It is unique dining experiences like these that add a little panache to London’s restaurant scene. Since its inception in 2009, Circus has evolved to honour the French cabaret circuit, drawing in a curious young crowd of corporates, couples and friends. These guys know very well the magic of mystery so no details or announcements precede the acts. Diners are kept in the dark quite literally – Its lights out and all eyes on the dining table-turned-stage. Acrobats skilfully skim the rims of wine glasses and gymnasts curve around a suspended hoop. Doses of entertainment are scattered throughout the evening and the kitchen itself offers a spectacle as shutters open and shut between performances.
Service is slick and the music is most Shazamable – from the smooth tones of Elvis to the chilled vibes of Sting. Though these are classics you should already know. Of course, there are more commercialised aspects to the entertainment to appeal to the mass market, such as cheerleaderesque dance routines. These creep into but do not take away from an otherwise tasteful evening. Refreshingly, male acts are offered in equal measure to female acts. During dessert, we enjoy a tongue-in-cheek performance by a suspender-clad charmer who had ladies swooning with his hat trickery and dance moves.
An elegant Pan-Asian dinner courtesy of revered chef, Andrew Lassetter accompanies the show – Just make sure you factor in the entertainment before you gawk at the bill. We talk to Owner and Director, Adam Davies about the story behind his innovative restaurant.
Tell us about Circus. What inspired you to open up a cabaret restaurant?
The initial inspiration came from a restaurant that our family visit in Phuket, Thailand (called Ka Jok See). The restaurant is nothing like Circus in terms of entertainment, style or décor. However, we admired the way that the restaurant hosted live entertainment (namely ladyboy drag artists!) which seamlessly shifted the entire atmosphere of the restaurant after guests dined in the venue, creating an electric party atmosphere, with guests young and old dancing the night away on table tops.
What would you consider has been the key ingredient to Circus’ success?
We believe it’s the fine balance of great food combined with unique entertainment, with neither aspect being compromised in terms of quality for the other.
What is a popular misconception about running a restaurant?
That the main ‘work’ happens between opening hours. The planning, problem solving, mechanics and logistics of operating a venue are non-stop, 24/7.
How do you select what makes the menu?
Our Executive Chef Andrew Lassetter creates our menu combining traditional Asian styles and progressive flavours and techniques. We try to be bold and interesting, whilst also pleasing those less adventurous customers. We operate multiple tastings prior to dishes being launched on the menu, and keep a close eye on what sells, plus utilise valuable customer feedback.
Experience restaurants can often verge on tacky under the wrong direction. Is it a challenge fighting this stereotype of the circus concept?
Very! We try not to take ourselves too seriously. However, we are very serious about controlling all aspects of the evening to create an amazing experience. We want to make guests smile and laugh and have a great time whilst they are here. We don’t allow hen or stag parties, large single sex groups or fancy dress and this helps maintain the welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Customers often have pre-conceptions about what to expect, which can be very challenging…For example, some expect a full 90 minute Cirque du Soleil show whilst dining, which is logistically and financially impossible!
What advice do you have for young people starting out in the restaurant industry?
Ensure you have a well-researched idea that you are passionate about, with a strong vision. Saying that, be prepared to be flexible and adapt.
Where do you enjoy dining out in London?
Variety is key and there are so many interesting venues in London, it would be rude to have favourites.
Lastly, what does the future hold in store for Circus? Do you foresee further branches around town?
Expansion overseas for sure. Global domination perhaps!