Before I even start writing this, I know it’s going to be controversial. Some of you are going to love it, some of you are going to hate it. I know this because every image I posted on social media got a slew of comments from both sides.
What I will say is that Menagerie isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s not meant to be. It is what it is, and makes no apologies for it, nor should it. Sure, it’s probably not somewhere you’re going to find me every weekend, but the Daily Mail-esque reactions were actually really rather eyebrow raising.
So, if you feel you’re going to recoil in horror at what appears below, then by all means read on and exclaim in horror. But bear in mind that it’s not targeting you as clientele.
Menagerie is the creation of Karina Jadhav. Once one half of Neighbourhood, she has turned the space in New Bailey into what she wanted Neighbourhood to be. Lively, glitzy, glamorous – more than just a spot for dinner and drinks, she wants Menagerie to be an experience.
For me, the original Neighbourhood was like dining in a nightclub. Fun, loud, bouncy, but with good food to back it up. With Menagerie, there is a step further. Nightclub meets cabaret, but without crooners in bow ties. Elements of burlesque, aerial artistry and acrobatics are more your entertainment over dinner.
But already we’re in territory that screams ‘not for everyone’. Not everyone likes to be entertained over a meal (at least no more than watching telly with their dinner on their laps). So if you just want a quiet dinner with friends, a date night where you can chat and the lighting won’t suddenly change to bright red, and a lady starts eating fire next to you, you’re already in the wrong place.
It’s also very much a place to be seen. And this is probably where it becomes less my cup of tea (or gin and tonic if you will). It’s an excuse to dress up, to put on your best dress, dig out the highest heels you have and spend a fair amount of time in the loos (I love that there is a loo attendant by the way, and the range of beauty goodies in there) tidying up and reapplying lippy. There are those who live for this at the weekend. They work their 9 to 5, packing their lunches, and drudging their ways through the week, so that come the weekend that dress they’ve been eyeing all month can be bought, donned and they can strut their stuff.
And yes, it might also be for those who have a good amount of money. And if I had that amount of money, I too might want to show it off a bit. (I don’t know, I don’t have lots of money).
Me? I’m a chuck-my-make-up-on-in-the-morning-and-pray-it-makes-it-to-bedtime kind of gal. Probably why I use Estee Lauder Doublewear as that stuff is lifeproof. And so yeah, my eye make up probably will be a bit smudged, and my nail varnish will probably be chipped, and yeah, I probably have bigger things to worry about. But who am I to judge someone if that’s what they love?
Music was perhaps the biggest surprise. Hits of the seventies, eighties and nineties poured into the room. Wedding disco classics merged with 90s RnB, meaning that most of those dining were at various points having a quiet little boogie to themselves. Including my dates who showed their preference for the RnB portion of the playlist. Never knew you had it in you ladies.
So, enough about the venue. Lets get onto the food and drink.
As you’d expect, dining in a cabaret/night club means that my images were and are a little hit and miss. So apologies for the photography. Winners for us included the steak tartare which uses proper English mustard, so you get a good spike of heat, the halloumi, the mini chicken tacos, and oh my, that truffled mac and cheese.
There was less love for the duck croquettes which felt a little over greasy (though they were very fresh from the fryer – a replacement set after a couple the other side of the walkway had kindly consumed ours for us) and on the dessert front, the doughnuts simply didn’t work for us, being overly sweet and cloying.
Other desserts include the rather lovely matcha pancakes with a nutty black sesame ice cream, and the incredibly indulgent chocolate tart – which is so rich, the second half went home in a doggy bag.
Drinks wise, there’s a fair amount of choice. Yes, the gin selection is limited, but there are a couple of stars on there – though if you go for Silent Pool, please ask for no garnish as lemon and lime is just going to kill it dead.
The Queen Bey was a hit with it’s rich honeyed notes, and for me, the Jalapeno Margarita had a good sour kick to it, that set the evening off nicely.
And if you are feeling flush and in the mood to show off a little, there are some spectacular (literally) sharers, complete with indoor fireworks. Because there are times when it’s not a cocktail if something isn’t on fire.
So, there you go.
This is Menagerie. Gilt, sequins and sparkles.
Dip your toe in on a weekday when it’s got an eyemask on and bedazzled slippers (and there’s no cabaret). Go full on glam and dive in on a weekend, when it’s all tits and teeth. Or don’t go.
It’s entirely up to you.