Fancy a game of darts with your dinner, or even a spot of table tennis? Well, these are just a few of the extra-curricular activities you can currently immerse yourself in when dining out in the capital, as over the past few years the UK’s hospitality sector has seen a boom in the number of restaurants promoting experiences above and beyond their standard food and beverage offerings.
This growth is in part being driven by an uncertain economic climate in which people are wanting to get more value for their money and in part by the need for restaurants to compete with, and stand-out from, the current glut of available dining options – from restaurants and street food to fast-casual chains and home delivery services. Add into the mix the fact that such venues usually require a lot of square footage and so are an attractive proposition for landlords looking to lease out spaces that may otherwise be too large for more traditional restaurants, and it’s easy to understand why this sector has seen such impressive growth.
Although the idea of a meal and a show – be it anything from cabaret to jazz – has long proved popular to punters, restaurateurs are increasingly expanding their offerings in order to provide a memorable night out and ultimately attract more paying customers. In a world where social media now plays an important role in determining how people choose to spend their money, these highly Instagrammable and immersive dining experiences are proving extremely popular, in particular to a new, younger generation of diners. And it’s not only restaurants, the idea has also been picked up by pop-ups, supper clubs and other type of events that are able to adapt quickly and thus exploit this increase in market demand for such experience-based evenings.
The continuing growth of such restaurants proves that even in these economically challenging times for the industry there’s still plenty of opportunities for the operators – both restaurateurs and landlords alike – who are prepared to think outside the box and beyond the kitchen.
If you’re in London and looking for an evening that involves a bit more excitement than just a good meal, then try the following:
Swingers – Pitch and putt golf and food.
Whistle punks – Urban axe throwing and food.
Flight Club – Darts and food.
Dabbers – Bingo and food.
All Star Lanes – Ten pin bowling and food.
Lucky Voice – Karaoke and food.
Ballie Ballerson – Restaurant with a ball pit.
The Exhibit – Dining in a cinema.
Spiritland – High-end hi-fi and quality music and food.
And some others worth a mention:
The Mamma Mia The Party – The musical that spawned a movie that spawned a restaurant … this immersive dining experience launches at The 02 this summer and will aim to recreate the party atmosphere of the movie’s Nikos’ Taverna – complete with its ABBA soundtrack – to provide an evening of immersive entertainment with food by leading London caterers rhubarb… Apparently life is just like it is in the movies!
Dinner is Coming – Regular immersive dining experiences held in the vaults under Waterloo Station. The current performance is inspired by the Purple Wedding form an episode of Game Of Thrones, and evolves into a murder mystery evening that diners help to solve.
Gingerline’s Grand Expedition – Interactive pop-up dining evening.
Inamo – This small restaurant chain has interactive projections on its table surfaces that, in its own words, enables the diner to to set their mood, discover the local neighbourhood, play retro games, watch a live chef-cam feed, and even graffiti the table top.
Circus – Cabaret, dancing, circus and dinner.
Troubadour – Set to open this summer in both White City and Wembley Park with immersive theatre productions of War Horse and Dinosaur World, complete with an all day food offering.
Aeronaut – Theatre, cabaret, music and dinner.
Martha’s – Jazz, Drag and Dinner.
Dinner Time Stories, London and now other global cities – An immersive dining experience based around a concept that follows the route of Marco Polo through the culinary adventures of ‘Le Petit Chef’. Using 3D technology to connect sounds, smells and visuals to tell the story, diners trace the steps of the famous explorer on his journey along the Silk Road in an intense multi-sensory experience.
The Murdér Express – An evening in which guests travel on a restored steam train and as they sit down for dinner an Agatha Christie inspired mystery unfolds around them.
Urban Putt – Pitch and putt golf and food.
Asia SF – Dinner and Drag Show.
Safehouse ’77 – Dinner Theatre – a 70’s style house party where diners and actors merge and mingle.
The Willows – Immersive horror story in a large ‘Haunted’ Hollywood mansion.
Dinner Detective – Solve a whodunit over dinner.
How do you Hug a Tiger?
Renowned chef Jae Jung, from Le Bernardin, offers guests an interactive storytelling and dining experience that traces her journey from her childhood in post-war South Korea to her prosperous culinary career in the Big Apple.
Love’s Labour Lost – Shakespearean theatre and dinner.