Lobster, king prawns, chicken wings, frogs legs, almost all fish and even ribs, to some degree, have a problem.
You can’t get to the goodness without first painstakingly picking it out and hoping it doesn’t slingshot off the plate or squirt the lady on the adjacent table in the eye.
When I eat, I want to eat. I don’t want to solve a Rubik’s cube. I also don’t want to talk, which is why I’m not too fond of dinner parties either.
Call me boring, but all this means I approached Canberra’s new pop-up cocktail bar, The Alice, with some reluctance.
The Alice has taken over the second floor at the Zoo Bar in Civic from April to December 2022, and it’s described as an “immersive cocktail adventure”.
“For those both curious and curiouser – this will be the tea party to end all tea parties,” the description goes on.
“Across 90 minutes, you will … solve riddles and challenges just like Alice.”
This will be fun.
As you may have gathered, The Alice is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s famous novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s one of many themed experiences brought to cities around the world by event company Viral Ventures.
The story begins with Alice growing tired of sitting by her sister on the river bank. She’s considering whether or not to make a daisy chain when she catches sight of a white rabbit with pink eyes.
“There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’, but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket and looked at it …”
What follows is a weird, and at times, mildly disturbing sequence of events. The cocktail spin-off nails the vibe.
On entry, my wife and I are greeted by two ladies dressed as the White Rabbit and the March Hare. We are led through clusters of mismatched tables and chairs laid out with equally mismatched crockery. Mismatched lamp shades and children’s clothes are hanging from the ceiling. There are colourful flowers, card symbols and decanters dotted around. Two thick tree trunks and a garden arch blink out through the chaos of the room, and the large and creepy face of the Cheshire Cat peers out over all of it from its leafy wall.
The phone cameras come out everywhere. It’s clear people are here for the novelty.
A man in a long black coat and a green velvet top hat welcomes us to the party and suggests we’re all here for something a little extra. I think he means alcohol, not the opium Lewis Carroll had a soft spot for.
Either way, we’re each handed a cupcake with “Eat Me” iced on the top. Direct and straightforward – I like it.
However, before long, we’re handed a sheet of paper with three riddles. We have to work out whether the March Hare or the Mad Hatter is lying, get the goose, corn, and fox safely across the river, and talk to the creepy cat, and for each one, we’re given the keys to a lock box with a different cocktail ingredient in it.
The next challenge is latte art for cocktails. Armed with a bottle of chocolate sauce and a paintbrush, we’re told to compete for a shot by drawing the best picture on the foam.
I set to work. “That’s the first time I’ve seen a car,” the March Hare says to me on her tour of the room’s efforts. This was after my wife had told her what the heck all those brown streaks were meant to be. In defence of my ‘art’, the foam kept popping.
As an experience, The Alice excels – not as a date night but a gal’s night out, and the attention to detail and presentation is astonishing. And if you don’t want to play along, you can just go up to the bar, tell them you’re boring and they’ll hand the drinks over without further ado. So there’s something for everyone.
Book online for $49.50 per person.