Wringer + Mangle – Dine and Drag
If being serenaded by a sequin-covered drag queen in 6-inch red stilettos while you tuck into an intimate two course meal doesn’t sound like a glorious way to spend a Friday night then exit this article now and head to your nearest Pizza Express to dwell on your mundane life choices over a mediocre Margherita. In fact, don’t. Read on and see if I can convince you why it should be. If Wringer and Mangle’s Dine and Drag night could get my reticent, apprehensive boyfriend singing Chaka Khan and flirting with drag queens, I reckon you could get on board too. While this East London cabaret is not for the faint-hearted, it’s still very accessible to drag virgins – entertaining and lively without being screamingly overwhelming.
When we arrive, Wringer and Mangle is fizzing with Friday night relief – chatter is loud and carefree, and drinks are flowing. The London Fields venue is cavernous, with a twinkling, cosy outdoor seating area leading into a bar which snakes through into a candlelit restaurant. At the back of the building, decked out with more houseplants than a Millennial house share, is the stage with a keyboard standing unassumingly to one side. Running from centre-stage into the restaurant is a red carpet. On the red carpet, slap bang in front of the stage is our table. Free from the camouflage afforded to the groups of tables stationed further back, these are the best seats in the house. We have nowhere to hide. But any trepidation is swiftly assuaged when the bubbles begin to flow for the hour of bottomless Prosecco.
Hosting the evening is Jonny Woo, an impossibly statuesque drag queen made even taller by patent red platformed stilettos. Even without the blue and gold sequinned jumpsuit and shock of cropped peroxide-blonde hair, this queen would still have had the room enthralled. Jonny’s acerbic wit is softened by his well-spoken manner and honeyed singing voice. It is impossible not to feel instantly at ease when he welcomes the audience into his ‘safe space’ (the crease between Arthur and Martha, his right and left pecs). The bulk of the evening’s musical accompaniment is performed by the astonishing Rudi Douglas (of Big Gay Songbook) who plays the keyboard, sings solos and joins Johnny for belting duets.
During a particularly rousing rendition of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, our starters arrive. Included in the ticket price with the entertainment and Prosecco refills is a two-course meal. For £45, you’d expect something pretty decent, but if there’s one thing London has taught me, it’s that cost and quality often have very little correlation. Thankfully, Wringer and Mangle’s two-course British-ish fare does not disappoint. We start with meaty scallops on sweet cauliflower puree topped with artfully crumbled nduja and a snap of Parmesan crisp. While we’re waiting for mains to arrive, fiercely contoured lip-sync aficionado Crystal Lubrikunt takes to the stage. She starts on a slow Adele number and within moments she’s weaving through the crowd, treating each table to a section of her lip-sync routine. She wins over the audience and rounds off her set with whatever the pan pipe equivalent of air guitar is. It’s pretty impressive.
When Crystal’s set finishes and the waiting staff are no longer at risk of having their plates launched through the air by a high-kick from a rogue stiletto, mains are promptly served: carver chicken on a hefty dollop of truffled mash potato. It is warming and hearty and everything you want on a dark October evening. We’re encouraged to order sides for the table, but it is very apparent that the main courses are plenty filling enough.
Despite our filling supper, we are successfully brought to our feet for Jonny and Rudi’s final act. Cuttingly hilarious, Jonny authoritatively commands the room, and by the end of the night, even the most embarrassed, resistant hetero white males were getting involved.
With the help of all the booze, the night has flown by, and before we know it we find ourselves heading out into London Fields, bladders full of Prosecco and heads full of Madonna songs, vowing to return with all of our friends. With excellent food, plentiful drink and stellar entertainment, Wringer and Mangle’s Dine and Drag night is perfect for a first foray into drag cabaret. Whether it’s the entire focus of your night, as it certainly could be, or a rollicking prelude to an all-nighter in Hackney, Dine and Drag is an inclusive, entertaining extravaganza without being so ostentatious as to be intimidating. Wringer and Mangle, shante – you stay.
13-18 Sidworth Street, Hackney E8 3SD
020 3457 7285