On Thursday I attended the press night of one of London’s most widely anticipated and exciting new pop-up bars: The Bletchley.
A sucker for any kind of immersive experience in London (especially those that involve food or drink), I was desperate to try this place out when I first heard it was coming to town a few months ago. The theme of the bar is based around Alan Turing & his team’s efforts at cracking the Enigma code during World War II at Bletchley Park (to educate yourself, watch The Imitation Game if you haven’t already). However, because we are no longer fighting the Nazis (not in a World War sense, anyway!), the aim of your evening is instead to crack the codes to unlock a series of personalised, bespoke cocktails made for you using the replica Enigma machines at your table!
The Bletchley can be found in Chelsea at a “secret” location. What I will tell you is that it is the wrong end of The Kings Road (the end literally nowhere near a tube station!) but pretty easy to find if you don’t arrive already slightly pickled, as my date and I did…
Once you finally find the entrance (note: it is not in the neighbouring housing estate), you descend the stairs and are greeted by your hosts. The immersion begins; every host stays in character throughout the entire night (quite similar to fellow WWII bar Cahoots) addressing you as agents as they explain the format of your evening.
You have two hours to crack two clues using your table’s own enigma machine. Input letters and answers and use the clues dotted around the room to send messages to the bar staff to allow them to create bespoke drinks for you. No two drinks are the same – there is no menu, only their intuition based upon the information you provide them about yourselves. This is the first bar to create an immersive, signature cocktail experience entirely designed and catered to the tastes, desires and personality of the patron.
As you are agents for the evening it is important to have agent names. My date, Agent Cyan (because there’s always one that needs to be a smart arse!) and myself, Agent Emerald (because I’m such a gem!) were fitted with the appropriate uniforms before we got to work cracking our codes.
The first code to break was instantly hilarious to us both (and our agent host!) as it required using smell to determine our preferred flavours. As you may know I don’t have a sense of smell and subsequently had to rely on Agent Cyan to describe the smells to me. I would be useless in a war situation! After describing each of the 6 flavours kept in the vials provided on our table (because tasting them was certainly not advised) I chose the “limoncello” vial.
Then it’s time to ring through your information to the bar. This was difficult because we were a little squiffy and simple tasks took a lot of effort, but we finally made contact and awaited our drinks.
These cocktails were completely unique to us, and came with an ingredient list. Mine was clearly based on an Espresso Martini, however it was made with rhubarb and a few extra things, yet obviously after the drinks that followed I was in no fit state to remember to keep my ingredient list as a souvenir so the secret remains at the bar…
Agent Cyan on the other hand enjoyed probably the least manly drink the bar staff could think to conjure up, but it tasted delicious none the less. The ingredients could literally have been anything. Who knows. Once again I would be useless in a war.
The clues to the next drink came with our ingredients list, and this time did not require my sense of smell but rather our ability to read the room. A bit of a struggle but another interesting concept based upon perception, which once again we had to ring through to the bar when we were ready.
My second drink was a little disappointing. It didn’t particularly taste of anything but came with a garnish of lavender so I wonder if that was what it was meant to taste like (and so I’ll blame my sense of smell for rendering it a little tasteless) but Agent Cyan’s drink was pretty great, even if it was a rather lurid shade of green…
Agent Cyan and I left The Bletchley in awe of what the guys behind it have achieved. It is unique, fun, creative and I think an absolute must visit for anyone who enjoys immersing themselves into a different world, whilst imbibing ALL the drinks! I like that it doesn’t have a menu and I love that everyone will have a different experience. The attention to detail is spot on and the staff are superb and consistent.
Agents, it really is vital you give this place a visit. Channel your inner Turing and book yourself some time with the Enigma machine. Just try not to arrive several cocktails deep already or the codes will forever elude you!
The Bletchley is now open and ready for agents to attempt some code breaking in the name of alcohol (and for Britain, of course!) Tickets are £30 per person and include 2 hours in the room with three cocktails, open from Wednesdays through to Sundays.