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  • Writer's pictureImmersive Rumours

Review: Humbug - Immersive Christmas Dive Bar

Santa is holed up in his favourite watering-hole, and is lacking in Christmas spirit. Can we save Christmas and get him back on his sleigh, or has he hung up his boots for good?


Immersive Rumours received complimentary tickets to this show and as such, are disclosing this information before our review. They have had no input in the below and all thoughts are our own.

Humbug Poster

Humbug - a brand-new immersive Christmas dive bar, has just opened its door beneath Waterloo Station for the festive season. Running until 6th January 2024, the experience is a booze-fuelled evening of festive cheer, sing-a-longs and immersive elements. If you're looking for a Christmas-themed night out with friends or colleagues, or are sick of visiting Winter Wonderland for the umpteenth time, this is a fun alternative.


We were recently invited down to opening night to check out the experience and share our thoughts - a huge thank you to Hero Social for the invitation.


Photos: Humbug/Grant Walker


Humbug lies behind an unassuming door at the end of Leake Street - an area of London known for its elaborate graffiti-covered walls. It's a venue so well hidden that we overheard the leader of a walking tour passing by remark they 'had no idea there was even a door there' while queuing to enter. Behind the spray-painted mural of Santa lies an elaborately decorated hallway covered in wrapping paper and presents - it's a wonderful introduction to the maximalist design of the venue, which is covered head to toe in what feels like every single bit of Christmas memorabilia ever made, with sections themed around Mariah Carey, Home Alone and Wham! to name just a few.


We're welcomed into Humbug by Rudy - the owner of the year-round Christmas-themed watering hole. They explain that Santa has been propping up the bar for several weeks now. Refusing to pay his bar tab, and without any of their usual Christmas spirit, it's crucial that we try and help Santa find their mojo again in order to save Christmas. Once escorted to our table and given a complimentary welcome drink (part of a VIP upgrade available when purchasing tickets), we're soon introduced to a few other patrons of the bar.


Humbug - Howard the Mailman

Photo: Humbug/Grant Walker


There's Daphne - the disgruntled waitress who's long since mentally checked out of the job. With their dreams of singing for a living hampered by a fear of performing in front of an audience, they've little choice but to keep serving drinks and cleaning tables, and Howard - the bumbling mailman who has lost all the letters meant to be delivered to Santa after a few too many post-work drinks in Humbug


This trio of characters make up a large part of the immersive interactions on offer throughout the evening. With guests being largely confined to their seating area for the evening, Rudy, Daphne and Howard will drop in sporadically to interact with the larger group surrounding your table. Rudy has a crush on Daphne but is unsure how to express it - at one point they workshop ideas from the crowd on how to best share their feelings. Howard will ask us to write some new letters to Santa to replenish their mailbag, and Daphne undertakes her waitressing duties with the enthusiasm of someone who's at the tail-end of a double shift.


Humbug - Decoration

Photo: Humbug/Grant Walker


Every visit includes a meeting with Santa, who is holed up in a private room at the back of the venue for the first half of the evening. With a peace offering of a present, our larger group of 15 or so are invited to go and meet the main man midway through our visit. Inside, Santa shares that they're lacking in Christmas spirit this year. The workload is immense, a lot of the toys they've delivered over the years are rubbish, and everyone keeps leaving out sugary treats for him.


With cries of 'Is it too much to ask for a complex carbohydrate?! Why does no one ever leave me Twiglets?!', Santa denounces the holiday season and insists on staying put. Despite the group recounting tales of their favourite childhood gifts and how much Christmas means to everyone, we're soon ejected by Santa after failing to renew their Christmas spirit.


It's all pretty light-hearted fare, and all four cast members do a good job of drawing in the audience to their storylines - even if overall it's not quite enough to keep you engaged and doing things the entire time. If you go in with the understanding that it's a bar first and foremost, with a sprinkling of immersive elements on top, you'll likely walk away more satisfied.


Humbug - Group sitting in a booth

Photo: Humbug/Grant Walker


There's a large selection of drinks on offer for guests - from mulled wine to cocktails including The Grinch - a tropical mix of peach schnapps, blue curacao, rum and pineapple juice and Bah F***ing Humbug - oat milk, vodka, chocolate liqueur, amaretto and whipped cream topped with a mince pie. With table service throughout, you are stung with a 12.5% service charge on top of every drink order, which quickly pushes the price of a pint above £7.


In the way of food offerings, there are Christmas dinner wraps (Pulled turkey, bacon, cranberry sauce, veg and gravy), loaded fries and cheesecake as well as a selection of bar snacks including pretzels, candy canes, mince pies and nuts.


Humbug - Howard the Mailman

Photo: Humbug/Grant Walker


As the evening progresses, it turns out to be a group sing-a-long to Last Christmas that finally brings Santa back around. With the crowd being ushered into a main performance space, we're treated to a conclusion of the various storylines established earlier in the evening. Part cabaret, part karaoke, Santa plays the role of MC as each of the bar's patrons gets their moment in the spotlight. The letters we wrote to Santa earlier in the evening are put to good use as Santa and Howard read out some of the naughtiest and nicest things guests wrote down. While we won't be repeating it here, our answer won us some free shots at the bar and a large round of applause, amid the groans of disgust.


Humbug - Santa

Photo: Humbug/Grant Walker


Despite being light on the proper immersive elements that you might expect, Humbug is still an enjoyable evening out. It's a great activity for those looking to do something different this Christmas, especially if the entry prices of certain other food and drink-focused immersive experiences on offer in London are too eye-watering.


★★★½

 

Humbug runs in Waterloo until 6th January 2024. For more information, and to book visit humbugchristmas.co.uk. Tickets start from £29.50, with VIP upgrades and add-ons available.


Thank you to the Hero Social team for inviting us to experience Humbug. We've got an Instagram reel of the experience which can be found here.

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