Circus: Playing with Diners 1.5*

I enjoy entertainment while dining so I visited another of London’s “supperclubs” with optimism.  Circus, near Covent Garden, was greatly hyped so my expectations were tempered and I wasn’t terribly surprised by the gaping chasm between publicity and reality at this venue.

As a small group we confirmed beforehand that the restaurant could handle a table of eight and that they were happy to run a separate drinks tabs to accommodate those who chose not to imbibe.

A black doorway and hallway lined with smoked mirrors lead diners in to the white bunker like restaurant.   Hard surfaces abound; square cement pillars, bare walls, and awkward furniture.  They’ve divided the area in to three spaces with very little sense of separation other than the tables changed.  The bar area has round tables with tulip-style chairs and plastic ceiling globes and the lounge is low banquettes with stripper poles.  The tables and chairs in the dining area were bulky and uncomfortable and two out of three tables were actually wonky. One guest described looking down the tables as similar to looking out to sea.  The acoustics in the room were unpleasant at best. The low ceiling and hard surfaces made it incredibly difficult to hold any kind of conversation yet speaking to diners at the “stage table” I found we got off easy as the spacing there made it all but impossible.

The room is dominated by a giant stone table that serves as the stage.  The performers were acrobats – the ceiling is slightly raised here by an atrium roof – who appeared once an hour for five minutes.  Though the artists themselves were talented the performances were so brief and so few that it hardly qualified as an experience – truly I have had far more entertaining dinner guests!

Service was poor, clumsy and unprofessional.  Staff needed to be waved down for drink orders and deliveries.  The server who finally took our order was confused and unfamiliar with the menu.  Needless to say the promise of a separate drinks bill was far beyond the capabilities of this house.   Different members of staff floated back and forth haphazardly with no knowledge of our table, our orders and consequently there was no flow or consistency to the service.

The food was second-rate at best. The crispy baby squid (7.50) starter was by far the best item with a simple but pleasantly spicy sweet chilli dressing.  My neighbour tried the pulled pork quesadilla (7.50) which was soggy and flavourless.   My main, the Churrasco sirloin steak (20.50), requested rare but served well done was dull and dry. Odder still my neighbour ordered the Spatchcock “boneless” chicken (18.50) and was served chicken on the bone!  If  we’d had a dedicated server or if the staff had seemed remotely au-fait with service we would perhaps have returned or enquired after the state of these dishes but given the almost insurmountable challenge of getting a pitcher of water or bottle of wine we chose to simply accept this mediocre meal.

The co-ed bathrooms lack the fun, imagination and style of Sketch. In fact, one of the hole-in-the-wall hand dryers had loose wires hanging out of it which showed an unforgivable lack of housekeeping.

The evening ended simply with diners leaving. There was no party atmosphere despite the hype and that this was a Thursday night in the smoke.  Drop in for a drink – nice cocktail glasses – and try to catch a quick show but give dinner a miss.

Circuses during the depression era were known for charlatans, pretenders and snake oil salesmen ready to take hard-earned cash for little in return. It appears the Circus is back in town.

Venue: 2/5
Service: 1/5
Food: 2/5
Value for Money: 1/5


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