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What if I told you that you could go to a magical haven - inspired by multiple fantasy worlds - and brew concoctions that bubble, change colour and are set alight, right in the middle of the city of London? Well, you can at The Cauldron.
Yeah, I wore my Slytherin scarf. No shame bro. Also, this is a magic wand that actually works?! How cool is that?! (I'm still excited if you can't tell)
I was invited along by the owner - Matt Cortland - to a cocktail making experience like no other that I’d been to before. The venue itself was like many incognito locations in fantasy troupes; hidden in plain sight amongst the tall buildings of Elephant and Castle. But once you went in, you immediately were given a robe to wear and wand to wield (I was in my element at this point), before being welcomed into the magical atmosphere.
It was like walking into a den of an ethereal world. The entire place was adorned with twinkling lights and thick wooden tables that reminded me of the medieval era. Little tiny details such as stacks of donated old books, oil paintings of Instagram influencers in the fantasy community and handmade brooms and wands by real wiccans set the venue apart from anything else I’d seen before.
The best compliment that I can give it was that it felt real. So many times I’ve been to other experiences, and you can spot the manufacturing and marketing that has been behind it, giving it a 'commercialised' feel. This however is very clearly run by a person who understands what the fantasy and magical world is truly about. It's especially a treat for all the nerds and geeks who will pay attention to the Easter eggs and minute details weaved throughout the room. But equally, you can just come along and enjoy the experience for what it is, whilst taking some great insta shots. There's really something for everyone.
An example of some of the oil paintings that I mentioned. These are by the wickedly talented Xavier Boldu. You can see more of him over on Instagram
Most of the magic comes from the people behind-the-scenes who work tirelessly to create this unique den of wonder, as Matt explains. “I thought very deeply about how I could make this appeal to fantasy fans. My co-founder, Dave, has a background in molecular mixology. Our company is a collective of set-designers, engineers and hospitality who also add their own ideas. Some things are really specific, such as the Nordic inscriptions above each door that can be transcribed, which will reveal different quotes from fantasy, sci-fi and famous scientists.”
I'm telling you, every single detail is paid attention to here. I'M LIVING FOR IT.
Despite the theatrics of the waiting staff, and all the props that you are given, the experience also aims to be an educational one, as Matt explains. “My aim with this was to bring together science and fantasy. When I worked in technology (studying a masters in Computer Programming and Design) I saw lots of links between the two. People were doing DIY projects around the world, such as real magic wands that actually worked. So I would try to pull together all these different components to create an experience where magic and fantasy was real.”
And showcase it he did. I brought along my geeky partner-in-crime, Joe, and we immediately started deconstructing each cocktail recipe as we went through the steps. Many were actually inspired by a potion from a book or series, again giving you a little taste of geekery. Factors such as magnets, Bunsen burners and mixers created magical illusions that bewitched your mind and ensnared your senses.
...Alright yes, I stole that line from Professor Snape. Sue me.
A sneak peek at some of the potions you'll make at The Cauldron. Find our more about their hidden secrets and collaborations here
We concocted two cocktails ourselves; The Blood Boiling Curse and Time Transfixed. The menu had each cocktail listed by difficulty, and also indicated the flavours, notes and ingredients within each. So if you prefer sour cocktails for example, then you can choose a drink based on those preferences.
I have to give massive compliments to the service at The Cauldron as well. From the very beginning we were greeted warmly, instructed thoroughly and cared for throughout. Each staff member made cheeky references to fandom knowledge, and managed to give a magical twist to every instruction or explanation - without making it sound lame! Great customer service sticks with you, and the staff here had some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Elephant and Castle isn’t actually the first venue of The Cauldron. It opened earlier this year in Dalston, East London, in the gallery of a classic East End pub. Since then, they’ve expanded in more ways than one, as Matt divulges. “We also opened up a second location in NYC, which made sense as a fifth of our audience was American. We figured the US was a good place to go, plus I’m from the East Coast so I know the area well.”
He continues, “The area in Manhattan is completely different to this! It’s magical castle themed: So we’ve turned a German Bavarian beer hall into a magical castle. Where as this one is more based off of an enchanted forest, and the previous location in our basement venue was a dungeon. We adapt the theme to fit the space.”
The Cauldron originally started as kickstarter project, with the aim of becoming a permanent venue in London. Though at first it didn't reach the original goal, it's continued to receive attention from press and fans alike
But that’s not all that’s in store for The Cauldron! Over the Christmas period, they will be hosted at the ice skating rink in Elephant and Castle, where guests can pop along and pour fantastical hot chocolate and mulled wine with a magic wand. Their menu is constantly evolving and changing, so whenever you book to go, you’ll be guaranteed to have a unique and bespoke experience.
Personally, this is one of the best geeky outings I’ve had so far. The atmosphere, the service and of course the delicious drinks made for a truly magical afternoon that I will not forget. The Cauldron is set to be in Elephant and Castle until the end of January 2019. But never fear; Matt has let me in on a little secret that they do have a move to central London coming soon, and they may be sticking around for a lot longer than few months…
Matt also has big plans to take the experience further than London and NYC. “We want to take The Cauldron to different cities across the world. It’ll be like creating a pop-up experience in a box, and taking that further. But what I really want to do is focus on permanent venues, as opposed to just pop-ups!”
So who knows? A new venue could eventually open up in a city near you, no matter where you’re based in the world.
Does this sound like a magical experience you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments below!
Learn more about all the magical activity at The Cauldron on their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channel. You can also check out their gift-wrapping service, if you feel like giving someone an extra-special present this Christmas.