Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

My month in food

Stephanie Brookes, BBC Radio London food expert, offers her pick of an eating establishment for this month, choosing something a little different, Circus London in Covent Garden. As the nights draw in and the hurtle towards the festive season inevitably approaches, a sudden change to more nocturnal dining experiences open up around the capital. Just a few of the recent invites to arrive in my inbox include late-night cocktail evenings, intimate supper clubs and cosy fireside dinners, but none are more enticing than an invite to a night at Circus!

An evening of glittering cabaret is always an exciting prospect, especially on these cooler, autumnal evenings and a little escapism brightens up the mid-week no end.

Food and entertainment have always worked well together: when it’s ‘done’ right, that is.

I believe you either have to know beforehand what the evening will entail, or the entertainment has to be unobtrusive enough that it blends seamlessly into the evening’s feasting. There is no doubt, however, as to what to expect when making a reservation at Circus in London’s Covent Garden. It’s a kaleidoscope of cabaret, dancing and theatre, with something new to entertain guests every night.

Entering the venue, the long, imposing runway (made of quartz, no less) literally takes centre stage and is the focal point for the evening’s entertainment; a glamorous magician circles the room, performing card tricks to delighted guests as they sip on Champagne: it’s not the average Wednesday night dinner crowd, that’s for sure. Arriving at our table, a cocktail menu instantly greets us and a tipple (or two) is a must to start the evening in style. I can recommend the sweet, refreshing Sakura, made with a mix of vodka, cherry liqueur, lychee juice and elderflower cordial.
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Korean BBQ Baby Chicken - Photo copyright: Circus
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The Pan-Asian menu, devised by executive chef, Andrew Lassetter, is designed for sharing and no dish was more highly anticipated than the Lobster Tempura. In fact, this dish was the one I noticed more tables requesting than any other – always a good sign. The sweet lobster meat, encased by an evenly golden, crispy batter was promptly smothered in the accompanying truffle-rich aioli. However, the lemon ponzu was the favourite sauce of the two offered for its bright, zesty notes which perfectly complemented the lobster, while never overpowering its natural flavour. The tempura was presented in the lobster’s vibrant red shell filled to the brim with soft, sticky rice – great for dipping in the accompanying sauces.

As we finished the dish, the lights gently dimmed as the first act took to the stage. It’s quite something to behold to be suddenly presented with a professional fire-breather before your very eyes. The performances last around five minutes in duration and before you know it the lights are up and service commences once again. The whole operation moves slickly as the runway is cleared and servers bring out drinks and the dishes.

A main course of Korean BBQ Baby Chicken, bok choi, goma dressing and pickled ginger was a deliciously sticky, sweet and moreish entrée: the generous spicy marinade covered every part of the crispy chicken skin. If you prefer dishes on the less fiery side, the chicken also has a cooling addition courtesy of the creamy goma dressing which had a deliciously herbal kick thanks to the aromatic note of coriander.
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My suggestion would be to order a side portion of sticky rice so none of the sauces go to waste.

I spent most of the time trying to work out the exact ingredients, as I always think I will somehow replicate the dish at home (I never do, of course). Just as the lights dimmed again, I had luckily mastered the art of the surreptitious mouthful while clapping the latest act.
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Lobster Tempura - Photo copyright: Circus
When it came to the final instalment of the evening – dessert – it had its very own little show, as the server gently poured a molten sauce atop a perfectly crisp chocolate shell. The passion fruit sauce instantly melts the creamy white chocolate, revealing a soft mound of the lightest yuzu mousse and sticky, caramelised pineapple. Eat with abandon before it turns into passion fruit soup. Or simply slurp from the bowl, just as the lights start to dim – no one would even notice.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the food would take second place to the night’s performances. It’s pleasantly surprising to find that the food is excellent, even though at times you feel a small table lamp wouldn’t be amiss.

I think the restaurant could stand alone without the theatrics, yet its unabashed commitment to combining food with entertainment is all part of its charm. I can see how you could easily get swept away by all the fun of the Circus...
essence info
Circus London
27–29 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9BA
Telephone: 020 7420 9300