I approached Otherworld with a slight sense of trepidation. A virtual reality game ‘arcade’ serving classy cocktails? You’ve got to be joking, surely?
Full disclosure: virtual reality video games aren’t my cup of tea. I think I last played a video game when I was about 13 and even then I was more of a Tetris or Chuckie Egg kinda kid. A step up to a 3D world combined with booze filled me with dread.
But I was very pleasantly surprised. Located in arches under Haggerston station, betwixt Tonkotsu East and Berber & Q Grill House, the entrance is unassuming. You could walk past it thinking it’s a darkly-lit launderette or betting shop set in the near-future brutalism of A Clockwork Orange, and indeed the large ‘pods’ don’t exactly speak drinking den. On arrival you’re greeted by staff in white kimono tunics, not quite sure if you’re going to have a massage or your teeth pulled out. Thankfully, neither of these things happen.
Starting with a cocktail to settle the nerves (there’s nothing quite like playing 3D Angry Birds whilst half-cut is there?), Czech bar manager Adam worked up a couple of off-menu beauties. Adam’s CV includes stints at Rules, Balthazar and the fabulous Fitz’s and is a rising star in the hospitality industry. As he explained to me, the bar isn’t tied to any particular brewery or brand portfolio, so they’re liberated from the diktats of drinks suppliers to do whatever the hell they want. The back bar still needs a bit more stock but then it’s all about supply and demand. Starting with a cocktail based on Avuá Cachaça Amburana, a Brazilian spirit, things were already somewhat leftfield but eye-opening. I followed this with a sherry and tonic and also sampled the very light, grapefruit-infused lager on tap.
I was then ready to enter the other dimension. There’s nothing to fear here. You’re given a full briefing and a pair of hand-held controls that allow you to ‘grab’ items and ‘run’ within the otherworld, whilst an assistant places a visor over your head so you can see everything and hear your teammates. It’s actually enormous fun, particularly if you’re in a small group and join games together, though my personal favourite had to be Google Earth, where you could literally fly over anywhere in the world – I flew over deserts, round the Statue of Liberty and over London feeling like Superman.
After all that giddiness I was brought back down to earth with a sharpener to prepare me for the grim reality of the Overground. This time a Negroni with pink peppercorn gin and grapefruit, which was delicious.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with such an unusual bar but it was a truly fun evening – even for this virtual reality sceptic.
For more details see: https://www.other.world/
336 Acton Mews
by J A Smith