The London Cabaret Club

First-class food and a variety show that will have you up on your feet: The London Cabaret Club is leading the revival of the dinner-theatre entertainment concept, declares Rachel Bailey.

Did you know that the word ‘cabaret’ was first used in the mid-1600s? The word derives from the translation of ‘tavern’ from the collective Middle Dutch languages, and by the early 1900s had come to mean ‘a restaurant or night club’. In fact, it appears that cabaret is very much distinguished by its performance venue, be it a pub, a restaurant or a nightclub with a stage for performances.

It soon became clear, during my visit to The London Cabaret Club, that the creators of this throw-back to the golden age of entertainment have chosen their location wisely. The undeniably decadent Bloomsbury Ballroom, an easy stroll from Holborn Tube Station, is an art deco masterpiece, and ostentatious in a way that masterfully complements the variety show style of entertainment.

Smartly garbed waiters shaking cocktails in a frenzy, chattering guests with Manhattans in hand, examples of elegant 1920s architecture and the smooth sounds of a live saxophone are a warm welcome to those just arriving – and that’s just in the bar.

I arrived early enough to secure myself a few espresso martinis (quite steep at £12 a go if there’s a big group of you, but worth it, in my opinion), and was shortly ushered through to the main show hall by a charming hostess.

Equally as impressive in looks and atmosphere as the bar, the main performance space is dictated by a jutting-out stage, which is surrounded by plush booths and tables, while at the far end another stage is raised above the audience, to hold the band.

Ballet duet

Pictured: A ballet duet; just one of the many types of dancing you’ll see during the show.

The whole cabaret experience revolves around the food and the entertainment, and is a form of what you would call dinner-theatre. The ballroom was full of guests eagerly anticipating their starter and the first round of entertainment, and there was no waiting around. The team of waiting staff took on their hosting mission with a vigour not dissimilar to an army battalion, and there was little to no delay in the three courses coming out despite the vast number of people waiting to be served.

The food, whilst delicious and exquisitely presented, was a bit on the small side when it came to portion sizes. The menu advised that it’s built around the concept of ‘British tapas’, so prepare yourself for surprising combinations, like Scottish sirloin and lemon sole. It’s not a criticism – the food was delicious – it’s just not particularly conventional.

The main highlight of the night, unsurprisingly, was the entertainment. You can expect everything from contortionists and gymnastics to every style of dancing, including sombre ballet, ballroom numbers that would make the Strictly Come Dancing judges proud, and group ensembles drenched in sequins.

There are variety acts too, like a dancer performing with a giant hula-hoop, a man and dog duo, and even a team of beefeaters marching in formation across the stage. There was a definite theme of ‘British-ness’ throughout the evening, but it’s played on to be funny.

The saxophone player at The London Cabaret Club

Pictured: A saxophone player at The London Cabaret Club.

Each separate act is accompanied by vocals from a team of three talented singers – the lead female on the night was particularly impressive – and a live band. The night’s tunes progressed chronologically, from big sixties hits such as Shout by Lulu and Can’t Buy Me Love by The Beatles right through to the present, with songs from Adele and Ed Sheeran featuring.

In between you can expect everything from Duran Duran, Annie Lennox and Elton John, to the Spice Girls, Duffy and Amy Winehouse. It’s all very light hearted and pop-culture focused, so don’t expect anything heavy.

The whole experience is a big nod to the glamorous age of Gatsby-esque recreation, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and offers a fun and nostalgic atmosphere to suit a variety of tastes and ages. It’s a great shout for those groups seeking an alternative to a West End show, and guaranteed to have you in high spirits by the end.

And don’t be surprised to find yourself jiving away to the band at the end of the night; I certainly enjoyed a dance with the rest of the audience to conclude a most enjoyable evening.

Group rates are available at The London Cabaret Club for a minimum of eight people; GTOs should e-mail to make a booking.

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