A few months ago, my office entered into the usual painful process of deciding where and how to celebrate Christmas. There’s a pattern to this annual ordeal – whoever’s been tricked into organising it that year collects suggested venues and tries to find a date everyone can do… then we all forget about it for a while, until we’re left with very little choice of either. And so we’ve had some mixed results over the years: the James Bond party in 2012 was great, while the murder mystery in 2013 – not so much. Last year’s boat party was fun, but we’re all still a bit confused by the Prohibition party in 2011.
This year, the venue we eventually settled on was The Circus, a cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant in Covent Garden. And the date… was a Wednesday. Which seemed like a reasonable idea until Thursday morning, when we all had to get up and go to work. (One day we’ll learn that Friday is the only acceptable night for work parties.)
So what exactly is The Circus? Well, it’s a few things, really, so let’s break it down:
It’s a restaurant. Not your typical Christmas dinner fare – to a few people’s disappointment, there was no turkey on offer – but The Circus boasts a delicious Pan-Asian fusion menu. After a selection of tasty starters, which brought with them the added entertainment of watching us all attempt to use chopsticks, we moved on to our pre-selected main courses (fortunately we were given cutlery for these, or I’d probably still be there now). I’d picked the duck and tomatillo red curry, which was lovely, although I did find myself eyeing up the steak dish and wishing I’d chosen that instead – it looked incredible, and one of the guys later told me it was the best steak he’d ever eaten. But hey, at least I know for next time.
By the time the final course arrived – a box containing a trio of desserts – I was pretty much too full to eat anything, and it didn’t help that our sitting was coming to an end, so the staff were keen to clear the table as soon as possible. So I can’t really comment on dessert, although what I managed of the salted caramel and dark chocolate tart was amazing.
It’s a bar. Quite an expensive one, so be prepared. (Also beware of the Free Cuba cocktail, which – despite its name – is definitely not free. Although it is rather yummy.) The bar area isn’t massive, but we had enough space after our meal for the important stuff, like taking drunken selfies and convincing one of the guys to try on a pair of stilettos. He seemed to quite enjoy it…
It’s a cabaret. The entertainment is what really makes The Circus a unique venue. We’d been advised by a colleague who’d been before that we should try and get the stage table, and fortunately it was available. What we didn’t realise was that it’s called the stage table because the table actually is the stage. So in between each course, our plates were whisked away and we were asked to please hold on to our drinks.
This was to make way for the performers, who brought us a variety of incredible acts, from acrobatics to fire eating, all just above our heads. I can’t say how it would all look if you’re at a table in the back of the room, but when you’re sitting right at the heart of the action, it’s pretty amazing – so I’d definitely recommend trying to book the stage table if you have the chance to go.
It’s a club. Apparently at weekends, you can dance on the stage table. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea, but fortunately it wasn’t an issue for us, because – did I mention? – we went on a Wednesday.
If you’re looking for a fun night out, with good food, and entertainment that’s a bit different, The Circus is a great venue. It’s not cheap, but then it’s in central London, so that’s not surprising. It was also probably our least Christmassy Christmas party ever, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. And we did indulge in a glass of mulled wine before we left the office – so I guess the festive season starts here…