Housed within the walls of the Troubador Theatre in Wembley Park, Studio 5ive forms part of the area’s ongoing push towards regeneration. It’s billed as a pre or post dining destination, but it also hosts its own Live @ Studio 5ive nights featuring a range of performances from musicians, comedians and poets. Essentially, it’s the latest in a long line of immersive dining experiences, and I’m all down for that. Taking place every Wednesday to Saturday throughout February tickets are £30 and include a two-course meal. On this particular night, it was the promise of Australian singer and comedian, Kelly O’Brien, performing as Dolly Parton that lured me to the farther reaches of the Metropolitan Line — admittedly, little else could.
In keeping with what one would expect from a Dolly Parton tribute night (long live the true queen), it was gloriously, unabashedly camp. The tassels on Dolly’s outfit swung impressively to the tune of O’Brien’s convincing Tennesse drawl and contrasted pleasingly with the matte navy blue walls and plush, velvet sofas. Tables are positioned around the stage so most people get a good view of the performance, and if not, Dolly (or Kelly? it’s hard to know how to refer to her when she’s so damn convincing) made sure there was plenty of crowd interaction, hopping down in her sky-high heels and doing laps to get people going/ruthlessly distract any man over the age of 35. Meanwhile, a small army of waiters ferry between tables, delivering drinks and doing their best to please.
An unsurprisingly mixed bunch. The loudest, naturally, was the table of women out celebrating a birthday sat behind us —they seemed more intent on chatting than watching the show but Dolly soon won them round. Elsewhere there were grandparents clapping and singing along to every song; what can only be described as full-blown Dolly Parton enthusiasts; and couples who stumbled in looking confused, not quite sure what they’d inadvertently let themselves in for. The age gaps may have been vast but that’s nothing that a Dolly bridge can’t fix — by the finale of ‘9 to 5’ pretty much everyone was up and dancing; only a madman could resist that riff.
The night was split into two acts, so we polished off starters with Dolly’s beautiful warbling as the soundtrack. We went for salmon tartare served with Aleppo pepper and lamb’s lettuce, which was tasty but strangely presented flat and spread out across the plate, while the seasonal squash and chestnut soup served with rye bread could’ve done with a few shakes more of seasoning. Never mind, we were easily distracted by Dolly belting out ‘Jolene’ and making jokes about her ample sized bosom in the background anyway.
Act two and this time she comes out all guns blazing, ready to be met by the adoring crowd who await her. She churns through further classics — ‘Islands in the Stream’, ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Country Road’, which at this stage (ie. a few bottles of wine in) gets a fair amount of crowd interaction. We struggle to keep our attention on the food but we’ve got mains to consume. My partner orders beef cheek with roasted carrots, dripping toast and beef liquor and a side of blackened sweet potato with creme fraiche. He says it’s palatable, only this time there’s been overzealous seasoning, which makes some of it too salty to finish.
I plump for the pollock with puy lentils, celeriac and salsa verde, which had the potential to be delicious but unfortunately, the fish was far too overcooked, alongside corn served with habanero butter, which again, could’ve done with less time in the pan. It was all appetising enough but would have been less disappointing if the menu didn’t aggrandise each dish with such lengthy, detailed descriptions — ultimately what you’re getting is quite a basic plate, and that’s okay if it’s what you’re expecting.
The cocktail menu features a range of classics — Espresso Martini, Negroni, Old Fashioned and the like. And then there’s an additional selection of specialities. I tried the basil fizz, which was quite sweet as described but not at all fizzy. I switched to wine quite quickly after.
In a nutshell
Studio 5ive didn’t have us swinging from the chandeliers in culinary ecstasy but to be honest, the show more than made up for it — you sort of stop thinking about the food once you’re midway through a rip-roaring chorus of a Dolly classic (a lesson I’ll be taking home with me). In short: it’s a great, lighthearted night — go with a bunch of mates and you can’t go wrong.
Studio 5ive, 128 Wembley Park Dr, Wembley Park, Wembley HA9 0EW; 020 7550 9883; www.wembleypark.com/studio-5ive-in-wembley-park