Circus proves West End’s class act

Circus stages dinner and a show under one big top
Circus stages dinner and a show under one big top

Dinner and a show. It’s a classic combination that defines the West End’s dining district, where pre-show set menus are a must and the pavements are choked at 7.25pm and dusted with tumbleweeds 10 minutes later.

It’s also a combination that has seen Circus, the slick restaurant-cum-cabaret club on Endell Street – cement itself as something of a stalwart in amongst the revolving doors of restaurants in Covent Garden.

The premise is simple: good food, moreish cocktails, and a roster of performers who get up on the tables at various stages and duck, dip, dive and dance for their dinner. Simple to explain, but one would think nigh on impossible to execute: at least without projecting a pseudo-strip club vibe. But somehow, Circus manages to pull it off.

Perhaps it’s Andrew Lassetter’s menu: innovative yet full of crowd pleasing pan Asian dishes. Or maybe it’s the performers; who, whether fire-eating, body contorting or hoop twirling are all genuinely talented. But more than likely, it’s the fact that Circus has been around since 2010 (restaurant years are like dog years in this town) and has the routine down to a fine science.

Every half an hour the lights go down, the kitchen servery is shuttered, smoke plumes from the ceiling, and all eyes swivel to the long communal table at the front of the restaurant, where a lithe creature makes running away with the actual circus seem all at once utterly endearing and physiologically impossible.

The performances, while entertaining, also aid the digestion by momentarily distracting one from shoveling another seared-salmon maki roll into one’s gob. Starters are geographically diverse though generally heavy on the seafood. Sushi and sashimi is feather light, as are the salads: a soft shell crab, vegetable ceviche and rare beef – the one red protein that made the cut.

Mains are also very ‘pan’; a Chinese-style Chilean seabass, a mushroom toban yaki and a couple of curries plus, somewhat surprisingly, an Angus steak. Wrapped in banana leaf, the seabass was flakey and flavoursome, however although the steak was less of the former, it was also, disappointingly, less of the latter.

The calorific desserts – churros and a chocolate fondant – were delicious, though a little hard to swallow once the performers (and their enviable body fat percentages) took to the stage. But it wasn’t long before the faultless routine led to a well-practiced exit and we were picking up the spoons once again. Circus, 27-29 Endell Street WC2H 9BA