Every year I'm on the lookout for something fun to do in December for my son's birthday. Last year's treat was the 'Back to the Future Musical', which we had to postpone as he caught Covid, but was worth the wait; I enjoyed it a lot more than I'd anticipated. Anyway, this year I think that I've booked something that we're all going to enjoy from ages 29 through to 94, and that's the Faulty Towers Christmas dining experience.
I'm sure that we're all familiar with the 1970s sitcom, 'Fawlty Towers' which this experience takes it's inspiration from. Its characters are household names; the reluctant and irascible hotelier Basil, hapless Manuel the waiter, shrewish Sybil, competent Polly the waitress/chambermaid/receptionist, drunken chef Terry and the array of guests who came through the doors over the course of the 12 episodes.
You may not be so familiar with the fact that Basil was based on a real person, who ran a hotel where the Pythons stayed at one point. Donald Sinclair would rather have stayed in the navy than helped run his wife's hotels, and it showed. He came to an untimely end in 1981, aged 72, reportedly from a stroke and heart attack after some workmen he'd upset painted his patio furniture and car gunmetal grey during the night. One can only hazard a guess at what the provocation actually constituted!
It's pretty amazing to think that this immersive experience is now in it's 25th year, with the London residency extended until December 2023. The show also has further expansion plans in the UK, with a new residency in another major UK city to be announced next month.
Devised by Alison Pollard-Mansergh, Andrew Foreman and others, the show has been touring the UK and internationally since 2008, having appeared in 41 countries to date, and employing 56 actors per season. The show has just celebrated its tenth year in London, cementing its status as London’s longest running immersive experience. It is a tribute to the original, not a re-creation, and uses all it's own scripts.
We know that we'll become part of the show as we enjoy our 1970s style food in the Faulty Towers restaurant as 70% of the show is improvised. What should we expect? Jokes, shambolic service, mayhem! We just need to remember not to mention the war!
The President Hotel has just launched a Sunday menu as part of the show:
Broccoli super green Soup, served with courgette fritters
Roasted lemon and oregano half Chicken or butternut squash and lentil Wellington, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding
Vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake, served with chocolate sauce or chocolate and coconut Tart, with forest berries.
As we have been invited to attend the experience on 11th December we'll get to try the festive menu (available from 1 – 18 December):
Roasted butternut squash soup,
Turkey crown or butternut squash and lentil Wellington with a mushroom, shallot, and sage stuffing, oven roasted rosemary potatoes and root vegetables, served with gravy,
White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, served with a blueberry coulis or chocolate and orange brownie cake, served with chocolate sauce.
Tickets Prices vary depending on the sitting booked with a reduction for groups of ten, the over 60s and children. These include the cost of the show and the meal, drinks are paid for separately and can be pre-ordered on the website.
Venue: The President Hotel 56-60 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DB
Nearest tube: Russell Square, it's also walkable from Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, King's Cross and St Pancras.