Hurrah! My days of reviewing theatre are over; I’m now a food critic! These were my thoughts en route to the new pop-up Hunt and Darton Café on St Mary’s Street. How foolish I once was; after today I have learnt that even food can perform!
On first impression, a few things struck me as unusual. Firstly, there was a table laid out like a party-spread, shop-bought Battenbergs, French Fancies and Wagon Wheels. Secondly, the word ‘Café’ was printed in block letters in front of the makeshift kitchen. Oh, and Hunt and Darton wore pineapple-themed outfits, complete with stalk-hats. In classic performance-goer fashion, I sat down and waited for something to happen.
And it did. The performance is simply all around you. It was in the chic honest obviousness of the café: the kitchen’s positioning within all the customers’ focal point; the enormous chalk board with ‘Covers’, ‘Taking’s’, ‘Complaints’ and a chart of profits written on it; the completely visible office area that overlooks the space; the unusual menu, which included ‘Coco Pops’ and ‘Roughage Plate’. Hunt and Darton have something of an act going on too, hard to put your finger on, but there is definitely something different and elevated about them, in a good way; they are lovely. The Swivelympics, an ongoing competition of the number of swivels one can complete on a chair, also entertained me and completely blended in with the feel of the place. The café was confirmation of my budding theory that all life is performance and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be on stage to count as one.
I initially intended to just check the place out, but once I was there I didn’t want to leave, and you were actively encouraged not to. Even though I’d only just had breakfast I still managed a cup of tea, then a bacon sandwich, then a rice crispie cake. Most of the other customers seemed to have a similar attitude.
I have never experienced such a cheery vibe; the atmosphere was addictive. Perhaps this was due to the customers/ audiences’ expectation and open attitude to a live-art café; perhaps it was the upbeat nature of the six staff/performers who, despite the café’s constant fullness, managed to serve without stress or delay; perhaps it was the pineapple outfits. Whatever it was, it worked, and is definitely well worth a visit. My tea may have been a little weak, but I will definitely be going back.