“Oh what fun…behind the Pale Blue Door”
A little bit of a departure for the blog, but this experience in a pop-up restaurant at the Dalston home of artist Tony Hornecker combining scrumptious home-made food, cabaret turns from drag acts and general disorientating off-beat arty kookiness sits easily well with other immersive installation pieces in pushing the boundaries of different creative fields and blurring them. This is a dinner party like no other you have been to!
Initially set up as a response to supplement income due to decreasing work opportunities (Hornecker is a set designer), The Pale Blue Door utitlises his previous experience as a chef and combines it with his artistic flair for creating magical and welcoming environments. The restaurant has ‘popped-up’ several times now, in London and in several cities across the world, becoming a massive word-of-mouth success, but as the number of tables is very limited and each incarnation only lasts for a very short while, you have to be super-quick to get in there, so this really was a special night for us.
This time round, we’re in Hornecker’s home with dinner tables placed in every conceivable nook and cranny of the house: every inch of floor space is used, some people are up in the rafters, some in the bedroom, some tucked away in secret spaces and some, including us, on the mezzanine balcony (reached by the most precarious of stepladders), overlooking everything. And boy is there a lot to overlook! His house is literally stuffed with every kind of esoteria and paraphernalia you can imagine, ranging from the artistic and fantastic to the mundane and everyday, never letting you forget that we’re actually in someone’s home: nipping to the toilet, you see his toothbrush by the sink; peeking in the kitchen on the way back, the mind boggles how this is all being done from a regular domestic set-up.
There’s such a glorious lack of affectedness about the whole thing which made for a brilliant night out from start to finish: mismatched vintage crockery like your grandparents used to have, napkins made from scraps of fabric, a complete assortment of glasses, the table settings are an absolute delight, a healthy gin and tonic starts you off nicely, the starter salad of beetroot, apples, pine nuts and feta came in a big bowl for us to dish out between us ourselves; extra wine was offered up through the banisters; people popped up to our balcony to say hello and share a cigarette, it could easily have all been so shambolic but there’s such a strong sense of organisation coupled with excellent friendly and attentive service that is most conducive to the warm spirit at Number 5. Main course of rare roast beef with horseradish cream was luuurvely and I loved the warm potato salad that came with it (not being a broccoli or cauliflower fan I left that to be snarfed by my companions!) And the desert of Crimbo crumble with brandy custard was a huge success too, finished off with a coffee and a swift shot of schnapps and perhaps just a little bit more wine.
Entertainment is provided between courses by the delicious A Man To Pet who regaled us with several performances (Rihanna’s ‘Only Girl In The World’ was a winner), several costume changes (most in full sight) and she also came to visit each table, offering bon mots, a bit of matchmaking and getting up close and personal with more than a few people! And this anarchic spirit infuses everyone during the night. At various points, I had a pot chicken on my head, I recited some Hamlet and some Antigone, discussed (vociferously) whether it was ok for Frankie Boyle to joke about Harvey Price (although some might argue that this is what I am like in any kind of restaurant or dinner party…!)
It is quite remarkable what has been achieved here by Hornecker and his team: it is a great concept and executed with a grand theatricality that makes for a great time regardless, but coupled with the excellent service, friendly atmosphere and genuinely tasty and unpretentious food, it really did become an unforgettable experience. So get yourself on their mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org and prepare to go through The Pale Blue Door yourselves, you won’t regret it.