Immersive meals out: Fawlty Towers Dining Experience, The Murder Express

Faulty Towers

Faulty Towers - Credit: Archant

A meal out is never simply about food these days, with the trend for all things immersive spreading to the humble three course meal.

Murder Express

Murder Express - Credit: Archant

It seems a meal out is never simply about food these days, with the trend for all things immersive spreading to the humble three course meal.

In recent years, the capital’s ‘play-curious’ have been invited to a trip down a culinary rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland, digest a disgusting dinner with Roald Dahl’s Twits, and chow down on steak with a full on Shawshank Redemption prison riot rattling the restaurant bars.

Eager for an adventure, and lured by the promise of food by Masterchef finalists Billy and Jack, I bought a ticket to ride the Murder Express.

The rubbish stewn railway arches down a seedy East London side-street were familiar territory from previous forays into meal experiences in ‘found spaces’.

Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers - Credit: Archant

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But step through the door of ‘Pedley Street Station’ and you are transported back to the glamour of the 1930s, with gin cocktails in the Seven Sins station bar and a gleaming Pullman that awaits you.

Swilling a pre-dinner drink, you mingle with characters who lay down clues to the forthcoming crime; a spiv, a Wild West frontiersman, a Music Hall star, a widow, and a nervous waiter.

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En route to the French town of Murder, the landscape whizzes past the window via LED screens, and the cast cosy up to us in the intimate space as waiters serve a rather good meal of Mulligatawny soup and cucumber sandwiches, flat iron steak and potatoes, and a truly delicious apple tart.

If only the script was as tasty.

Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers - Credit: Archant

Funicular, who concieved the evening, are billed as a “passionate collective of experience creators from across the spectrum of theatre and storytelling.”

But Agatha Christie this ain’t. Bobby Lee Darby’s scenario is neither clever witty, nor intriguing. The enjoyably excitable atmopshere of the night is entirely due to the set builders, chefs and a hardworking cast working with fairly dumb material.

At Fawlty Towers The Dining Experience it was the opposite story.

I arrived expecting Waldorf salad or Duck Surprise but instead got a competent if unexciting meal of soup, roast chicken and cheesecake.

There’s little set or atmosphere in the faceless surroundings of Bloomsbury’s Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, but the trio of performers whirling around the grey conference room had us in stitches.

New prices include children’s tickets so I took my 10-year-old for a slap up lunch as part of his birthday celebrations.

Bar a quick flick through YouTube’s top ten highlights, he had zero knowledge of the legendary 70s sit-com penned by John Cleese and Connie Booth - but he didn’t need it.

He loved the well-honed chaos of this immersive show which began in Australia back in 1997.

Although they don’t use the original TV scripts this loving tribute certainly channels the spirit of Basil Sybil and Manuel, as you are served by actors doing pretty skilful impersonations of them.

Bread rolls are hurled, a pet rat goes missing, a hapless diner is ejected, The War is mentioned more than once, and Manuel mounts one table and nearly upends another in this well drilled performance of timeless slapstick, punctured pomposity and comic misunderstanding.

From the outset as the social climbing Basil superciliously calls us into lunch by name, our group of jolly diners were roundly abused and humiliated, but we loved it.

Sunday lunch and dinner £67.50 children aged 12 and under Sat and Sun lunch £39. Drinks not included Bookings 0845 154 4145.

The Murder Express leaves from ‘Pedley Street Station’ Arch 63 Pedley Street, London, E1 5BW.

Tickets start from £53. Drinks not included.

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