Just over a month ago Ben took me on a birthday evening out. Knowing how much of a theatre fan I am, he booked tickets for us to see War Horse, and as he is on a mission to introduce me to higher end dining experiences than GBK (which I love visiting, but is apparently not very sophisticated!), he took me out for dinner first as well.
Our dinner spot was in a place I had heard of and walked past for years on end, yet never visited before. Indigo Restaurant at One Aldwych is a cosy yet smart hotel restaurant in the very heart of The Strand. It overlooks the bustling lobby bar, and is within perfect walking distance of many of the West End’s theatres.
Now I will be the first to admit that posh dining scares me. Having started off my working career in a restaurant (albeit a National Trust one!), I always feel sorry for the staff having to wait on you hand and foot, up to the point of putting your napkins on your lap for you. However, Indigo is different. Tucked away in its secluded little corner on the mezzanine floor, the restaurant prides itself on being relaxed and informal, and it is a nice cosy bolthole to while away an hour or two.
We started with a glass of fizz – well, we were celebrating! We were also presented with a bread basket, and as we tucked into that delicious bread we perused the menu. Indigo aims for light, organic food from a creative Modern European menu.
For my starter, I chose the Pearl Barley, Roast Butternut, Stilton and Pomegranate Salad from the A La carte Menu. It was divine – the saltiness of the stilton balanced beautifully with the tart sweetness of the pomegranates and meatiness of the butternut. I couldn’t fault it (except for maybe wanting more stilton on it, but I am an avid cheese lover!)
For our mains, I went for the Fillet of Isle of Mull Salmon, with cauliflower, chanterelles and wood sorrel. It was amazing. Since getting back into salmon a few years ago (I wasn’t a fan as a child/teenager), I am always on the lookout for a nicely cooked piece of salmon. The dish was well presented and tasted delicious.
One of the things I love and hate about formal dining is the portion size. I’m a fan of a hearty portion of food for every meal (it’s a weakness!), and the tiny plates of food in some restaurants can be a bit disheartening (especially when compared to the prices!) However, the upside is that you can manage three courses and not feel stuffed to the gills and bloated. So we both went for dessert.
I had the Chocolate Tart with vanilla crème fraiche…
And I fell in love with the lift walls (yes, I know how weird that sounds!) I even Instagrammed a lift selfie of us, and have since been told that we looked like we were in a 70s disco! (For the record, I would love to find such a club! Does anyone know if something like that exists in London?)
From One Aldwych, we hiked up Drury Lane to the New London Theatre for our evening’s entertainment, War Horse. I’d been meaning to see this since it came out, particularly after my flatmate Jon came home raving about it! And Ben, knowing my love for the theatre, chose this show as the perfect big birthday present.
The story is about the utterly moving friendship between a boy and his horse, and their heartrending separation during the First World War. It’s based on a Michael Morpurgo novel (he of the similarly emotional Butterfly Lion book – did anyone else read that as a child?)
When Albert’s father buys a half-racehorse, half-dram (carthorse) in a drunken moment of madness, it falls to Albert to train him up to be sold on at a later date. But Albert falls in love with this spirited foal, and raises Joey by hand into a fine stallion. But with the start of the First World War the need for good horses leads to Joey being sold to the Army. Albert is heartbroken, and enlists in the Army to track Joey down and bring him home. We are then transported from rural England to war-torn France, and follow their separate experiences of war. It is the ultimate emotional rollercoaster, and each of the characters Albert and Joey encounter on their way draw you into their lives.
I am not ashamed to tell you that I sobbed throughout the show. It was all because of Joey! I have a soft spot for animals as it is, and with the ingenious way in which the puppeteers moved him across the stage, it was like watching a real horse come to life in front of us. The way he touched so many lives throughout the story tugged at virtually every heartstring I have! The utter love and devotion that Albert and Joey have for each other is so moving, spanning years and miles and driving them on through devastating hardships.
A great deal of credit for the success of this show must go to the ingenious Handspring Puppet Company, who provide the animals for the show. Joey is played by a range of people within a horse-shaped frame, and you can clearly see them through the framework of the contraption. But you genuinely forget about them during the show, and see it as a real living, breathing horse. The way they work is truly fantastic. Kudos must also go to the animatronic goose, which made the whole theatre laugh on its every appearance!
Overall, I absolutely loved War Horse. It was a phenomenal show, steeped in tragedy, love and redemption. The actors were fantastic, and the emotion was so strong. I’m welling up just thinking about some of the scenes in it, and this is a month on! I also liked the fact that it emphasised the sheer tragedy of war through a different lens. Although I’ve been meaning to see it for years, I’m really glad I saw War Horse this year, 100 years since the start of the First World War. It gave it an element of poignancy which we may not otherwise have found.
I had a fantastic belated birthday night. Dinner was fabulous, filling and flavoursome, and War Horse was amazing. Without a doubt one of the best West End shows I’ve ever seen. And I couldn’t recommend this evening to you more.
You can find more info and book tickets here
Have you seen War Horse or eaten out at Indigo Aldwych? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you! Where do you recommend?