I’m a huge theatre fan, and I certainly can’t resist a Mackintosh/ Schönberg/Boublil collaboration. So when Brum Bloggers asked if I would like to attend an event at the Birmingham Hippodrome to sample their new Miss Saigon inspired summer menu, meet their head chef – oh, and see the show too – I jumped at the chance. Here’s my review of the evening – with a theatrical theme of course…
The Curtain Goes Up
We’re ushered into the Birmingham Hippodrome’s bright and airy atrium for a welcome reception, and the chance to mingle with fellow Brum Bloggers. We are greeted with the Miss Saigon inspired “Sun and Moon” cocktail, a moreish peach concoction, and we all wander round clutching our programmes, bottle-opener keyring (I’m a sucker for a bottle-opener keyring) and envelopes containing our show tickets, whilst trying to juggle phones and cameras (essential blogger kit).
Our hosts for the evening start wheeling out the canapes. I’m slow on the uptake on the photo front, but there is a constant stream of trays coming out and I’m able to finally get a snap of our first course. Perfect finger food to soak up the cocktail, and the goats cheese and caramelized onion combination gets a particular thumbs up from me.
Acts I & II
We’ve exhausted the canape selection, and we are shepherded upstairs to the theatre’s Circle Restaurant. Despite seeing many shows at the Birmingham Hippodrome over the years, I’ve never eaten at the restaurant, so I’m excited to sample their menu. For the summer shows which tend to run for a month for a more, unique menus are created, inspired by the show. In this case, there are strong oriental influences, and head chef Melissa Meens explains that it’s an exciting opportunity for her to research culinary trends in other countries and recreate them in order to give a full immersive experience to the theatre-goer.
Both courses are made up of small plates, a great idea which allows us to sample items that we may not opt for a full portion of. Our wine glasses are topped up, and our food is served:
It’s hard to pick a stand-out dish as everything tasted amazing. The delicate Vietnamese Prawn Summer Roll was a twist on the usual stodgier spring roll and was delicious dipped in the subtle sweet chilli sauce. And for the main course, each mouthful – be it of melt-in-your-mouth duck, delicious pork tenderloin, or flavoursome fillet of coley – was a joyful experience. And that yellow curried lentil scotch egg? I wasn’t sure, and rolled it around my plate a little, but when I did finally sample it…oh my word. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I’m now drooling just thinking about it. Book now, just for that scotch egg alone.
Did you know that if you reserve a table for a pre-show dinner in the Circle Restaurant then you can also return to the table during the interval for drinks, coffee or dessert? No battling with a queue at the bar!
After an emotional first half, it’s time to take a breather and sample the sweet treats for the final part of our Miss Saigon menu. Like an unruly bunch of children on a school outing it takes a while to get us all together but eventually we all congregate in the Gowling Suite, another one of the theatre’s hospitality areas. Glistening glassware and pristine white tablecloths greet us and (after the obligatory photographs) it’s time for dessert.
This photo really doesn’t do justice to the beautiful presentation and vibrant colours, but rest assured, the desserts were every bit as delicious as the earlier courses. The panna cotta was unusually flavoured, and the savoury sesame tuille provided a pleasing contrast. I love the colour of the pistachio & peach cake – a colour Birmingham Hippodrome may revisit for next year’s Wicked-inspired menu maybe? But as a chocolate fan, it was the bitter chocolate tart which tempted me most, and it didn’t disappoint. When a roomful of bloggers (a gaggle? a herd?) all fall silent then you know you’re on to a winner.
I’ve never considered dining at the Birmingham Hippodrome before a show previously, but after sampling the menu and seeing the sheer effort and research which is put into collating a perfectly-themed theatre menu then I wouldn’t hesitate to return. At £30 for a three course meal it is also reasonably priced and perfect for a special occasion.
The hospitality staff were welcoming, friendly and as fascinated by the blogging world as we were by the theatre world. We even caught one or two of them Instagramming their food…if you can’t beat us, join us! And yet a similar standard of hospitality appeared to be offered across the board to other diners, and I don’t doubt that our fellow non-blogging diners were also enjoying a wonderful culinary experience.
Of course it would be remiss not to mention the show itself. I was lucky to see Miss Saigon on it’s return to the London stage in 2014, and I’m pleased to say that this touring version loses none of the drama of the West End. Would there be a helicopter? Damn yes, there’s a helicopter. Would the cast be as excellent as that West End cast, many who are now appearing in the Broadway version? You betcha. Did I cry buckets (again)? I may have had something in my eye at a point or two. Would I see it again? Yes, definitely.
I was invited to attend this event by Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the Brum Bloggers community, and the food, drinks and show ticket were all complementary. However this in no way at all influenced my opinion of the evening, nor this review. All images are my own, unless otherwise stated.
Miss Saigon is playing at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 23rd September. For further information and to book, call the Box Office on 0844 338 5000 or visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com