REVIEW: The Jewel of the Empire (immersive theatre dining experience) ★★
The Jewel of the Empire, is an immersive theatre dining experience, set on board a train carriage of the specially constructed station. The year is 1937, the height of the British Empire, and Britain’s most famous archeologist, Dr. Errol Earhart, has unearthed the world’s most valuable diamond, the Jewel of the Empire, which is being transported to the Von Cleethorpes estate via the Murdér Express. It’s not long before the diamond is missing, bodies are beginning to pile up and the clock is ticking to catch a killer and recover the Jewel of the Empire.
This is a brand new murder mystery with a menu designed by Masterchef The Professionals 2018 winner, Laurence Henry. There have been a few of these dining experiences popular in London of late and this is a slightly different take, based around the fictional Pedley Street Station which is found in the arches a short walk from Whitechapel. The set is impressive, you really feel as if you have walked onto a platform, clutching your ticket, you walk through to see the train carriage sitting on the platform, the platform bar open and a number of period features which set the scene beautifully; from the clocks, the piles of leather suitcases to various mechanical implements of the world of the locomotive. Characters mill about and we are invited to climb aboard the train and take our seats for the journey and the dinner.
Service is attentive, although a little confusing, as we seem to have bought drinks for our table but no cocktails for now, and wine arrives at the start of the show but no glasses until after the initial scenes play out. The sittings are relatively intimate though (this is first of two each evening at 6pm and 8:30pm) and we are well looked after with any issues quickly resolved.
The carriage is again really well fitted out with a rather clever means of showing the journey through the windows. The food arrives swiftly and each course is interspersed with theatrical action. Both are mixed bags – the food is fairly good, basic although somehow quite frilly, starting with an unusual gelatinous tomato amuse bouche followed by velouté and chicken terrine which feels more wedding breakfast than masterchef professional fare. The dessert was the highlight, a strawberry and white chocolate jewel, which is a frozen mousse crowned by a solid white chocolate diamond. Similarly, the murder mystery play element is good fun if quite disjointed, there are some interesting characters who look the part but the story is very weak and the acting is patchy with some questionable accents and a few stumbled lines from Dr. Earhart. Vera Valentine, whose family once owned the diamond, is the absolute highlight, adding some camp charm and driving the story forward throughout.
Overall this is an entertaining evening – the setting is very well done and the sitting is not oversold, there is space and service is decent. It was unclear how accessible the station and carriage would be given the seating and toilets were up steps so this is something to check before booking. Whilst this is not Michelin standard food, the food is tasty and well thought out, although portions are very small, we had to get a snack later in the evening! With a hefty pricetag of £60 (it loses half a star for sheer cost), it is expensive compared to similar shows of this type, the show is short and the theatre element itself feels rushed and does not match up with quality of the setting, lacking narrative structure and with mixed performances. It is fun but perhaps a little style over substance, with not quite enough theatrical or culinary bang for your buck.
Reviewed by Ana von Dienstag
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA