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Review: Houdini’s

Award-winning Magic Bars where you can experience live magic up close with some of the country’s finest magicians – perfect for date night with a difference or a novel night out with the girls! Read the Muddy review...

As one of the Finalists in our recent Muddy awards, we were duty-bound to check out what all the fuss was about and see if the magical allure of Houdini’s was all that it was cracked up to be.

THE LOWDOWN

You have your pick of two Houdini’s bars in Kent with the first opening in Broadstairs in 2016 swiftly followed by a second bar in Canterbury in 2018. Owner, Sam who was born and raised in Kent, joined the Magic Circle when he was 13 and has since practiced his craft across the world. During a trip to the States, Sam was inspired by the themed magic bars that he performed at and identified a gap in the market for something similar in the UK – and thus Houdini’s arrived in Kent. In a puff of smoke. Almost.

THE VIBE

I headed to Houdini’s in Canterbury with a group of girl mates on a Wednesday night post food in town and the bar was the right kind of full. No tumbleweed whistling around us upon arrival but equally not so rammed that you would struggle to get a chair or table which is important at the grand old age of 40-plus. I’m told that Saturday is a different story and it is pretty packed from 9pm onwards which makes sense for that day of the week.

The décor comes across as ‘speakeasy meets magic show’ which I know is not a recognized design genre but maybe the best way to convey the essence of Houdini’s. A saloon bar vibe with exposed brick walls at the back and funky lighting behind the bar plus decorated quite randomly but quite wonderfully with tonnes of magic artefacts including black top hats as lampshades and ‘birds’ in cages. You will also find an abundance of vintage posters and playing cards dotted around – even on the ceiling.

Lighting is very dimmed with some old-school tunes playing so I would position it as a place to settle in after supper rather than kick-starting your night there but of course you can do both.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The important point to know here is that the cocktails are good. We were served up a Porn Star Martini and an Expresso Martini plus the Magic Maker (Fresh Strawberries, Rhubarb Gin, Vodka, Lime, Prosecco) which were all on point, BUT you really cannot leave without ordering one of their Magic Menu cocktails which all contain a magical element and are made by different ‘cocktail conjurers’ on alternate nights. I can thoroughly recommend The Vanishing Act and The Bullet Catch and will say no more so that you are equally spellbound upon arrival. There is a gimmick involved but it’s well worth it’s theatrical entrance to your table.

If it’s not just cocktails that you are after, Houdini’s also serves wines and beers and uses local spirits where possible, including Coxy’s liqueurs made with Kentish fruit and honey. Could almost be quite good for you, right?

Houdini’s hosts some of the country’s finest magicians and ‘Magic Mike’ (sadly not THAT one) was our magician for the evening. Ahead of going, I confess that we were all a little cynical about how impressive the magic could be up close and personal, but I can gladly tell you that we were wrong – VERY wrong. Again, I do not want to share any spoilers but it’s mind-blowing what tricks can be performed in front of your very eyes without you spotting anything out of turn.

As well as the private magic shows at your table, amidst chatting and cocktail slurping, there was also a more ‘official’ magic show with the entire bar and some group participation too. There is a TV screen to broadcast the magic so even if it is crowded night, you will still be able to admire the action.

Houdini’s certainly does the trick (ho ho) for a night interspersed with cocktails, chatting and some rather cunning magic.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Got a budding magician in the family? Kids are also welcome at their themed ‘Funday Sunday’ events which are often held throughout the year with games and children’s magic shows plus they put on some great themed events including Peaky Blinders, Game of Throne and Rocky Horror Picture Show with a magical twist. Or got an event or special occasion coming up? You can hire out Houdini’s for Children’s Magical Birthday Parties, Cocktail Masterclasses or as a private bash for the grown-ups or hire their magicians for parties.

WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?

Standard cocktails are priced at £8.50 whilst cocktails from the Magic Menu are priced at £9.00 and it’s free entry which takes the sting out of that tail.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good For: Perfect for date night with a difference or a novel night out with the girls. Really impressive magic theatre that will wow even the toughest of cynics.

Not For: Houdini’s has a ‘spit and sawdust’ vibe to it, which appealed to our group and suits the ambiance of the place, but it might deter a slightly snootier friend who prefers the fancy bar experience. The music was also quite loud, and the lighting low so take your parents at your peril.

Houdini’s Magic Bars can be found in two Kent venues:

Canterbury: 6 St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AT (01227 452233)

and

Broadstairs: 158 High St, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 1JB (01843 866600)

houdinis.co.uk, bar@houdinis.co.uk

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