A few of you may know that I’ve been a professional reviewer for some years now. I’ve reviewed some of the finest restaurants in the world, the most incredible venues, five-star hotels, exclusive spas and some of the craziest events around.
It takes an *awful* lot to impress me.
As for Mr B, well – his deliciously northern stoicism means that it takes a fair amount of magic to get him really excited – so if I tell you now that at one point during this review Mr B was so in awe that he asked a perfect stranger if he could hug her – then you’ll start to get an idea of why this review is entitled “the best night out we have EVER had”!
We arrived at The Hippodrome Casino having done our homework – steeped in history, this fabulous building directly opposite Leicester Square tube recently underwent a £50 million refurbishment to turn it into a 24-hour casino complete with a restaurant, six bars (with a 24-hour licence), meeting rooms, private dining, shisha lounge, cigar lounge, circus and burlesque show.
Upon arrival we were whisked to the cocktail bar (always a good old place to start if you ask me). Now, being the pain in the ass that I am I always like to peruse the cocktail list then order off-menu … it’s the inbuilt reviewer in me – I like to catch people off guard. Plus, a simple dry martini is a pretty sure-fire way to get an swift idea of what to expect drinks-wise.
The menu we were offered had a small array of cocktails, but taking one look at the back bar I was pretty sure these guys could handle anything. Of course, I was right. My dry martini was gorgeous – and their choice of gins was super-impressive (I opted for Sipsmiths and olives, in case you care). Mr B hit the floor running with a Sipsmiths G&T (can you guess our gin-crush of the moment?).
Now, what first hits you about the Hippodrome is the gosh-darn-it size of the place. Having been a formidable theatre in its (glorious and hilarious) past, you may wonder how everything works layout-wise. Well, to put it basically, (and whilst failing to do it justice); each floor remains as it once was – it’s just that the rings of theatre seating have been replaced with bars, a restaurant, gaming areas and, as you head into the gods, a poker floor. So, as you sit in the bar you can look down onto the large gaming floor below (one of many!), and across to what was once the stage. This, however, and rather cunningly, still *is* a stage. Now, though, the stage is inverted; hidden behind a very effective sound board – the shows take place facing in the opposite direction to how they would have back in the day … if that makes sense.
The second thing you get to learn about the Hippodrome (especially when you have the huge honour of being shown round by the truly amazing Simon Thomas – Chairman of The Hippodrome Casino) is the versatility of space. The sound boards can be swished out the way, opening the theatre area up to the rest of the space. More than that, each area is both separate and inclusive. This, frankly, is kind of hard to explain … but, putting it simply, you can manipulate the spaces in myriad ways, allowing you to accommodate, say, 1000 people for a film premiere after party, or a handful of birthday celebrants looking for a slap-up meal.
Oh yes, the food. Oh yes. OH YES. After being delightfully distracted by martinis and much meandering with Simon, we finally settled down for some food. Beautifully fresh asparagus, delicate tartlets, huge perfect hunks of steak topped with enormous king prawns … the food at Heliot Steakhouse really is superb.
Of particular striking note is the millionaire’s macaroni cheese. At a jaw-dropping £12, this SIDE ORDER (yes, this isn’t a main dish) of posho mac ‘n’ cheese was nothing short of a revelation. Topped with a glistening, perfectly poached duck egg and slithers of black truffle, this indulgent addition to my meal was really very special indeed. So much so you’ll excuse my Instagram image additions …
After dinner we split teams; I headed up to explore the shisha lounge whilst Darren and the lovely Salvo (our host for the evening) headed off to take some more photos. After a while we regrouped, and suddenly, as if from nowhere, a rather striking redhead appeared at our table. This gorgeous gal was one of the Hippodrome’s resident magicians, and it was our very great pleasure to enjoy some close-up sleight-of-hand card tricks courtesy of this amazingly talented young lady. How good was she? Well, remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned Mr B’s overwhelming desire to hug a perfect stranger? Well, it was either her magical skills or her frighteningly good looks – but so impressed with one (or either) of her particular assets was Mr B that he couldn’t resist requesting a little touch of physical affection upon her departure. And who could blame him?
After yet another delicious cocktail it was time for pudding (that mac ‘n’ cheese had left no room for dessert so we opted to enjoy something sweet a little later on), and the Boom Bang Circus show. We took our seats inside the cosy but spacious theatre area behind the sound curtains, sipped on the rest of the lovely red wine we’d held back after dinner, and waited for the show to begin.
Once again, when it comes to circuses, it takes a lot to impress me. Having quit school at 13 to gallivant off to deepest darkest Eastern Europe to explore my options as a trapeze artist, juggler, unicyclist and all manner of other crazy pastimes (after three years I concluded that my options in these areas were probably reasonably limited and returned to school), I know my shows. My surname may be Barclay but Billy Smarts blood still runs through my veins, so it’s skill and grace rather than pomp and puff that gets my carnie-senses tingling.
The Boom Bang Circus was really quite spectacular. Considering the relatively restricted space, and the need to please all manner of visitors, late in the evening, this show was feisty, sexy (but never sleazy), exhilarating and tremendously skilful. Bravo indeed – I’d definitely like to see it again.
Quite honestly, we had a totally amazing time at The Hippodrome Casino, and we will certainly be back. Even if gambling just isn’t your thing, you can find myriad spaces in this cavernous, labyrinth-like building to suit whatever mood takes you. The staff are courteous, friendly, accommodating and helpful. The management are savvy, excitable, fun-oriented and incredibly knowledgable. The atmosphere is … well, you’ve read the review … really you’ll just have to go along and see for yourself.
Many, many thanks to Simon Thomas, Ian Duncan and their incredible team for making us feel so welcome.