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A Night of Vaudevillian Pleasure

Oscar Foulkes May 30, 2010 Tags: Restaurants No comments

Before Vaudeville opened, one of the management team was doing a quick mental calculation of the number of people involved in making each evening’s performance happen. I seem to recall a tally in the vicinity of 60 or 70, covering everything from performers to kitchen staff and waiters.

As I have so indulgently reported, my focus has been on the food, which is necessary, because that’s our area of responsibility. However, I’ve never got around to experiencing Vaudeville as a guest, an omission I finally rectified two nights ago.

Over the months I’ve got to know the soundtrack, mostly because of the musical cues, and have become quite Pavlovian in my response to the track that signals five minutes to main course service, but there is a huge difference between a stark stainless steel kitchen and the plush, cocooned escape of the theatre area.

I loved every minute of the experience. It was fabulous; far better than I could have imagined from my post in the kitchen (the food was good, too!). Monsieur Albert, the host, was wonderfully entertaining, and really good in the way that he held together a succession of extraordinary performers.

The show girls offered plenty of eye candy, which makes me think that I’ve spent all my time in the wrong part of the backstage area!

I thought it would be funny, hilarious actually, to make a ridiculous enquiry of our waiter (obviously in on the joke, because I wasn’t exactly incognito) for a main course suitable for a garlic and mushroom allergic vegan who doesn’t eat rice (the vegetarian main course is a mushroom risotto that contains not only cheese, but garlic as well). The Dish head chef, Arno, was running the kitchen, and it was intended as a harmless tease. However, by the time word got back to the kitchen, Arno had already rolled out gnocchi that he’d made on-the-fly.

My main course was delivered with a side order of cold, burnt sausage roll, which continued the culinary banter. Then, to my amazement and enormous admiration, the kitchen also sent out a beautiful (looking and tasting) plate of gnocchi with pea puree, butternut puree and marinated ribbons of courgette. I know how many expletives Arno must have muttered under his breath, or perhaps even more loudly Gordon Ramsay-style, but he nevertheless pulled an amazing meal together. I’m in awe of what he did in the midst of all else that was happening in the kitchen. Respect!

I’m not attempting to deflect attention from the food, so that there is less pressure on us to put delicious food on guests’ plates, but the point of Vaudeville is the show. As I sat there, soaking up the amazing experience, I was struck by the cumulative effort on the part of the performers. They put so much of themselves into every night’s performance that one cannot fail to be swept away.

That observation also left me feeling more than a little guilty about our somewhat self-important attention to the food, which is such a tiny part of the night’s human effort. Relative to the phenomenal feats of trapeze, balance, strength and more, a couple of hundred grams of roast lamb is really quite insignificant.

Arno’s vegan-friendly meal, on the other hand, was on a par with any acrobatic feat performed on (or above) the stage. The difference, of course, is that there are diners who would have sent the impromptu vegan meal back to the kitchen for a variety of reasons related to personal taste.

Vaudeville represents a huge investment of capital on the part of its shareholders, matched by a great deal of skill and passion on the part of the all the people who make the evening happen. It was wonderful, if only for one night, to be on the receiving end of it.

Well done guys, and gals!

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