Last week in London, it was all about the decadence, glamour and hairspray-enhanced glory of 1988. As part of the Creative Festival’s Restaurants in Residency series, Bistrotheque, a favorite East End hang out for London’s cool creative types, launched a pop up restaurant in a soon-to-be demolished postmodern office building in Canary Warf.
At last Tuesday’s dinner (the restaurant ran through Saturday) Bistrotheque’s owner, David Waddington greeted guests at Westminster Pier, where they were transported to the pop up in a Mumm Champagne-stocked speedboat (could there be a more 80’s-appropriate mode of transport?). Upon arrival, the likes of Henry Holland and Princess Julia, the eccentric English DJ who practically was the 80’s club scene, were ushered into the pink-neon lit restaurant by hostesses and servers dressed in black geometric frocks designed by Giles Deacon.
“We chose 1988 because that was the year Canary Warf started being built in earnest,” explained Waddington, who topped off his 80’s look with a black and white polka dot bowtie. “The late 80’s were a moment when design was very important. Style was everything,” he recalled. Waddington went on to note that the menu, which was created by Head Chef and Director of Bistrotheque, Tom Collins, and Head Chef of Blueprint Café, Jeremy Lee, is representative of the simplified Italian cooking that began to arrive in the UK during the period. And judging by the fact that guests cleaned their plates of risotto and peas, devoured their tiramisu, and all but licked up the espresso martini shooters that topped off the meal, the menu is still a hit today.
While admiring the retro accents, which included black and white checkerboard floors, a color blocked dining room and a waiter with an uncanny resemblance to Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love, diners discussed the evening’s theme.
“In 1988, I was Dj-ing, but I also took a course in computers. I had a feeling that they were going to be a thing,” laughed Princess Julia, who, wearing a vintage emerald turban and an exquisite black satin dress, which was gifted to her by a famous Irish drag queen, also recalls watching pop group Take That play early gigs in gay bars around that time.
“My favorite part of the 80’s was the hair. Because I still have it!” joked Henry Holland. Naturally the designer, who’s launching a range of cheeky his and her skivvies in Selfridges this fall, came dressed for the occasion.
Dining photos: Neil Wissink