These days, it’s simply not enough to go out for dinner and drinks.Now,culture is mixing it up with cuisine with a dash of drinking and the result is a sensory feast. It’s all about feeling it, of having an experience.
Take the latest pop-up “ boutique hotel concept” Jacques Townhouse, hosted by sophisticated singer Sophie Ellis Bextor. For two weeks only the Georgian end of terrace property in Central London has been transformed into a dreamy, Alice in Wonderland urban enclave by interiors supremo David Carter, owner of the stunning 40Winks guesthouse. Here, women can enjoy old-fashioned soirees and be made up, dress up in vintage, chat, munch gorgeous cupcakes by Vintage Patisserie, unwind and have their fortune told.. Ooh, and drink Jacques, a cider and fruit cocktail. It’s so subtle, the drinking is almost an afterthought.
I went along and was bowled over by the beauty. Inside resembles whimsical English meadows heavy with apple and pear blossom; Blyton-esque picnics and tales of innocence. But alongside the fairytale touches and twinkling teacup trees there’s a naughty edge, giving a very real sense that we were amongst F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned.
Some of these ( the beautiful, of course ) included T4 presenter Jameela Jamil, Atomic Kitten turned presenter Liz McLarnon, Jodie Harsh, designer Henry Holland, Donna Air and our hostess and chief DJ Sophie Ellis Bextor.
In all, a rather fabulous night out. And down the road, the recent History of Food by Bompass and Parr and Courvoisier was another theatrical temptation. A Belgravia mansion, transformed into different historical eras complete with rocking ship, Victoriana, the fifties, the future and a bouncy castle.
These events encourage both the shy and the sociable. You have to get involved, even if it’s shaking your head in bemusement at the sheer surreal nature of it all.
But it’s not just lovely London houses playing host to the new cultural experience. This weekend saw a corner of Parsons Green in Fulham transformed into the easy, breezy Cloudy Bay Shack, complete with Airstream serving hatch and white picket fence. Punters could enjoy food created by Tom Aitkens, relax on deckchairs listening to jazz whilst sipping ( you’ve guessed it ) Cloudy Bay wines.
Clever marketing? Yes, very. But it’s more than that. Brands recognise that we don’t want to be preached at, but we will respond well to feeling culture and creativity. We want to be taken somewhere new and unexpected, not simply be given a two-for one voucher.
Next up, on August Bank Holiday weekend, is another Alice in Wonderland gone crazy offering: The Mad Artist’s Tea Party. Miss Cakehead of Cakehead Loves Evil has teamed up with Tate and Lyle to pair the world’s most creative cake makers with artists and creatives who want to ‘create with cake’ to produce one-off edible artworks for auction.
All of the art created for the tea parties will exist only temporarily, and only in edible form in the medium of cake. Artists taking part include David A Smith, Stuart Semple, George Morton Clarke, Pete Fowler, Felt Mistress, stenSOUL, The Futureheads, FAUST and Alexander Turvey with cake-ists including food artist Prudence Staite, Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Michelle Wibowo, Crumbs & Doilies and Lily Vanilli.
Art, cake, fashion, retro, music, drinks… it’s a recipe for the new going out.
We love being part of the new cultural experience. Now once more… with feeling.