Review: Top Shelf Jazz and Benoit Viellefon at The Blind Tiger, Clapham

Angela Kearney writes about a great experience in a new venue: the monthly “Review” Show at the Blind Tiger, 697 Wandsworth Road, Clapham.

Through a locked black door on the Wandsworth Road, having been appropriately vetted, like an accidental time traveller, I was transported to the era of the Prohibition Speakeasy at The Blind Tiger, Clapham for the launch of the new monthly “Review” nights held on the first Thursday of every month.

Gee, I’m glad I wore my vamp-red lipstick! Our hostess, attentive as she was glamorous in her sequined shift and Charleston headband, ushered us to the lavishly appointed dining room where the seduction began with a delicious potion called the Regalitea.

Diners attending the Review night were treated to a nine course tasting menu showcasing signature cocktails and a good variety of flavour-packed dishes all delivered with friendly, seamless service despite a boisterous full house.

Worth a special mention: the perfectly crisp Beetroot Rosti with goat’s curd was a light and morish first plate; the refreshing palate cleanser, Chilli and Lemongrass Margarita Granita had heat, sweetness and bite. And on a cold, wet night, the perfectly seasoned Pheasant Breast Wrapped in Speck on a bed of rich, truffle tagliatelle was a superb winter warmer. My dining companion offered only one word upon first taste of the Baked Chocolate Cherry Alaska: Heavenly. Hear hear!

The evening’s extensive entertainment line-up was the moonshine-infused cherry on top. Diners enjoyed performances from Top Shelf Jazz – Fine Purveyors of Filthy Swing and Benoit Viellefon.

The former, a devilishly clever tribute to the music and style of the era, were musically spot-on amidst their madcap antics. They opened their first (of two sets) with crowd pleaser, Let’s Face the Music and Dance amongst other favourites such as Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Nagasaki which included an amusing musical reference to The Muppet Show. Front man singer/guitarist (and gentleman), Arthur Foxaque aka Fred Snow, gave a highly energetic performance of song and saucy banter with clear, crisp vocals such as you’d hear from a 1920’s broadcast on your old Grandad’s wireless radio. Great fun.

Singer, guitarist and band leader, Benoit Viellefon, stylishly turned out in muted tones and cravat, gave a smooth, more subdued but equally impressive performance with a reduced line-up. True to the reputation of the French, he flirted shamelessly (and charmed) the crowd as he gently crooned his way through two sets in a soft French accent from his new and highly enjoyable CD Swing a la Mode featuring timeless favourites It’s Only a Paper Moon, Pennies From Heaven and All of Me.

Both acts shared fine musicians on horns, reeds and bass. On this occasion, Duncan Hemstock stepped in on clarinet/sax giving what was a knock-out performance in all 4 sets. There’s a man who has practiced his scales!

They also shared surprise entertainment of the night: Miss Josephine Shaker – Tap Dancer and Flapper who appeared bejeweled in a skimpy, fringed costume of deep ocean blue. She shuffled, skipped and time-stepped her way around the floor to the delight of diners giving a particularly enticing performance with a napkin during Caravan in Viellefon’s first set.
Tip: ask to be seated in the dining area closest to the stage area if you want best seats for musical entertainment.

At a cost of £40 per person, Review night is a great value evening. Fabulous food and service provided in an ambient, authentically decorated space; excellent musical entertainment true to the period and definitely the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Perhaps the only drawback is the location but The Blind Tiger is a hidden gem worth making the effort to reach.

The Blind Tiger – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
697 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 3JF. The next Review Show is on December 1st.

Benoit Viellefon and His Orchestra will be performing at the launch of “Gin and Jazz” nights on Thursday November 17th at InterContinental London Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London W1J 7QY

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