I’m a firm believer in buying experiences for people rather than “stuff”, so when friends of mine – who have lived together for a decade – got married, I opted to lay on an out-of-the-ordinary evening rather than send Le Creuset.
We went to The Berkeley hotel’s immersive multimedia Out of the Blue experience, knowing only that it would involve cocktails and an element of sensory surprise in a private space off the hotel’s classic Blue Bar.
Before it began, we had a glass of champagne as our waitress explained what to expect: we would be taken into Out of the Blue, and there we would find four mystery cocktails served to each of us in opaque black vessels. Each represented a chapter and a colour. We were to drink them in order, from left to right, and each “chapter” would last for seven minutes.
Straight up, I really liked the “next up” dynamic of the evening. Not only is each mini “episode” designed to make you engage in fast and enthusiastic conversation about the drink in front of you, there’s the knowledge that, whatever you are drinking – whether it is to your taste or not – a new taste sensation is imminent. All the while, HD screens projected abstract imagery around us, and aromas filled the room.
With experiences such as this, it’s best to know very little, so I don’t want to give it all away – except to say that we thought it was immense fun.
Some of the imagery is more predictable than the rest – particularly when you’ve worked out what the more obvious ingredients, such as pineapple, are; and some of the synthetic aromas – particularly that pineapple – could be more refined. But the element of surprise was certainly there: none of my party – a sophisticated crowd – guessed the base spirit of one of the cocktails, and much of the experience is genuinely thrilling: it’s bright, loud, and the mood is ever-changing. Crucially, all is not as it first seems.
You book the whole space for four (£200), and you’ll definitely want to go with a group – the buzz comes from discussing what you think is in each drink, and how the sensory elements are changing your perception of each sip. Those changes are powerful: I detest whisky, but really enjoyed the “journey” I went through with the one whisky-based cocktail on the table (despite the visual Scottish tropes being a little on the nose). Ultimately, I would still stick to a negroni or a mescal on the rocks, but there was something with shades of a Bloody Mary that I immediately fell in love with – and I’m now part of a small club of people that can have it again.
At the end of the experience you receive a card, which you can bring back to the bar on any visit to reorder the drinks you had in the space – none of which appear on the regular Blue Bar menu.