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Test Driving Park Row - Gotham City and Batman come to London

roomA penguin in a top hat (have a guess what comic that's based on) takes pride of place in the Iceberg Lounge

What can you tell us about Park Row?

It's the huge new restaurant in Soho that is inspired (officially) by DC Comics. But you may well have heard it referred to as "The Batman restaurant". Essentially, it's a massive subterranean space (where the Soho MASH steak restaurant used to be) which takes elements of various Batman stories as its theme. 

Where is it?

On Brewer Street - about five minutes from Piccdilly Circus station and almost directly opposite the new El Pastor in Soho. 

roomHidden away at the back, Old Gotham City

How does the DC Comics theme play out in reality?

There's an emphasis on a subtle hint at the inspiration as opposed to smacking you on the head with it. It's probably best to refer to it as a Gotham City restaurant, as that theme is a little more to the fore.  

An example of that is the central area which is the Iceberg Lounge. That's the main dining area and bar and is based on The Penguin's club in the comics. The ice penguin with a top hat that's in the centre of the bar (and indeed the name of the bar itself) is probably one of the most overt references to the comics/films in the main part of the restaurant.

There are more little touches throughout - but we do worry that they might have gone a little too far by trying to steer away from a traditional themed restaurant. Honestly, a few bat symbols here and there (like in the food), and a few stronger references throughout would do wonders. It seems likely that it's a licensing restriction, though.

roomThis is Pennyworth's - it's the first bar you see as you come downstairs.

How is the restaurant split up?

First off, you'll have to head down two storeys (after you've passed through a secret door hidden in a bookcase - a hint to the Batcave entrance) - which leads you into the main event. Here you'll find Pennyworth's - a small bar area inside the front door, named after Wayne's trusty butler (you'll also find a big golden map of Gotham City). 

After this, the room opens up dramatically (you'll know if you ever visited MASH - it is BIG). In the middle is the Iceberg Lounge, while off to the left is Rogues Gallery (filled with replicas of "stolen" artworks). At the back is Old Gotham City, a dark-hued bar that's also getting an area that will be overflowing with plants (that'll open later when it's looking more lush - they're not making the same mistake as the Marble Arch mound). 

And finally, there's The Monarch Theatre - we'll get back to that in a bit. 

Can we expect any special turns from the main restaurant?

There are certainly some nice touches throughout. They include a nitro ice cream bar and live entertainment in the Iceberg lounge (from a stage that looks like a birdcage, of course). In the Rogues Gallery there's a floating molecule cocktail offering (that one still needed perfecting on our visit), while another cocktail is poured from literally inside a painting. Here are a couple of examples:

roomOne of the gadgets on display. Place a glass on the left side and the arm drops down to deliver the perfectly measured glass of whisky. It's mesmerising. 

roomBased on a fleeting appearance in the Batman 1989 movie, this cocktail is actually poured from the painting, the blue colour draining from it as the liquid is poured into the glass. 

And the food?

While we didn't try anything in the main restaurant, you can expect upmarket brasserie-style food. That includes a fruit-de-mers platter, truffle-glazed whole chicken, spider-crab omelette, croquettes with lobster and caviar and more. Starters are in the £10-15 range, mains around £25-40. 

What about The Monarch Theatre?

The Monarch Theatre is a whole other thing altogether. It's essentially a shared private dining experience (i.e. you can book a space in the private room) that's hidden away from the main room. Here's where a lot of Park Row's special effects start coming out. 

Things start simply as you try some nitro popcorn (eat it and you'll be breathing out smoke) before you're taken into the main dining room. That's a long table, seating around 20, which is enveloped by a back-projected wall that surrounds the entire table and shifts, changes and animates throughout the entire meal.  

Inside here, the DC Comics theme is amped up quite a bit. Each of the 11 courses has a different theme (each with one or several animating backdrops) that's based around either Batman himself, one of the rogue's gallery of villains or indeed some of DC's big-hitter superheroes. 

And it's not just the backdrop that changes, there are a few extra things that the table itself does (including, apparently, floating plates that were alas not yet in action on our visit). 

Here's a taste of what to expect - we don't want to give away too many surprises:

roomHere's how the Monarch Theatre looks. That backdrop surrounds the room and changes throughout...

roomThe background changes with each course, often quite dramatically. 

roomThe food is all themed around Batman villains, Batman himself or other superheroes. This parfait made to look like a mushroom was excellent. 

roomThis, meanwhile, is a gazpacho made to look like a cocktail. 

roomWhile you can find dishes hidden within the foliage for another palate cleanser course. 

Throughout all this, you're given both information on the dishes themselves as well as a little background on the characters they're based on. While we think this delivery could have been done with a touch more light-heartedness, you'll get the most out of this if you're willing to let yourself get into the spirit of things. We visited with a room full of journalists and as you can imagine, it was a somewhat cynical bunch. 

And what does all that cost?

It does not come cheap - it's £195 per person - but it should be noted that this includes a great wine pairing with every course (and chocolates to take home after). Once you take all that into account - not to mention a dining experience like no other, it's easy to see where that money goes. 

Overall thoughts

There really is nothing quite like Park Row in London at the moment.

The main room has been given a massive makeover, and we've heard some good things about the food on offer there too. We do think they maybe need to let loose more on the DC Comics theming throughout, though (and DC owners Warner Bros should really be encouraging this).

As for The Monarch Theatre, that's an immersive experience like no other in town. We visited on the very first night it was in action and there's great promise there, with some really interesting dishes. It has real potential - now we need to see if it can attract DC fans and non-fans alike... 

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Park Row. Prices are correct at the time of writing. 

@hotdinners

Get a first look inside Park Row, the new Batman/ DC Comics themed restaurant in Soho, London ##batman ##londonfood ##parkrow ##london

♬ Birth of a Penguin (Pt. II) - Batman Returns Soundtrack/Danny Elfman

 

More about Park Row

Where is it? 77 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9ZN

Find out more: Visit their website and follow them on Instagram @parkrowlondon

 

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