“Welcome to Mile High. Is this your first time flying with us?” asks a stewardess dressed in a Pan Am-era uniform, with red lipstick, perfectly coiffed hair, and a perky attitude, as she hands me a passport and boarding pass. I walk into the lounge area of the airport and promptly receive a glass of champagne and a boozy stamp in my passport.
I’ve stepped back into the 1950s for an evening of drinks, food, and entertainment during a “flight” from New York City to London piloted by the crew of Mile High, a fictional airline-cum-pop-up interactive dining experience.
Mile High is the brainchild of four cousins from London (who all share the surname Templeton), who just so happen to make the perfect events team: Anna, 32, has a 10-year history working in TV production and events, Ollie, 23, is a professionally-trained chef, Will, 29, is the DJ, and Ed, 30, is an actor, bartender, and our captain for the evening.
The Mile High dinner series is just one of many events the cousins throw under their umbrella company, Shuttlecock Inc. Others include a seven-course railway journey through India, a chef cooking competition called Rumble at the Deli, and a pop-up gentleman’s club, The Odds and Ends Club.
For their London-based Mile High dinners, they have created exotic evenings spiriting guests to Mozambique and Beirut, among other exciting and savory destinations. But for their inaugural New York City event, they decided to take diners to the place they know best—London, in all its 1950s, gentleman’s club glory.
In our current day, when boutique and pop-up experiences are all the rage, the Mile High team differentiates their events by making them truly immersive. Beyond picking a theme to shape the menu and the décor, the servers (ahem, flight crew) are professionally trained actors who never break character…and I mean never. Attending a Mile High event is akin to being abruptly thrown into an ongoing play and having to adjust your behavior accordingly.
I have a conversation with one stewardess about our favorite places around the world. While I waver, uncertain—due to a distinct lack of acting talent—whether I should be telling the truth or spinning my own wild, time-appropriate yarn, she tells me about her love of Spain, because Spanish men are the hottest, naturally. She finds them so attractive that she decided to show her appreciation the last time she was there by giving one unsuspecting (and completely fictional) man a little pinch on the behind, which he did not appreciate.
The three stewardesses walk around, striking up conversations (“Have you ever been to London? Where are you staying during your trip?”) with their passengers, making sure glasses are never less than half full, and indulging the pilot’s continued imbibing.
To add to the authenticity (and giving the kitchen the benefit of the doubt), the flight is delayed a few minutes. But once dinner is ready to be served, we board according to group number, submitting our tickets to the flight crew who collects the stubs and passing through the boarding gate.
No flight is ever allowed to take off without a safety demonstration, and this jaunt is no different. The helpful pilot and crew stand around the room decked out in dark woods as you would find in a men’s club, and filled with two long, communal dining tables and instruct the hungry and more than a little tipsy diners to “stay calm and stay fabulous” in case of emergency. Forget oxygen masks; if the cabin loses pressure, “keep your wine glass firmly attached to your face.” They point out emergency exits by way of a quick round of the Macarena, and then we are on our way with the first course.
The star of the evening is undoubtedly the food—elevated London fare. Instead of the old fish and chips standby, the menu consists of smoked duck breast, light and tasty confit sea trout, and braised pork cheeks in a stew of lentils and watercress. Dessert is a slice of melt-in-your-mouth treacle tart with a dollop of perfectly tart clotted cream. Over a glass (or more) of port, we toast to the Queen…and Dame Judi Dench.
But the evening doesn’t end when we’re all stuffed and starting to sway. A quick round of a favorite Brit pastime—the TV quiz competition University Challenge—pits two diners representing Cambridge versus two diners playing for Oxford for a grand mystery prize (drum roll please: another glass of port presented with a flourish), before the flight “lands” and the party decamps to the boarding lounge for some dancing and (more) drinking.
While the ticket price is a bit steep ($120 a pop, although admittedly a steal compared to an actual trip to London), the evening is a jam-packed romp perfect for letting real life fall away during an entertaining, irreverent, and utterly tasty night out. And best of all, no TSA and no jet lag (although we make no guarantees against a next-day hangover).
Mile High: Destination London is running from September 24-27 and September 30—October 4 at a secret location in New York City’s Lower East Side. Buy tickets here.