The myriad of options that come up each year for Christmas parties can tax the brain of the most professional event planner. You need entertainment, you need to cater for dietary requirements and most important of all, you need a venue with a vibrant party atmosphere. Step forward, Beauty and the Feast, a pop-up immersive dinner and pantomime experience in The Vaults in the Waterloo tunnels.
Immersive set designers, Darling and Edge have worked on this project to transport you to the fairytale world of France in the mid-1700s, when the much-loved characters of Belle and the Beast existed. The evening starts off with an elaborately decorated bar with tiered seating and a compere in the form of Godmother, Fairy Liquid. She sets the scene and explains that the audience needed to help break the curse that has been put on the palace where regal dancing, mute dinners and stale conversations have become de rigueur.
This is also the cue for the organisers to collect some much-needed pounds to keep productions like this afloat. There are some curious-sounding cocktails like ‘Belle’s Eau De Toilette’ with inviting looking rose petals. Throughout the welcome drinks, there are occasional banter and interactions with the characters from the panto including the titular heroine, Belle.
At this point, it is probably important to highlight they do emphasis they are a panto act for those who might have expected something more mentally demanding or expected an immersive theatrical show. The pantomime lines generally deliver polite, embarrassed smiles across the diners’ faces rather than any hysterical laughter.
Top marks must be given to their kitchen team, as the food is served promptly once you enter their sumptuously decorated dining room. There are enough chandeliers and velvet present to give at least a pantoworld’s impression of an extravagant palace.
There is a seemingly endless array of sharing dishes coming out of the kitchen with most dishes being vegetarian-friendly. The only meaty dish of note is a rich venison sausage, although the dishes that shone were more of the vegetarian variety. We were delivered a whole roasted pumpkin, which was meant to be oozing with black bean stew inside although the initial one missed the black beans. Beetroot salad was crunchy and vibrant looking, whilst whole roast cauliflower had an appetising mustard crust. The highlight of the desserts included a light, crumbly meringue mushroom served in teacups.
The climax of the night was when the shy I am ‘just a girl’ Belle transformed into a wild beast herself as she was freed from the shackles of formality and that’s when the real party actually started. You will probably find better quality food and drama elsewhere, but for sheer excitement and atmosphere, this Christmas, Beauty and the Feast might be your best option.