saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
Laugh Till it Hurts with Christian O'Connell
The George IV Pub
19th November 2015
Comedy and food. Who doesn't love a bit of both? When we heard that new company Tabl were promising a good meal and a night of belly laughs, we were there with bells on. With Tabl all about pop-up kitchens, secret supper clubs and culinary adventures, we were intrigued to find out more about their concept and perhaps more importantly, to find out whether Laugh Till it Hurts with Christian O'Connell would deliver on the event's title.
The Boston Room at The George IV is a quirky little space with exposed brickwork, warm, bright colours, modern chandeliers and a bar on one side and a food hatch on the other. It may not have quite the same wow factor as some of the other upcoming venues that Tabl have planned - it's pretty hard to compete with a disused tube station - however for a launch event, it was a smart choice. The Boston Room looks fun, it is fun, but ultimately, doesn't have the logistical issue of a venue which was never meant to host a dining experience.
It's a shame therefore that with such potential for a thoroughly slick experience, there were a few organisational problems on the night. A lot of guests turned up late (easily solved by telling people to turn up 30 minutes early for an X o'clock start) and everyone got to choose where they were sitting as they wandered in. Initially I thought this was a nice touch, however swiftly I realised this flexibility meant the organisers were making rods for their own backs. Leaving the seating arrangements to the last minute meant it took more time to find everyone a table (or should that be "tabl"?), and whilst the waiting staff knew who had pre-ordered what, they did struggle with matching the correct diners to their food.
As for the dishes themselves, they clearly were designed to strike a balance between tasty and pragmatic, and they managed to tick all the relevant boxes. However, the food was sent out by dish rather than by table and that meant that those who had ordered different meals to their companions had an awkward wait. Now, I know popular chains like Wagamama and Wahaca have tried their best to make this seem acceptable, but it's really not. No one wants to start eating before everyone next to them has their food - c'mon, we're British. We'd rather watch our own food decay and turn into dust than be the first person to pick up our cutlery. It's not how we roll as a nation.
As far as vegetarian options go, I was fairly pleased with the roast butternut squash, sundried tomato and puy lentil salad. It wasn't the same bog standard nut roast or cheese and onion quiche so often trotted out at mass-catered events like this, and that showed a certain amount of inclusiveness. Admittedly, it's hard to get something like that wrong if your base ingredients are of a decent quality, but flashiness is a whole lot less important than taste. Delicious, well-executed gastro-pub food will always be received well. Winner, winner, chicken dinner - except without the meat. You get the idea.
Whilst the cider pork with caramelised apples and a tarragon cream sauce was tender, the basmati rice did look and taste as if it had been sitting on the pass for a touch too long, and the gap between bringing us the veggie option and the pork only served to back up that theory. Again, it wasn't a complicated dish. Apart from a few niggles, it did taste good and that was all we really wanted.
Photography provided by Tabl
The brownie was a fair size - I never think desserts are big enough, I have such greedy eyes, yet when I actually started polishing off my plate, I realised the chef had been more than generous. The gooey brownie was let down by the vanilla ice cream starting to melt by the time the plate reached me, but none of my minor issues with the food really had anything to do with the cooking itself - it was all service and planning, and that can be easily sorted out. With this being a launch event, you have to expect and forgive a certain learning curve.
With the room full of a rag-tag bunch of postprandial strangers, breakfast show host and comedian Christian O'Connell started his set from a clear disadvantage. However, he's as funny as the posters promise, and you really have to salute Tabl for booking him. O'Connell has a wonderfully smooth delivery and exudes charisma - you can tell he's an experienced DJ. His jokes do attempt to push the boundaries of offensive, and there were a few occasions where I did hear a little voice in my head asking if it was too soon, but this objection was soon drowned out by the sound of laughter. It's been a while since I've laughed so hard.
O'Connell spent an hour mainly chatting about the birds and the bees, social media and cat people, nicely linking all his material together and making call backs like an absolute pro. 60 minutes is quite a long time for standup without a break, yet there were never any lulls. Now, I quite happily wear the label "Crazy Cat Lady" without shame, and I still found his material attacking cats hilarious. His timing is spot on, and because O'Connell makes fun of everyone (including himself) you know there's no real malice there and that's what allows you to enjoy all his gags.
Would we sit at the Tabl again? Absolutely. There may have been a few problems, but the headline act that Tabl booked was superb and the fact that the night ended on such a high proves that the concept is indeed a good'un. Yes, I'll happily admit that I had my doubts they were going to pull it off as I was wondering when my companion's food would turn up, however to turn things around so dramatically is quite impressive and is what makes me want to go back. Although I'm not sure there's anything new about dinner and a show, having the evening curated by Tabl can make for a fun night out, and a high quality act like O'Connell is what justifies the overall price. Due to the nature of each event, spaces are limited and once you've missed out, that's it - so if you spot something that takes your fancy, we'd certainly recommend early booking.
Laugh Till it Hurts with Christian O'Connell ran on 19th November 2015 at the George IV Pub. You can find out more about Tabl's pop-up events here: http://www.tabl.com.
Nearest tube station: Turnham Green (District, Piccadilly)