By Lauren Codling
AN IMMERSIVE theatre production will be held at a new London restaurant to celebrate the opening of its sixth eatery.
Inspired by the art deco world in 1940s Bombay, Night at the Bombay Roxy will be performed at Dishoom Kensington to mark the restaurant’s launch.
The show centres around the Bombay Roxy, a café and jazz club housed within a former 1940s Bombay cinema.
Audiences will be treated to performances by a live five-piece jazz band, as well as enjoy an array of Indian dishes, including spicy lamb chops, masala prawns and the Dishoom calamari.
Shamil Thakrar, co-owner of Dishoom and creative producer of the show, said the story initially came to him after reading Taj Mahal Foxtrot by Indian journalist Naresh Fernandes.
The book tells the story of Bombay’s jazz age. “I fell in love with this book,” Thakrar said, as he showed Eastern Eye his wellthumbed copy, adorned with post-it notes and highlights.
“We decided this should basically be the restaurant of this book.” The concept came to the businessman when he imagined how fun it would be if restaurant goers “literally walked into the story”.
That was when he approached the show’s director Eduard Lewis who introduced him to Swamp Studios, a theatre group based in London.
“We asked, ‘why don’t you come to the opening night of the show, but why don’t you come to the opening night of [the main character] Cyrus’s club in 1949’ and that is what will happen,” Thakrar explained. “It will be a really fun way to tell our story but to also feed people beautiful food and have this fantastic environment.”
Swamp Studios co-founder Ollie Jones, 29, confessed to Eastern Eye that one challenge of creating the show was making sure it complemented the food, rather than “getting in the way”.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations [about making sure] the meals are not interrupted,” he said. “We didn’t want people trying to enjoy food and talk to friends but constantly have actors looming over the table saying, ‘welcome to Bombay’. So trying to work around that and avoid that was important.”
Thakrar, who confessed to having a passion for jazz, said that although the combination of theatre and music is part of British heritage, he believes that experiential entertainment is the latest trend for millennials.
“Experiences make you happy, stuff doesn’t, and millennials know that,” Thakrar said. “They travel and do these cool things and buy less stuff and that is manifesting in the entertainment industry.”
Jones shared the same view, saying millennials are the “experience generation”.
“It’s true, we have seen a spike in [this kind of thing],” he said. “There is a lot of immersive, experiential stuff going on all the time. People love it and they get such a kick out of it.”
The Dishoom brand has a strong focus on a narrative for each space. Thakrar said that with each restaurant comes a new story and this is one is no different.
When discussing Swamp Studios’ collaboration with the eatery, Jones said he wanted to make sure the show did not dominate the restaurant.
He said: “I don’t think our contribution should go much beyond giving people a good time [and] enhancing their evening. It isn’t about us giving Dishoom anything – it is more us and Dishoom giving the customer something.”
Thakrar agreed, saying although the move could be “highly risky”, he was confident the concept was going to be “cool”.
“You are literally walking into a story,” he said, smiling. “We want to welcome you into our story and make sure you have a fantastic time.
“If you leave saying ‘my God, I’ve never had that kind of experience,” that will be amazing for us.”
Night at the Bombay Roxy will be playing at Dishoom Kensington from next Monday (27) until December 14.