With a frisson created by a little secrecy over location it was with no small amount of curiosity that we headed to The Candlelit Club on Saturday evening. All I will say is the building’s style and scale contributed significantly to the atmosphere of the evening, and the total use of candlelight adding a rare and utterly charming dimension to a gathering of such scale.
Added to that is the costumes worn by everyone; absolutely everyone. If you go to one of these events in the future and are in any doubt as to how far to take the dressing up; the answer would be that you can’t go too far! It was a real pleasure to see people taking the theme so far; and the clothes of the ‘20s somehow are designed to flatter people of all vintages and conditions.
We will get on to the food shortly; but let’s get the main area of contention out of the way first. At the risk of sounding like an old fart; the music was just too loud. We did also ask a good number of other guests under the age of 30 and the response was unanimous. In this location at least it is one of those situations where less really is more. I suppose part of the problem is the danger of a critic who is also a hi-fi buff. The band was rather loud, however on the occasions when the volume did come down the atmosphere was actually helped. The music was actually much more audible and listenable, and the hubbub of voices far more in keeping with the era being recreated.
So the volume is more consistent with a modern night club (resulting in ringing ears at the end of the night); and not conducive to conversation; a shame as the dining experience itself is social, with circular tables and the food very definitely worth talking about and over. But it’s more a speak-difficult than a speak-easy. Enough said then about that; but it does dominate the experience. On the other hand the lack of electric illumination is utterly charming; and experience you can rarely have these days, especially in such a large room. The candlelight is an inspired touch; beautiful and special in equal measure.
We were showed to our table by the excellent Maître d’, complete with 20’s itchy wool suit and his cap at a jaunty angle. He and the rest of the front of house staff were superb. Attentive; happy and welcoming they did a great job of looking after everyone. After we ordered our food we actually took leave of our table and mingled near the bar to watch the shakers and mixers, also allowing some conversation and appreciation of the combined theatrical efforts of everyone. It was comfortable at that point in the evening, but the nightclub analogy continued after dinner when even though there were plenty of excellent bar staff on, it was still a fifteen minute wait to get to the bar.
We sat back down when the food came. As we said it is a social experience – it all comes together; irrespective of what part of the menu you’ve ordered from; which did mean that mains cooled whilst starters were eaten. So it’s great if there are plenty of you at the table picking and pecking, not so good otherwise. We order our choices from a short (but extremely well balanced) menu in which all the dishes complimented each other well. Prices are fair, given how well executed the dishes are. .
The choice of cocktails was excellent and they were superbly mixed at the bar with skill and care – notably being tasted and tested as they went along – always a good sign. The best cocktail mixer is apparently Conrad, and his Millionaire Manhattan for £10 raised eye brows with its bitter sweet complexity and strength and left the sides of the mouth dry. The rest of the cocktail menu was also good, although for balance it could have done with one or two longer drink options, and perhaps a Cuba Libre to compliment the Havana cigars. A mini cigar was just £2.00, which gives enough for the occasion but they even have hand rolled Romeo y Julietta. That said; unfortunately though there was no smoking room to retire to enjoy either properly and of course drinks were not allowed to be taken outside.
The satisfying effects of the fine dining could be easily danced off with the music. The dance-floor was full, with everyone giving it their all. It was great fun, with a mixture of the band and recordings keeping things firmly in period. It was then taken to another level by flappers coming out and showing us how it really should be done – an infectious energy that just got people going even more.
We left through the grand staircase, propelled by the lift of la fee vert (aka green fairy or better known as Absinth). So in conclusion it was an incredibly fun, if occasionally flawed evening. The price of the ticket is worth it simply for the experience of the candlelight. The flaws were small but the fun very large; not the sort of place to go on a first date, this is ideal for groups of friends.
- Food (menu) 3/5
- Taste 4/5
- Drinks 4/5
- Affordability 3/5
- Atmosphere 3/5
- Service 4/5
Overall experience 3.5/5
Next stop Sakura in Old Tokyo, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April.