Last week I finally got round to visiting The Owls Are Not What They Seem, a Twin Peaks inspired immersive dining experience developed by Lemonade and Laughing Gas and Blanch & Shock.
Before I start, I should maybe point out that every character and element in the production had been given a similar but not copyright infringing name to those in the show. I lost track a bit, so I’m going to stick with the original names for this post.
The location was kept a secret until the day, when it was revealed to be Theatre Delicatessen in Farringdon. Quite an obvious choice really, since they specialise in creating artistic hubs and sets in unused commercial spaces.
The main area for diner guests was, pretty obviously, a recreation of the Double R Diner (renamed as Wanda’s). It was pretty nicely done, with a lot of attention to detail. Although it would have been good to see the selections on the jukebox to have been from the appropriate decade – but I’m just being picky.
Between courses you were left to wander around the rest of the sets – just off the diner there was the lobby of the Great Northern, a caravan for Dr Jacoby (which I sadly didn’t have a chance to visit but I’m told was great fun), and a room full of owls manned by the Log Lady (guests were encouraged to bring an owl to donate, which I did).
Upstairs was a bar called ‘Blackjacks’, where guests were given poker chips (but noone actually played), with bedrooms from One Eyed Jacks just off the main area.
After dinner, we moved on to the main bar, The Owls Nest (if you didn’t want the full dinner experience you could enter the bar only for £6), through a recreation of Laura Palmers bedroom. The bar (obviously themed as the Roadhouse) had further installations, some quite obviously thrown together, as well as some really good ones including a forest and the Black Lodge’s red room.
Fifteen minutes before the show, I joined a huddle of costumed Twin Peaks fans outside – my attendance was very last minute, so I didn’t have a chance to dress accordingly, which was a shame, I think I’d look great in a pastel twin set. Some attendees went all out – there was even a Laura Palmer wrapped only in plastic. Which was brave given that London had just had its first snow of the season.
Once inside, we were given our identities and alibis for the night, as well as a task, before being led through a makeshift sheriffs station, where we were briefly questioned by Deputy Andy, and our fingerprints taken by Lucy.
I was ‘The Loner’ – a misunderstood soul, having chosen to live the life of a recluse as a political protest against how the town is becoming more and more controlled by big corporations. On the night in question I’d shacked myself to the doors of the latest coffee shop to be taken over by a big faceless corporation.
My task was to place a Lonely Hearts Ad on the Town Message Board – I was supposed to put my phone number, but I didn’t.
Our given roles dictated how we were treated by the main town characters – as the loner I didn’t get much interaction which was a shame. The improv from the main characters was a big part of the evening, which I missed out on, aside from a little questioning from Agent Cooper. It was a bit disappointing, as I would have like more involvement. Some guests with more engaging roles seemed to have a much more exciting experience.
At various points throughout the night (usually around the time food was served to make sure people were at their seats), the lights faded and music changed, and the actors performed scenes which were quite random for the most part. But entertaining nonetheless.
Once dinner was finished, we congregated in Blackjacks for a closing speech by Agent Cooper, before, while wearing owl masks, being led by the Log Lady through Laura’s bedroom to see her body, before being taken to The Owls Nest.
We could stay in The Owls Nest and explore as much as we wanted, there was also some stand up from Deputy Andy, and various other cabaret performances.
While in the bar I found a coded note had been placed in my bag – once deciphered I took it to the bar for my next ‘clue’ which comprised of a Twitter challenge. Challenges ranged from taking selfies with strangers to performing group dances on stage.
On entering the diner we were given cups of cold coffee spiked with Wild Turkey (the sponsors of the event) and sat in booths of six. I was the only one on our table who actually liked the coffee/bourbon combination, so I was a little worse for wear before we’d even had the starters.
This was probably a good thing, because the starter was unanimously decided to be one of the worst dishes any of us had ever been presented with. Served in a coffee cup, it was described as ‘beetroot and chipotle dip with mushroom and black garlic coffee’ – how that related to what we actually were given I’m unsure, it was just a cup of blood coloured soup.
The Douglas Fir needle dusted ring donuts served on the side were a little better. Edible at least. I’m not sure if you were supposed to dip them in the soup? Someone tried it and warned the rest of us not to.
The main course (smoked streaky bacon glazed with maple syrup with poached egg, caviar, potatoes and greens) was a big improvement. Well, I thought so – but the whole dish just tasted like maple syrup, which is good for me because I LOVE maple syrup, but others didn’t seem so keen on it.
And, predictably, dessert was cherry pie. Which unfortunately could not be described as damn fine, but it wasn’t bad. It was served with cherry wood ice cream, which was interesting, and actually quite nice.
Courtesy of YPlan, I did however have one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, called a Cherry Bang (Wild Turkey, cherry brandy, lemon, mint and a twist of orange) at the bar in The Owls Nest. And the Old Fashioned wasn’t bad either.
As a fan of Twin Peaks I had a great time, it was a charming production and the actors played their parts well and really got into character. However, I think it’s definitely an experience that will depend on your knowledge of the show to get the references, otherwise I could see it being confusing and a bit frustrating – without even a good meal to help make up for it.
Overall it could be a much smoother operation, but as a relatively small pop up with a short run, I think they did a fantastic job. I’m excited to see what they’ll come up with next.
All photos my own.
Pssst… If you aren’t already signed up for YPlan – use my code LEVANS88 for £5 credit towards your first purchase. (FYI: For everyone who uses my code I receive £2 in credit – which will help me bring more blog posts about awesome events to you!)