Proud Kitchen would be a fun night out for a group of friends. Plonk yourselves down on one of the dining benches, marvel at the acrobats dangling from the ceiling, watch someone take off their clothes, sink a couple of beers and enjoy some good, hot food. Then, of course, get free entry to Proud Nightclub (normally £10 to get in) and dance the night away.
This venue is another great addition to the Proud Camden stable. From the flowers and little candles on the tabletops, to the bizarre handles on the walls – which you understand as the night wears on and acrobats climb and jump and suspend themselves from all sorts of places – and the wooden beams, this place already has the feeling of being well-loved. And there’s every indication that it will continue to be so.
The idea to make an evening of burlesque was inspired. There’s plenty to be said about burlesque. It can be exciting, titillating, intense, alluring. And it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser. The burlesque at Proud Kitchen is a self-confessedly and intentionally ‘light-hearted’ take on the art form. It seemed almost cartoon-like with plenty of exaggerated expressions and giggles. One performer in particular seemed like a tattooed Betty Boop. The alternating looks of comic surprise and shock on the faces of the performers, however, although part of the act, did occasionally give the impression that they were more amazed at standing in front of a room full of people in only knickers and nipple tassels than the audience were.
Unfortunately, on that particular evening – their launch – there was more suspense in the seating arrangements than there was in the performances. We were moved once, our neighbours on either side of us were moved three times, and at least two couples were put on another table. However, we were happy to put the disorganisation (and haphazard delivery of the food with waiters desperately trying to make themselves heard above the music) down to first-night hiccups.
But the food was a little disappointing and that was harder to overlook. This didn’t seem to be a general state of affairs though. The dishes that arrived for our fellow diners looked great and the silent nodding as they munched conveyed approval. The fish and chips seemed to be a real winner. It was just our chilli con carne that was a culinary frown. Not only was it a ridiculously tiny portion of a dish that should be meaty, wholesome and hearty (and the three lonely tortilla chips just added insult to injury), but there was more spice than food. It was beautifully presented – as were the other dishes, the pie in particular looked like a fantastically edible leaning tower of Pisa – but chilli should not be arty.
On the other hand, they have a good selection of booze behind the bar. And the house wine is surprisingly drinkable.
We really should have allowed the performers to act as a first-night-sleight-of-hand and kept our attention on them (because they’re really rather good and it’s a unique experience to see upside-down people out of the corner of your eye as you dine), rather than noticing the slight stumbling of service which can only get better on, say, the second night. And with Proud Kitchen running burlesque every week from Wednesday to Friday, there’s every chance that this is quickly going to become a really great night out. So bring friends eager for booze and boobs, and maybe order the fish and chips.
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