakeasy, a ‘secret jazz experience’ with food by chef Neil Rankin of Pitt Cue and Temper fame.
Choose a role: artists & bohemians, flappers & gangsters or tycoons & movie stars. Dress to the nines for one glittering, illicit night. Become the Beautiful and Damned of 1920s New York.
Tickets seemed to be selling fast, so we arranged babysitting and booked a relatively pricey set menu ticket (around £70 pp), as tickets for drinks only or a la carte were gone already.
The set up
As usual for these type of events, the location was to be kept ‘secret’ and we only received the address about a week before, not particularly sure why in this case. Dress code was encouraged and, as diners in the set menu band, we were ‘Gangsters and Flappers’.
Dusting off accessories, shoes and buying a couple of extra gimmicks on Amazon, we got ready for the night and jumped in a cab heading towards Maltby Street, near where the venue was located.
Our names were checked at the entrance by a gentleman in a hat and we were ushered upstairs. Set in an old warehouse, the beginning had promise. The area by the cloakroom was clad in period clothing and mock posters and felt ‘right’.
We were finally shown to our table, in a large dining room where cabaret style tables were arranged around a central stage, a bar at the back and a mezzanine, where I am guessing, where the drinks only packages’ guests. Most people, we noticed, were dressed up.
The show begins…
Soon after 7.30pm, a 4 piece band and a singer came on stage and the music began.
And this is when we realised this was not going to be anything as good as Gingerline. The opposite, possibly.
The music playing was not a 1920s repertoire, and the singer, sorry to say, was pretty awful. Her pitch often wrong, it was actually almost painful to listen to. The musicians were thankfully excellent and their jazz, big band style pieces a pleasure to listen to.
A snack, not listed on the menu, arrived in the meantime: I think it was a corn bread morsel, which was highly enjoyable and spiced and opened up well.
We think the singer – in between songs – told some sort of story. We really could not make it out, and soon lost interest. At some point, a gentleman appeared in a corner, dressed in a suit, singing something (thankfully better than his female counterpart). Again it was hard to make out, and we were not really bothered.
Later, between main course and pudding, those two singers appeared on stage, dressed in rags, as a young couple wanting to marry and escape the racist ‘deep south’ and move ‘north’ to NY, where she dreamed of becoming a singer. He did not want to move away from fishing as ‘his grandaddy and his grandaddy before him’ had been fishing.
We figured out that was the past and we had initially seen the future.
Right. Whatever. Sadly, we left before the end to find out what happened to those two, we truly could not have cared less by then.
So back to the food. The actual starter was a pretty spicy raw tuna with watermelon and crispy puffed rice. While we found it a little too hot, it was indeed a very good take on allegedly “Charleston’s iconic 19th Century dish”.
Neil Rankin is famous for meat and bbq, so I was looking forward to the main: Smoked Pork Chop with Rich’n’smokey blue cheese mash & eggplant gumbo. The meat was very well seasoned, but extremely chewy. The sides were served in a single bowl and actually delicious, particularly the aubergine and the crumb on it.
The dessert – either a deep fried cheesecake or a house bourbon salted caramel – was disappointing. I am actually not sure which one of the two we were served, or maybe both in one. It was a light, crispy pastry case filled with a large amount of sickly sweet cream and drizzled in a bourbon sauce, which was the best thing on the dish. I could not finish mine.
We left right after the dessert. We both felt we were at a NYE party where you’re bored to death and you can’t leave because you have to wait for midnight. A lot of people in the dining room were looking at their phones and looked as bored as we were, while most seemed to have a whale of a time.
The whole room was dull, and not set up as a ‘speakeasy’. The whole event felt shabby, cheaply put together and rushed. The waiting staff were lovely but not dressed up either, and neither was the band leader, as good as they were.
The props were non existent or plainly wrong (Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret painted in the loo, that’s early 1930s Germany, the band played Mac the Knife which was published in the late 50s*, there were coloured LED strips of lights around the stage).
Ultimately, there was no storyline, nothing to keep the whole thing together. Considering it’s the same price point as Gingerline (with no drink included either), this was money well wasted (excluding the extras £40 of babysitter and £20 for taxis!).
We totally fell for it – a sponsored post on Instagram caught people’s attention (everyone at our table had seen it that way).
The Lost Estate, the company behind this event, is clearly capitalising on the success of other immersive dining experiences and fully misses the mark. What a shame.ok, to be precise the very first edition was written in 1928, but still in Germany and not widely available to the American public for years to come