The velvet tent strung above our heads heaved with each gust of wind. The wooden tables, chairs and floorboards were roughly hewn and the harlequin windows transformed the outside light of a cold, autumn day into warmth and wonder.
Spiegeltents were historically used as travelling ballrooms, theatres, bars and entertainment salons. Built in Belgium during the turn of the twentieth century, these mobile tents of fun and frivolity were made of wood, mirrors, canvas, leaded glass and detailed in velvet and brocade, each with its own personality and style.
The Spiegel Saloon featuring at this year’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland will transport you out of the frosty city air and into a time-forgotten space of colour of warmth. Resplendent in antique charm, the Spiegeltent is absolutely the highlight of the Spiegel Saloon. Aside from the fancy lighting and Euro-beats pumping quietly from the speakers, you’ll think you’ve wandered into a Belgian ballroom from days of olde.
During the day this tent is a haven for families looking to get out of the cold and crowds of the Winter Wonderland. It feels so cosy because you can hear the muted sounds of the fair and the nearby Tower of Terror, knowing you’re in the heart of the fun, and yet warm inside the festival’s only fully heated and covered bar.
Big enough to accommodate 500 revellers, this tent is large enough so that it feels spacious and comfortable. A circular room with a bar in the middle and a stage near the back, The Spiegel Saloon whispers promises of good times with live music, flowing farmhouse cider and bean bags. The parents who haunt this place during the day, as I did, can only sigh with envy at the debauched splendour they’ll miss out on in the evening to follow.
The food is better than the fairground fodder on offer outside of the tent. It’s a little pricey for what it is, but that’s really no surprise at events such as this. The ham hock was generous and tender with lots of succulent red cabbage, probably a good choice for the hungry diner. The burger was also generous, with two patties and a nice big serve of chips. Although it could have been something wonderful if only they’d melted the cheese and been honest and called it sweet chilli sauce, not chilli and onion jam. Stay well clear from the pate starter and head more towards the chicken wings, that were tasty and yet so few.
The kids menu was good, but take care with drinks, as they’re not included and are full priced. The penguin ice cream dessert was a big hit with the kids, and come in a really cute little take-home container. Their burgers were also well received with a nice serve of chips.
With only 2 draft beers on offer, I guess that they’re banking on a big cider and mulled wine demand. The waiters are abundant and attentive, ensuring you’ve got everything you need and on-hand for tipple top-ups.
Just being inside this antique, velvet tent is worth paying extra for. Sitting on wooden benches that have seen the best part of a century in the warmth and relative quiet of this festive space was really quite extraordinary and worth a visit.
Open till 10pm and with live music and the option for group bookings, this could be a great place for a Christmas party or get together.