The rise of the alt-night in London – where to go for an evening out with a difference

By Roxana Shirazi
October 23 2019, 15.35

Sitting on a chair around a table with your friends or family eating food in a restaurant? Oh so passé. Watching a film on a big screen in the dark with other people? That’s so ‘90s. Drinking in a bar with your mates after work? Save it grandma.

Elton John once sang: ‘Saturday night’s alright for fighting.’ Well, now Saturday night is all about dining naked in a nude restaurant or watching a movie on a big screen from inside a hot tub with other cinema goers, who might also choose a ‘pillow cinema’ to watch films from a bean bag with pillows.

There might be dinner in a pitch black restaurant with blind waiters or a cabaret where the act is a man dressed as Hitler singing Frank Sinatra songs. No one does dinner and a movie passively anymore.  

Bunyadi – Naked dining

Hence why there were 46,000 booking requests for the naked dining restaurant Bunyadi near Elephant and Castle even before it opened its doors in June 2016.

A candlelit-only space where gas, electricity and fire are banned as well as guests’ devices, Bunyadi is raw in essence and ambience. Bamboo and wicker partitions curve around diners’ spaces for discretion and dinner is served on clay plates with edible cutlery.  Nudity is optional and you can slip into a big white fluffy robe as you dine. Vegan and non-vegan meals including feta and watermelon salad, seabass, salmon sashimi and desserts such as fig and chocolate mousse have all been made without the use of fire, gas or electricity. It’s organic, naked food, naked diners and waiters by candle-light.

Bunyadi’s founder Seb Lyall is the CEO of the Lollipop Group, established in 2015, which runs ‘highly interactive’ bars and restaurants including the Bletchley restaurant in Chelsea, inspired by Alan Turing, a subterranean bar styled to resemble Britain’s wartime code-breaking headquarters.

Upon entering Bunyadi diners are taken into a dressing room where they change into a gown which can be worn or taken off during dinner and must leave their phones in a locker.

And the reviews from diners have been outstanding. Karen, 32, from Wimbledon wrote on Bunyadi’s Facebook page: “With the ban of devices I definitely felt more engaged with my company and waiter. It made dining out a much more bonding experience and it was so good now to have to worry about what to wear on a night out.”

James Hayes, 28, from Twickenham said: “I love how the bamboo screens kept it discreet, and how it was such a relaxed atmosphere without the craziness of mobile phones and loud music and big lights. It definitely made me appreciate the food more.”

Naked restaurant Bunyadi is in hibernation right now and will be back shortly, but you can find other interactive food and rink experiences at https://lollipopup.co.uk

Dans le Noir – Dining in Darkness

Over in Farringdon you can experience food in pitch black as Dans Le Noir restaurant not only gives you the sensory experience of dining in total darkness with blind waiters at your service, but it’s a social experiment where darkness frees inhibitions and pre-judgment of people and food.

Dans Le Noir’s blacked-out windows from the outside give it the mystique of the unexplored and illicit, intensified further when walking into its dimly lit reception where you are asked to hand in your mobile phone to put in the lockers. 

The menus are all a surprise: the red menu a meat one, the green one vegan and the blue menu a seafood one. Allergies are catered for in advance but you can’t tell them to exclude foods you just don’t like. Prices for a two course meal start at £48.

A blind waiter greets you as you line up to go in, and asks you to put your hand on the shoulder of the person in front. As you are guided to your seat, there’s not a hint of light – in the words of Dylan Thomas it is crow-black, starless and Bible-black, and you are blind as moles. There is no need for vanity, or the self-consciousness of how you look. The restaurant holds only sharing tables, which means that you start conversing and eating with people you don’t know.

The drinks are thankfully served in a tumbler, and cutlery is blunt. Eating food becomes a fun guessing game, a mish mash of unpredicted textures and flavours constantly surprising you. Dining in complete darkness, served and guided by visually impaired people (half of DLN’s employee have a disability), will make you discover all your other senses and completely lose your social inhibitions.

To book a meal at Dans Le Noir please go to their website  https://london.danslenoir.com/en/home/

Hot Tub Cinema

Hot Tub cinema first opened in London in July 2012 by Asher Charman in various locations according to seasons.

In the spring and summer months the cinema is at outdoors locations such as rooftops, courtyards, parks, and in the autumn and winter months at indoor locations such as old factories or abandoned train stations.

You watch a film on the big screen from a 40 degree bubbling hot tub which seats up to eight people.

A hot tub waiter will meet all your snack and drink demands. There are two screens. As for the outdoor locations in the summer, if it rains, at least you get wet in a sizzling hot tub!

Another alt-night, another changing room. As with the two previous nights out, there are locker rooms on the premises so you can lock up your belongings including your mobile phone.

Tickets are £22 per person or if you want to share a tub with just your friends it is £25 per person.

More information on Hot Tub Cinema and other cinemas with themes can be found on http://hottubcinema.com/

Frank Sanazi

Adolf Hitler might not immediately conjure up an evening of light entertainment and comedy but he has been utilized as a comedic apparatus since Chaplin made The Great Dictator in 1940 lampooning Hitler’s lunacy and ideology, his mannerisms and speech. Or Mel Brooks’ 1967 musical The Producers where Hitler and Nazism were the comedic premise of the film.

It’s tricky using humour to satirize historical evils but Frank Sanazi has been doing just that since 2001, as a man dressed as Hitler singing Frank Sinatra songs with alternative lyrics.

Frank Sanazi has sold 40,000 tickets since 2001, getting rave reviews across the globe, even performing in Israel where has a huge fan base. Quentin Tarantino is a fan.

A life-long fan of Sinatra as ‘charismatic performer’ and fond of the easy-listening nature of Rat Pack songs, 56-year-old performer Peter Cunningham started the act accidently.

He said: “I was reading a book on the Rat Pack and found that Dean Martin was a lovely guy as was Sammy Davis Junior, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford but Sinatra didn’t seem like a very nice man, especially with his connections to the mafia, and something just clicked with the lyrics… That’s Life/Third Reich; You Make me Feel So Young/You Make me Feel German.”

He has performed his act all over the world including Edinburgh festival, Israel, Germany and USA, and he says has had mostly positive reviews from audiences and critics.

“There has only been one or two incidents where I have had people walk out of the show, and last year at my packed out show at the 100 Club in London a protester who had contacted NBC and Fox News stood outside with placards,” he said.

“But over the years the reaction from people has been positive. On my website I even have a ‘love it/hate it’ page and 90 per cent click the ‘love’ option.

“I think because it’s parody and ironic that it touches on a side of comedy that seems to be missing at the moment which is this non-PC comedy that’s been missing over the years.

“When I play clubs like the 100 Club it normally sells out. The audiences are always a huge cross section of society who just like a bit of comedy which is a bit edgy!”

Frank Sanazi plays his ‘White Xmas 2019’ special at the 100 Club on December 11, with special guests. More information can be found at www.franksanazi.com

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