Rupert Parker enjoys a theatrical dinner at The Monarch Theatre in London’s West End
Close to Piccadilly, in the heart of theatreland is Park Row, London’s first DC-Comics themed restaurant complex. Think Batman and you can understand why the dark doorway leads into a small library where a butler presides. After checking your credentials he swings back the bookshelves to reveal a concealed stairwell leading to the depths of Gotham City’s underworld.
The Grade II listed Art Deco building was once part of Europe’s largest hotel, The Regent Palace, and I must say that the basement space is splendidly decadent. It’s divided into five dining and drinking areas, each with a Batman theme and The Penguin presiding above the central bar. One of these is the Monarch Theatre which promises a fully immersive restaurant experience, complete with state-of-the-art floor-to-ceiling video projections. On offer is a ten-course tasting menu with matching drinks.
We don’t quite know what we’re going to be eating as there’s no menu online but we’re led into a small bar area where an automated mannequin chooses our cocktails. A live waitress serves frosty meringues immersed in liquid nitrogen and we’re told that the show will start in fifteen minutes. Other couples arrive, then a set of double doors leads us into the dining area.
It’s a rectangular box, containing a long white table with space for 20 guests. Wall to wall video, with matching sound effects, completes the scene. There’s even a ringmaster, a head waitress in a red jacket, who’s there to announce the dishes and direct the efficient waiting staff. They emerge from concealed panels on the video walls which mix DC Comic themes with natural landscapes. There’s never a dull moment.
And the food is certainly up to standard, think Michelin star small portions, impeccably prepared and presented, on designer crockery. All the dishes are named after DC Comic’s most iconic heroes and villains, but that almost seems irrelevant. We start with The Riddler, an ox horseradish and hibiscus lollypop paired with a cornetto stuffed with a wasabi and soy prawn. Next is The Penguin, caviar wrapped in edible foil on chopped scallop with a white chocolate sauce. It’s very good indeed
The Scarecrow is a red white spotted mushroom, reconstituted pâté and port and served with a freshly baked brioche. Harley Quinn is a duck martini, a flavoursome broth with lemongrass topped with a skewer of blackberry and duck bonbon. The Joker, black cod cooked to perfection, with a piece of octopus on the side, comes with miso in a syringe. This is the halfway point so there’s a short intermission and we take a break.
Back 15 minutes later, a thick forest is on the video wall and an immense tray of assorted shrubbery has been added to the table. Hidden away is Poison Ivy, a coconut shell stuffed with cardamom ice cream and coconut, with a pineapple gel sac on top. It’s sweet and meant as a palate cleanser before the next course. Mr Freeze is smoked eel, pork rib and a frog leg bonbon, one of the highlights. Catwoman is a large pearl of celeriac, whisky and macadamia nut, perched among a hand of real pearls.
Bruce Wayne is the last main – a tasty chunk of Black Angus beef, with a truffle potato and smoked onion jus. I’ve lost count of the number of courses but it’s now dessert time: Wonder Woman, a chocolate gold feather riding on salted caramel and hazelnuts followed by a sorbet of forest fruits. Service has been impeccable throughout and the wine pairings have worked well.
Finally, Executive Chef Karl O’Dell comes out to greet us and of course, gets a round of applause. He says the main challenge has been to create dishes that are enhanced by the video and sound effects and fit the theme. All I can say is that his food is inventive, visually stimulating and perfectly cooked. The Monarch Theatre is certainly an exhilarating experience, unlike anything else in London, but best of all it really does taste good.
Tell Me More About Monarch Theatre Restaurant
The Monarch Theatre 77 Brewer Street, London W1F 9ZN
T +442037 453 431 E::firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking is essential for all performances:
Tuesday – Wednesday 7pm
Thursday 5pm, 8.30pm
Friday 12pm, 5pm, 8.30pm
Saturday 12pm, 5pm and 8.30pm
Sunday 1.30pm and 5pm
£195 for dinner inclusive of drinks and service charge