So my girlfriend bought me a ticket to 'The Fork Awakens' for my Birthday - a perceptively exciting Star Wars themed experience of gourmet food and performance... How woefully mistaken we were in trusting Barrel & Forks to deliver on this promise.
The evening began with a hilarious interaction with Luke Skywafer (if you haven't guessed yet, every part of the Star Wars universe has been reengineered with food puns), but with an inexplicably watered down gin in a test tube at the door, it was clear something wasn't quite right - namely because of the initial photo on Barrel & Forks' Instagram promising something much better...
And then the food began - the tiniest possible sausage in a giant Tesco bread roll... Not exactly gourmet but I'll eat anything that is put in front of me. During this time a Jedi and Sith lord engaged in a rather underwhelming battle that wreaked of the mere two hours they had to prepare for it. Not their fault, but so far, so lame.
Following this, we dived into a rather non-Star Wars related sandy tavern (not a single cantina theme whatsoever) for what can only be described as the worst tomato soup on the planet - tinned tomatoes poorly blended with whole garlic cloves. While this was happening, two women, both dressed as Leia (paradox) started the icebreakers. After awkwardly forming a "band" using pots and glasses, we were rendered near speechless by anxiety ridden forced participation. Not the best follow up to a poor start.
But the kicker - the absolute kicker - is the final room... Yes, no sign of four courses; turns out we're only getting three. The almighty third course was a random piece of cold pie pastry with leek - mmhmm.
The room was decorated to be a starship cockpit, complete with a printed console...from Star Trek. Oh yes, after all of this false wonderment, they couldn't get the correct universe they are supposed to be recreating.
Understandably, people were not happy - expressing anger at the bar and demanding refunds (we did too, and will update you if we don't receive said refund). After a rather unnecessarily angry response from the staff, we have a downright terrible evening topped off by an, unfortunately, clumsy Lightsaber fight by the two original actors from the beginning - where they had to contend with a slippery sandy floor.
So what am I saying here, in a blog that does not fit our target audience whatsoever? Simply, I am raising awareness. Please ask for your money back and do not attend.
Your Star Wars fandom deserves more than this shit.
UPDATE - 26/06/16 10:19 AM
Barrel & Forks have made a response on their Facebook page, blaming the evening's activities on a "group of aggressive (some of them clearly drunk) people who didn't understand the concept of a pop-up dinner." They proceeded to accuse someone of taking the cash box and "making sexual comments about one of the waitresses." Read below and scroll down for our reaction.
If those final details are true, then that behaviour is definitely not acceptable. However, let's set this story straight. As you read from above, the night was already a shambles from the moment we walked through the door and received a tepid test-tube of gin instead of the cocktail that was promised by "working with mixologists" on Instagram.
And you accuse these same people of not understanding the concept of a pop-up dinner, labelling it was exactly as advertised on the website? Let's go ahead and compare what was written on the website to what we actually received.
"The fork awakens will take Foodtroopers into an immersive journey through time and space, with many familiar encounters and interactive adventures along the way."
Set in a rather chilly warehouse, the location of which is "secret" but everyone has revealed anyway, you can see the vague Star Wars inspiration to each area, but it was in no way an "immersive journey" with "interactive adventures."
Actors and actresses had mere hours to prepare for their time in the limelight, leading to poor performance, crowd participation was awkwardly forced, and the starship segment of our dinner was cut short with cold food as complaints began to surface at the bar.
"Get your Jedi's drink in the canteen, tuck in some pretty amazing hutt dogs and special spacefood, meet galactic explorers and interact with the rebels."
Firstly, the "Jedi's drink" is either beer, wine, gin, water or a soft drink, each of which costs £5 due to a mistaken use of £5 drink tokens. A particular moment of hilarity ensued when one customer asked for a gin & tonic and was charge £7.50... With two £5 tokens, confusion began.
The "hutt dogs" as mentioned are the tiniest of Tesco sausages placed on a giant bun, making for a bread-filled affair of bland taste and laughable disappointment.
That "special spacefood" never arrived, due to "aggressive customers" as you called them, but after three courses of the edible equivalent of a boring school dinner from that dinner lady you always hated, we were confident it was never going to arrive.
Look, I get it. You want to protect what has been a PR gold mine for you and your company. With featured articles in the likes of The Metro and NME, the last thing you want to happen is for that incredible illusion to be distorted. But the longer you metaphorically stick your head in the sand and ignore the voices of the majority, the more trouble you're going to land your company in.
The only real answer here is to apologise, provide refunds or invites to alternative dates, and go back to the drawing board to address these problems. In one way, I do sympathise with you - in this negative experience, you've successfully provoked one of the most passionate movie fan bases on the face of the Earth.
Open those communication channels and actually talk to your customers who have been wronged, otherwise this "scam" accusation will continue to unravel out of your control.
UPDATE - 26/06/16 7:05 PM
Barrel & Forks have responded to a comment on the above post from a person who did not attend with the following:
"Please note that following all comments and insults on social media, we are considering to take legal action to protect our reputation and to sue for libel, which is aggravated by the use of social media.
Therefore we highly recommend all followers not to continue with this activity, especially from people (like you) who didn't even attend our event - which has been cancelled and for which we are issuing full refunds."
Of course, the key fact to highlight here is that all future The Fork Awakens events have been cancelled, and the commitment to issue full refunds.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.