Gourmet cinema snacks are a box-office smash as Vox ThEATre by Rhodes arrives in Abu Dhabi
It might be old news to Dubai filmgoers but in an exciting new development in the capital, Vox ThEATre by Rhodes has just opened up at the cinema in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall, affering much more than popcorn and hot dogs to movie fans.
Given a chance of a preview of some of the menu options on offer, I wasn’t going to say no to the prospects of some great food – and a chance to catch a screening of new superhero movie X-Men: Apocalypse. I was also curious to see what British celebrity chef Gary Rhodes would have to offer for vegetarians like me.
Here’s how it works: You book your tickets for Vox ThEATre by Rhodes and order from the menu when you arrive at the cinema. You can choose from appetisers (The Preview), main courses (The Main Movie) and dessert (The Credits). The servers bring the food to you as you watch the film.
It’s not unlike the existing Vox Gold experience, then, but you get to eat food created and prepared by a renowned chef and his team.
My companion and I were asked to choose our seats for the screening and then shown to them in the exclusive lounge (the tickets cost Dh160 plus the cost of the food you order). The servers then brought us the menus, which featured a selection of items from the more expansive general menu.
With a little helpful advice from my server, I opted for the Vanilla Oreo shake from the drinks menu. My friend was a bit more practical and ordered a Jasmine Tea.
A chat with Cameron Mitchell, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas – Vox Cinemas, and Rhodes revealed that the development of the service has been a learning process for the whole team when it came to perfecting the menu – and it’s not set in stone. They are already on the third or fourth variation of the menu.
It is the same as the one offered in Dubai (the service was launched there in September), and evolves according to the feedback they get from moviegoers.
When I pointed out that there were no vegetarian main dish on our sample menu, Rhodes promised to make sure we would get something from the general menu.
“Mac and Cheese croquettes”, he whispered. “Fried yummy stuff,” yelled the voice inside my head. Confident that Rhodes would take care of our vegetarian needs, we also ordered an appetiser – nachos – and dessert.
Vox and Rhodes aim to break the mould by offering moviegoers a more luxurious experience of movie viewing and cinema snacks. Truthfully, I’m more of an Eldorado Cinema kind of film fan – and on the rare occasion that I do eat while watching a movie, it’s usually Safari chips. Think about it: it’s traditionally “movie and popcorn” or “movie and nachos”, not “movie and buffalo mozzarella with fig jam bruschetta” – which, by the way, was delicious and my favourite out of everything we tried.
There’s ample room to move around in this special theatre without falling over outstretched legs. We spent a good deal of time getting the perfect angle for viewing, as soon as we sat down on the plush leather chairs. If you fiddle around a bit, you can recline comfortably and still see the movie without the seats in front obstructing your view. We didn’t use the blankets that we were provided since it was quite warm but I can imagine how cosy it can get. The side-table was chin-high, though, which was cumbersome.
By the time the movie began, we were as comfortable as could be.
It was a little distracting when the servers started to move around and serve the food – and we missed a few scenes because our server was trying to help us figure out what was on our plates. My companion joked that she would have to come back to watch the movie again.
The portion sizes were perfect for sharing, especially since we were eating a three-course meal.
Eating in the dark was a slightly disconcerting experience – I knew I was going to mess up. You’re generally familiar with how popcorn and nachos feel in the dark so it’s not that hard to aim accurately for your mouth.
While I had no problem with the nachos – which were served with red-pepper cheesecake cream (this should become the only kind of cheese you dip your nachos in) – I had to deconstruct my macaroni and cheese croquettes and pull out the pasta to confirm that it was indeed what I thought it was.
How were they? They were perfectly crisp and gooey.
It took me a while, however, to figure out that my bruschetta was topped with a piece of fig that had fallen off when I clumsily pawed at the plate trying to figure out where the food was.
Also, giving me cutlery to use in the dark was a risky option – I was trying to cut through the napkin on which my Wild Mushroom Biryani fritters were served. Had I succeeded, it could have completely altered the taste of the fritters – which by the way, were crisp and packed with flavour. Who’d have thought you could “fritter-ise” mac and cheese and biryani?
My vanilla Oreo milkshake did not show up – I’m sure it would had I mentioned it to the server, but by that time I had already eaten enough for three people. As it was, I had no room left for more than a nibble of my date and banana french toast fingers. The knickerbocker glory, loaded with fresh berries, was a big hit with my friend, though.
As the closing credits rolled, by the time we left the “experience” our stomachs were close to bursting. I can see how this could be really popular in the UAE, since you can conveniently do dinner and movie all at once.
Oh, and as for X-Men: Apocalypse? Well, let’s just say that the food was definitely the bigger hit.
• The THEATRE by Rhodes experience is available at Vox Cinemas in Yas Mall and Nation Galleria in Abu Dhabi, and at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai
Updated: May 21, 2016 04:00 AM