Drama, debauchery and Demis Roussos at Abigail’s Party pop up event
- Credit: Archant
“Would you like an olive?” we’re asked in a familiar tone by an actress playing Alison Steadman’s iconic Abigail’s Party character as we get seated with a welcome drink at the Art of Dining’s latest event.
But thankfully – unlike Beverly’s soirée in the original 1970s satirical play – we had a lot more than olives and cheese and pineapple sticks at this new pop up venture in De Beauvoir, fusing theatre and food.
In fact, we had a five course ‘70s inspired meal prepared by Exmouth Market’s Moro-trained chef Ellen Parr, one half of this immersive dining event duo, who met at university in Glasgow and would often create a feast from the contents of a M&S skip after a night out.
The other – set designer Alice Hodge – has masterfully transformed the Rose Lipman Building into a ‘70s living/dining room, complete with loud orange and brown wallpaper, swirly-patterned tablecloths, retro leather sofas and wooden drinks cabinets.
Attention to detail was remarkable, from the cigarette boxes filled with vapourisers to the kitsch ‘Beverly’ magazine-cum-menu and drinks list, including a range of cocktails and wine, which can be matched with each course if you’d prefer.
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With an uncanny likeness to the original character in Mike Leigh’s play, the main entertainment is an increasingly inebriated Beverly, who shuffles around the room dressed head-to-toe in orange delivering all the famous one liners as she introduces each course and, of course, plays a bit of Demis Roussos.
The menu itself is a throwback to the disco decade, but with a twist. First up was a prawn cocktail, served Vietnamese style – the juicy prawns placed on a bed of crunchy baby gem lettuce and shredded veg, with a tangy oriental dressing and topped with crunchy peanuts.
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A nostalgic fondue delivered in a retro pot followed, served with ciabatta, Italian pickles and spring veg to dip in the mouthwatering melted cheese.
Next up was a waldorf salad with crispy pork belly – the meat gorgeously tender, edged with crunchy crackling. A creamy apple, celery and hazelnut salad brought the dish its traditional sweet flavour and crunchy texture, while a small heap of fragrant, mildly spiced rice a provided a welcome savoury dimension.
Four courses in and we were feeling pretty full, but the duck à l’Orange was irresistible – the soft, juicy meat falling apart to the touch, glazed and infused with intense smokey flavours which were showcased but not overpowered by a soy and sesame-dressed chicory salad topped with juicy and bold blood orange segments.
For dessert, small squares of lime cheesecake and caramelised pineapple came served on sticks poked into a tin-foil ball, in yet another nod to the snacks Beverly serves during the play.
As fans of the play growing up, my sister and I had a thoroughly entertaining evening, packed with laughs, nostalgia and top-notch food. It will be interesting to see what this talented duo come up with next.
Until Saturday (April 4) at the Rose Lipman Building, 43 De Beauvoir Road, N1. Tickets, which include a five course meal and welcome drink, and cost £55, are available here