The Batman restaurant that’s totally bats: Park Row reviewed

16 October 2021

9:00 AM

16 October 2021

9:00 AM

There is a Batman restaurant in London, or rather there was: Savini at the Criterion on Piccadilly Circus. Savini was a haunted grey Italian restaurant that closed in 2018 and was artistically dependent on salt. It appeared in The Dark Knight,in which Batman, who is Bruce Wayne to everyone but himself (I have a theory that everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, but they pretend not to because he is an orphan), owned this restaurant, in which case he should have fixed the telephone lines. (Savini was plagued by a dispute with BT.)

But because you cannot ever have enough of a strange thing, there is a new Batman restaurant to the north on Brewer Street, Soho, under a calm Edwardian wedding cake which was once Marco Pierre White’s Titanic. It is called Park Row (Gotham City) and it is the silliest restaurant to open in London since the all-cereal restaurant in Brick Lane. This does not mean I do not like it.

Park Row is a vast Art Deco basement: a land without sunlight. Restaurant after restaurant squats here, rests a while, and leaves: this one will too. Perhaps it should be a gym?

The entrance is thrilling: a fake English library — Donald Trump’s idea of an English library with a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress and a lamp. A bookcase moves aside to let you in; then there is a dark and curling staircase which should be surrounded by dry ice but isn’t.

Inside are a series of rooms devoted to Batman and the villains on whom he is entirely psychologically dependent. If this restaurant had a hashtag it would be #WeAreAllBatman. It is a museum of childhood grief, then, and also a brasserie. It is morbid and absurd and slightly heart-breaking: there is a painting of the child Bruce Wayne with his murdered parents, and everywhere I find red roses because his mother loved them. The staff are in league with Batman’s imagined subconscious; they talk about the roses. Here you identify not with the living but with the fictional and very rich; and with those, too, who want to destroy them.

Poison Ivy has a bar with plastic plants crawling across the ceiling. The Joker’s lair has a bust of William Shakespeare, his mouth given paint for a Joker’s smile. The Penguin has the central bar, presided over by a statue of a penguin, which I think should be bigger. Catwoman has a carpet, and copies of missing Old Masters dragged by her claws. Was she a good thief or just a sexual fetishist? The monarch theatre serves a tasting menu as huge ‘immersive’ screens play films; they change, wildly, with each course.

Park Row is mad, but it is not lazy: the food varies from room to room and follows its theme. I think I am in the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge but who knows? We eat nitro popcorn (very cold popcorn) though edible balloons are off tonight. The Goosnargh
truffle-glazed whole chicken (£72) is prettily served — any Batman restaurant would care about aesthetics — but it is warm, not hot, and soggy, not crispy. It is villainous, and it is dead. Pudding, though, is extraordinary: the Ruins of Gotham City is part chocolate cake and part sculpture, and Kiss from a Rose — a vanilla custard tart — includes a frozen rose, which the waiter shatters over the tart as decoration and metaphor. It is wildly inconsistent then, like Batman himself, and though gaudy and interesting, I am not sure who it is for: the perennially infantilised and unhappy and rich? For Batman himself? The problem for this restaurant is: how many like him are there?

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Park Row, 77 Brewer St, London W1F 9ZN; tel: 020 3745 3431.

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