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SYMPTOM: We usually go to a restaurant for our Christmas party, which everyone really enjoys, but this year we’d like to find somewhere with entertainment as well. Can you suggest restaurants that offer more than just dinner?
Come to the cabaret
The old-fashioned 40s-style cabaret supper club is seeing something of a renaissance. You can usually expect cabaret-style seating, table service and restaurant-standard food, accompanied by anything from burlesque to break-dancing. For a genteel evening with musical entertainment, Piccadilly’s upmarket Pigalle Club (tel: 020 7644 1420) makes an atmospheric venue, and 1940s dress is encouraged. In Holborn, you’ll find nipple-tassels and feathers galore with Vaudeville-inspired variety at Volupté (tel: 020 7831 1622), while Saturday’s ‘Kitsch Cabaret’ nights at the outrageous Madame Jojo’s (tel: 020 7734 3040) promise a glitzy combination of music hall and Vegas floorshow. The City’s theatrical Bel Canto (tel: 020 7444 0004) serves up dinner with a side order of opera. Head to Shoreditch for avant garde entertainment at The Brickhouse (tel: 020 7247 0005) and the gloriously camp Bistrotheque (tel: 020 8983 7900), famed for its drag performers.
Get into the groove
If strutting drag queens are too risqué for your office cohorts, jazz might be a safer option. Ronnie Scott’s (tel: 020 7439 0747) is a wonderfully moody setting, albeit with rather average food. For music and dancing, head to lively Mayfair stalwart Dover Street Restaurant & Jazz Bar (tel: 020 7629 9813). Elsewhere, food and grooves can be found at Camden’s Jazz Café (tel: 020 7688 8899) where music has an urban bias; the classy tartan-clad Boisdales of Belgravia (tel: 020 7730 6922) and Bishopsgate (tel: 020 7283 1763); and the Pizza Express Jazz Club (tel: 0845 602 7017).
Enjoy big-ticket dining
The launch of Gaucho at The O2 (tel: 020 8858 7711) earlier this year has brought together top-notch restaurant dining and big-name acts. Book a dinner and show package for £220 a head, and you’ll be treated to a Champagne and tasting platter blow-out in the swish private dining room. It’s then just a short waddle to your 24-seater VIP suite (with bar) in the main arena for the gig. As we go to press, there’s still availability for the Kings of Leon and Stereophonics in December, with other gigs to be confirmed.
Knock down bowl food
Thanks to All Star Lanes, aspiring kingpins no longer have to run the gauntlet of hoodies at the local Megabowl. The mini-chain of glossy 50s-style alleys serve up ten pin in polished surrounds with waitress service and an American diner-style menu. Venues in Holborn (tel: 020 7025 2671), Bayswater (tel: 020 7313 8361) and Shoreditch (tel: 0207 422 8376) all have private rooms with two/three alleys and a cocktail bar. Substantial canapés include mini beef burgers, Louisiana crab cakes and lobster club on toast.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.