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“Are you looking for the Secret Vampire Club too?”
It’s not often that I get approached by two scantily clad blondes, gussied up in stockings and fangs, at a busy East London crossing. I am instantly relieved: for starters, I seem to be appropriately dressed (I’ve gone for a giant black gothic bird look, complete with a little raven perched on my head) and I’m not the only one who’s forty minutes late.
I soon figure out that the two girls have no idea where this ‘secret location’ is. They didn’t get the email that I got the day before telling them where to go, when to go, what to wear etc. They literally thought it was a scam up until now, seeing me in all my black gothic bird glory. The press release for the ‘Secret Vampire Club’ initially promised a W1 location (which was then changed to Zone 1), but understandably there aren’t many ghoulish looking empty warehouses waiting to be transformed into vampire palaces in the West. Thankfully I had both the address and Google maps and found the exact location in a narrow doorway crammed between a construction site and a resident apartment building. A young man, looking very much alive, waved at us from the dim light of the doorway.
“Here for the vampire party?” he asks jovially. After ticking our names off, he ushers us through a narrow hallway smeared with blood (fake, I hope) and – ah! – the dead people are inside. There are fish-netted dripping red girls climbing up the walls and stairway. We are given drinks vouchers (four) and a table number, which separates me from my friend.
“I know, everyone’s complaining!” the paler-than-pale usher rolls his eyes. “Go mingle!”
So we do. I am hissed at by a member of the undead as I venture down the dark stairway and into the main warehouse, which has been transformed into a vampy dinner party setting. Cobwebs and spiders hang from every crevice; even the toilets haven’t escaped the transformation: I walk in, shut the door and am faced with a mural of zombified, vamped up celebrities (think Lindsay Lohan with blood and fangs, Boris Johnson eating brains). Each long table is complete with flickering candelabras, roses and a bowl of apples (I’m told later that this is a Twilight reference). The colour scheme is red, red and black.
I go to collect my cocktail with my drinks voucher and am handed a globular glass with a test tube mouthpiece. It is gin and something (can’t remember). I have two of those before I sit down for dinner, plus several bloody mary shots which are being handed out on trays. Canapes are appropriately gory and Halloween-themed – think smeared tomato-red mustard paste on smoked salmon, pumpkin mash filo pastries etc. A live band starts to play – In Zanadu, brilliant – as we are ushered into our seats for our four course meal. The music is piercingly loud in a kind of jazzy, sexy way. The female singer, Amelia, is sultry and at the same time slightly crazy in her heel-tapping, head-swinging dance moves. Lead male singer (and guitarist) Ulysses, great name, already looks and sounds like a well-worn rock star. The band, fresh from their tour with The Kooks, are worlds away from the new-age one-man-with-a-synth music we seem to be exposed to nowadays. For starters, there’s seven band members, each bringing their own instrument to the show with stupendous brilliance and originality; plus, who doesn’t love a band whose music incorporates the big brass sounds of a trumpet!
Dinner is then served. Platters of antipasto misto – buffalo mozzarella, salami cuts, cherry tomatoes, lamb’s lettuce and rocket – are passed around for all to share. Second course is a smoked chicken with lentil and butter bean salad, third is a meringue dish with chocolate ganache and an assortment of berries. Then there’s wine, more cocktails, and a cheese platter. There’s enough food to feed an army of faux hungry vampires. Everyone sinks their fangs into the Mama Paxos’ (head chef) food heartily. Talk is flowing easily, thanks to the complimentary cocktails and the sheer excitement of the event. Dried ice puffs away at us. I am sitting at a table with a Mulberry buyer, a photographer, a Mad Man, a girl with a giant raven on her shoulder and a PR girl. Best of all, everyone seems to have gotten right into the spirit of the evening. I see Marie Antoinette sitting on another table, Dracula on another and the Black Swan on another.
The conversation and atmosphere alone would have been enough to make it a stellar night, but on top of that the lovely organisers decided to screen the black and white ‘Dracula’ film above us on the wall. Throughout the meal dead dancers took to the dance floor and performed a series of very choreographed death dances. Very Lady Gaga. DJ Jack Dexter was on hand too to rip the seated away from their tables and onto the dance-floor post-cheese and wine.
All of the guests seem very pleased with the whole operation, despite the initial panic (‘we didn’t get that email either!’). Speaking to someone who knows the event organisers, I discover that originally they had indeed found and chosen a W1 location, but this one in Old Street was much better. For £38, it is definitely a very good deal: you get a four course meal, four cocktails and shots, canapés, cloakroom space, a live band, a film, live dancing and a truly unique night out.