London’s Top-Finish ,Gotham has always been a tale of two cities. One is the abandoned funfairs, rotting sewers, and grimy alleyways where tragedy strikes and heroes are born. The other is extravagant luxury: Where glittering socialites gather to toast their success and gossip about Bruce Wayne’s latest squeeze.
Last night, I visited the latter in Park Row. This is billed as “the first fully immersive DC-inspired restaurant experience found anywhere in the world.” Nestled in a Grade II-listed Art Deco venue in the heart of London’s Soho, the aim is for visitors to taste Gotham’s nightlife and discover the culture of a city molded by caped heroes and eccentric supervillains.
But this isn’t just a tourist trap. Park Row is serious high-end dining and a surprisingly subtle attempt to bring Gotham City to life. The venue is split into themed rooms, each surrounding Oswald Cobblepot’s Iceberg Lounge dining area. There’s Pennyworths, a “home away from home” for Bruce Wayne that pays homage to Alfred; The Rogue’s Gallery cocktail bar with art curated by Selina Kyle; and the “gastronomic show” of The Monarch Theatre, housed in a special room featuring 360-degree projection mapping.
Even the bathrooms are in on the action, with Joker-inspired neon for the gents and Harley Quinn for the ladies.
If you’re a Batman nerd, this place is heaven, with the designers tucking in all manner of Easter Eggs that only a truly committed fan will appreciate. Inspiration has been drawn from across the canon: I spotted nods to Tim Burton’s movies, Batman: The Animated Series, The Dark Knight trilogy, Batman (1966), and, of course, the comics.
There are some serious deep cuts here too. I was very pleased to spot an accurate Wayne family tree referencing Legends of the Dark Knight‘s Judge Solomon Wayne and his wife Dorothea, who helped shape Gotham City. And if you order fish and chips, the fish is dyed blue to show the long-lasting effects of the Joker poisoning the Gotham City water supply in Detective Comics #475. Now that’s attention to detail!
I had a three-course dinner at the Iceberg Lounge consisting of a grilled carrot and sweet potato tartare, mushroom tagliatelle, and lounge’s signature “Kiss from a Rose” dessert. This is intended as a tribute to Martha Wayne, with a red rose frozen in liquid nitrogen at your table and shattered over a custard tart and lychee ice cream (featuring white candy pearls). I’ve seen the Wayne murders depicted a hundred different ways over various media, but I never expected to eat them as a dessert.
Now I’m no food critic, but everything I ate was delicious: From the pungent mushrooms to the delicate, flower-topped pastry cage, to the black-truffle butter that came with the breadbasket.
But then everything should be excellent, as Park Row isn’t for the faint of wallet. You can go seriously heavy on this menu, with the Dover Sole a la Grenobloise setting you back £44 ($60), the “Big Belly Burger” clocking in at £24 ($33), and a Blue Grey Ribeye Steak at £40 ($55). A good indicator of the kind of clientele Park Row wants to attract is the caviar selection, which tops out at £270 ($370) for 50g of Golden Oscietra. Drinks come in at $7.50 ($10) for a basic bottle of beer, with cocktails like The Bludhaven and Three Bridges coming in at £13-14 ($17-18).
There’s no getting away from the fact this is going to be an expensive night, but these prices are roughly in line with other upmarket central London eateries.
There are a few ventures into the realm of the gimmicky. The cocktail bar boasts the “world’s first levitating cocktail molecule,” served in an infrasound plinth created by University College London scientists. A bead of liquid is carefully injected into the infrasound field, with a remote control allowing the waiter to pilot it into your mouth. It was fun to taste a floating molecule of booze, but it’s a lot of effort for a drink smaller than a grain of rice.
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However you order, Park Row isn’t going to be a cheap night and it’s worth wondering exactly who all this is aimed at. For example, I can see a lot of comic-book fans drawn in by the geeky conceit feeling alienated by the formal atmosphere. Conversely, if you’re a food snob ready to splurge a whole bunch of cash on a super-swanky dining experience, are you really going to plump for the Batman restaurant?
There’s a tension between these two elements, perhaps best illustrated by the fact that while Park Row is full of objects referencing Gotham’s rogues’ gallery, the characters themselves aren’t present. This feels like a shame; the setting is so immersive you half expect the Joker and his goons to kick the door open at any moment and hold everyone at gunpoint. Still, if you’ve just been served a sumptuous (and pricey) main course, do you really want to be hassled by a jobbing actor doing his best Heath Ledger impression?
Personally, I like a bit of theater with my dinner, and if you’re already at a Batman-themed restaurant I doubt you’re going to begrudge some silliness. It’s still early days for Park Row, and chats with the staff indicate that at some point in the future they’re planning to have some kind of live presentation featuring Batman characters. So I guess the answer is to watch this space.
I’ve never been anywhere quite like Park Row and I can only doff my hat to its crazy ambition. Bringing together comic books and fine dining is a gamble. But, for me at least, it’s one that paid off. The food is incredible, the staff are helpful and friendly, and the venue has clearly been assembled by people with an abiding knowledge and love of the DC Universe. If you’re visiting London, are a big Batman fan, and want a night you’re not going to forget, check this place out.
Park Row is at 77 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9ZN. Opening times Tues-Sat 12pm-1am. Reservations can be made at https://parkrowlondon.co.uk/.
Park Row paid the writer’s bill, consisting of three courses and two glasses of wine.