Located in Covent Garden, part of London’s entertainment district, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea what was going on behind two rusty medal doors on a quiet Endell Steet when walking by. Those lucky enough to step inside are in for one of the most unique dining experiences in the world.
The first thing I notice as I walk through those doors and past the waiting area is a wide, long, white table with steps leading up to it. It must have at least ten chairs on each side, giving off the impression that a special occasion of some sort is happening tonight.
An attractive staff member leads me to my table in the bar area and brings over a glass of Merlot and a copy of the menu and Covent Guardian. I love restaurants that consider every minor detail of their diners’ experience, like the back of this menu, which offers funny, made-up news to follow the restaurant’s circus theme.
But it’s not the usual circus decor you would expect from a venue, spiegeltents and old memorabilia. Designed by Tom Dixon, the interior of Circus is crisp and retro. Black and white furniture, lit up by silvers detail, the centerpiece of the venue is two eyes projected above the entrance, looking out at the entire restaurant.
They could be inspired by those of the show’s dark and mysterious master of ceremonies, whose big eyes pop out from under his top hat watching the restaurant just the same as the eyes above him.
He kicks off the show from that large table I noticed as I first walked in. Only a few seats remain at it or in the rest of the house for that matter. In fact, people are standing in the bar area, peaking over shoulders to get a look and it’s not even 8 p.m.
There are four acts featured throughout the night that come in between meals and the restaurant does two rounds of this. While both showings feature the same performers, no act is alike and each one takes place on that same large table.
Yellow and red lights spot the stage and the room becomes slightly smokey.
The show is about to begin.
Eyes pear up as a James Bond-like gymnast walks onto the table-stage with two sexy assistants. He spends the rest of his time up there hanging from the ceiling.
He’s followed by a slinky contortionist moving her body to Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” after starters are served.
A sinister acrobat dressed as a skeleton is the show’s third act and one that includes him dangling from a ring attached to the ceiling.
The first show ends on a silly note with an adorable Liza Minnelli lookalike doing burlesque.
While everybody’s focus is directed to the stage for each three-four minute performance, the show does not take up guests’ entire night. It seemed ideal that people visiting the restaurant could be entertained for a few minutes here and there, but were able to go back to their own conversations and celebrations in between acts, which a lot of dinner shows don’t allow.
The menu is Asian-inspired. Think beef foie gras gyoza, duck and watermelon salad and red pepper lamb chops. Food is priced at about £8-12 per starter and £15-20 for a main. The restaurant recommends each diner purchase at least two items, including one main.
The cocktails are unique and actually quite affordable by London standards at £10 a pop. Think Blood Peach Bellini. Of course absinthe makes the menu and they also serve party punches in massive bowls for £185 (serves 20 drinks). Mainly I just saw tray after tray packed with flutes of champagne go out though.
Altogether you’re looking at spending about £50 for a starter, main dish and two drinks. Not bad for dinner and a show in the center of the city.
At one point in my three-hour visit, the thought of how I would be getting home popped into my head. I knew exactly how, the Covent Garden Tube Station is just around the corner, but I still had to think about it for a minute. Circus managed to make me feel like I had completely escaped to the point that I forgot what city I was in. Visit Circus London for your hen night, first date or just to see what it’s all about. Sit at a spot literally on the stage or at one of the many tables surrounding it.
No matter why you visit this restaurant or where you sit, you’ll feel like your drifting away to another place and you’ll walk away with a completely different interpretation of dinner and a show.
Circus London is located at 27-29 Endell Street, around the corner from Covent Garden Tube Station. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday from 6 p.m. till late. They recommend booking four to five weeks in advance for a table on the weekend and one to two weeks in advance for a table on week days. There’s is no entry or entertainment fee other than for guests only purchasing drinks (no meal) Friday and Saturday night after 9:30 p.m. (£5 per person).
Circus London granted me press admission to review this exhibit. All opinions are my own.