Our very first was Tatties and The Wedding Singer. Later came Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Finding Nemo, Lord of the Rings, every Harry Potter. Dinner and a movie has been part of our date vocabulary forever. The food has sometimes been bad, but chains like Wagamama, Busaba Eathai and Byron Burgers have ameliorated that. More often it has been rushed.
So when I heard about a new venture, allowing you to eat good food in the cinema, I was interested. As it combines Rowley Leigh’s Bayswater restaurant, Le Cafe Anglais, with the Odeon cinema at the other end of Whiteleys shopping centre, I knew we had to try it.
The concept is pretty simple (and they do like to call it a concept). They have converted several screens into luxury cinemas, with wide aisles, reclining leather armchairs, and digital projectors. Outside is a bar and lounge area, where you can order food and drinks from a specially designed menu. The clever part is that you can also order from this same menu once inside the cinema, by pressing an airline-style call button in the arm of your chair. The menu has been designed in ‘finger’ and ‘fork’ sections, so there’s no need for a lap tray or knife and fork.
We ordered drinks in the bar, and attempted to order food before being told that if we ordered in the bar, it would arrive there. If we wanted food served in the cinema, we should wait and order inside. This we did, and after having the ‘concept’ explained, and playing with the chairs a bit, we ordered a porchetta sandwich with fennel and apple, a side of chips, a venison chilli, and a lemon tart for afters.
These arrived towards the end of the trailers, and were very good. The porchetta sandwich was savoury, and came with a strip of crisp crackling, though the salty pork and mayonnaise rather drowned out any fennel and apple. Some crisp cabbage might have improved it. The chips were crisp and brown and the venison chilli was pronounced good, but rich. The lemon tart was smooth and delicious, though the firm shortbread base made it hard to tackle quietly, and it came with yet more crispy bits – shreds of lemon peel.
All of this is obviously not cheap. A cinema ticket is £18, whilst menu items range from £7.50 for penne with broccoli to £14.50 for the ‘Royale’ – a beef fillet in a bun. We paid £45 in all, including £10 for drinks.
However, when compared with the real competition, it’s not at all bad either. Le Cafe Anglais is a very fine restaurant, and the two-course set menu is £20 per head. The Electric Cinema, just up the road in Notting Hill, has leather chairs as well, and a bar at the back, and charges £15 per ticket (or £32 for a two seater sofa). Vue have ‘luxury’ cinema options as well: Scene, with its own bar, comes in at £17.15 at Westfield.
There are niggles. My porchetta was somewhat over-salted. Deep-fried tortilla bowls, crisp chips and firm shortbread bases for tarts all seem foolish things to serve in a cinema where they will crunch, or you will need to use implements to tackle them. They don’t quite have the service worked out yet – it should really be possible to transfer your drinks tab to your seat in the cinema, instead of settling up twice.
But anywhere that offers huge, reclining seats, good food, and the luxury of taking your time to eat it, gets my vote as a date destination.