6:45 pm. Friday night. 5-7 Rivington Street. Diners Union. We had been promised 'a Halloween extravaganza of epic proportions'.
A marquee on Rivington Street, with antique, out-of-use buses filling some of the empty space, and a gazebo next to this enormous sign making the entrance. Thankfully, there was no subtlety or sense of hidden exclusivity about this pop-up: the fun was there for all to see and enjoy.
We survived the trip past the bouncers and into the marquee where waitresses dressed as dead cheerleaders wait to greet you. As one friend pointed out, what is this Halloween obsession with just putting 'dead' in front of anything and thereby making it scary? Since when was a dead cheerleader an acceptable and recognised Halloween outfit? Anyway, I didn't let that get to me.
£15 pound in cash paid. Plus £3.50 corkage. For this we received a tray with some foil on top and a plastic glass. It was clear this wasn't going to be quite the Michelin star-esque banquet we had pictured (and they had hinted to on their site). I didn't let that get to me.
We sat down at one of the long trestle tables, leaving adequate space between us and the other diners so that our friends running typically late could fit in. A dead cheerleader (who ended up haunting us all evening) came over in a matter of seconds and asked us to move up. We explained our situation, but she convinced us to snuggle up nevertheless. The fact that one fifth of the seats were taken and there wasn't a queue the whole way along Rivington Street to get in was muttered as she left, but not spoken aloud to her face. Lack of courage on our part. We'll grow up one day.
The others soon arrived and we queued up canteen-style to have our food placed on our trays. As we all met at college, we discussed the memories of queueing for lunch and dinner together everyday for 3 years that this experience brought back from the dead. We tried not to let the lack of service get to us. After all, for £15 what could we really have been expecting?
Eventually all '5 courses' filled my tray, along with some paper bags (the point of this take-away option became clear later) and we were allowed/ordered by a dead cheerleader to move along and go back to our allotted bench. Like good little school children, we obeyed.
The devilled fingers and chicken wings that were the veggie/meat starters were both delicious, and suitably fitted the Halloween theme. The mac 'n' cheese was cold. I do understand that without an oven it's hard to make things warm. But a brush with a blowtorch did seem like a token effort.
Things got better when we dug into the pulled pork, homemade brioche, pickles and slaw/mushroom, jalapeno and montgomery jack cheeseburger, homemade brioche, pickles slaw (although I think they may have forgotten the pickles on my veggie - maybe a blessing in disguise for many). The bun was bouncy and sweet, both fillings flavoursome and rich. We couldn't have asked for much more. The home fries, however, had morphed into a cold backed potato with a splodge of garlic. The garlic was delicious. The rest of the potato (free of crinkled, wrinkly delicious skin), underwhelming.
But the chocolate pumpkin brownie with sunflower seeds was sublime. Honestly the best brownie I've had in a while. Added to the never-ending 'to-bake' list.
We had devoured brownies, and we're just pouring a second glass of wine when the same dead cheerleader came over to tell us that we had to leave in ten minutes as our seats were needed. No sorry, no excuse me, no please, no subtle way of explaining the set-up. This time, we did let it get to us. There were still empty seats. There was still no queue along the whole street. And we were forced out on to the streets. I wouldn't normally have a problem with this, and, working in a restaurant myself, totally understand the need to turn tables as often as possible. But there is a certain way of going about it that this dead cheerleader had failed to master.
L did express her sentiments (taking on a much more grown-up role than the rest of us), to he who is in charge, on the way out. He explained it much more gentlemanly. If only he had replaced the multiple not-quite-dead-enough cheerleaders.
We headed to the Carpenter's arms on Cheshire Street, where we sought good drinks, good service, and a space where we weren't going to be asked to leave because there might be someone coming to take our seat in half an hour and they had the oh so tricky process of putting a foil sheet in the bin before they arrived.
So, a Friday night that was amazingly cheap, in a great setting and full of good ideas. But also held lots of disappointments. Can't help thinking that if it hadn't been for the dead cheerleaders, our view of the evening would have been much more positive.
Highlight: Pumpkin brownies
Lowlight: Service (as well as the lack of promised of pumpkin carving, zombie face painting and Thriller on repeat).
a food journal
a food journal