by Andrew T. Elkins aka the 4th Doctor at Geek Regeneration
The controls were set for Beacon, NY on Saturday, October 24, 2015 but for some reason our transport delivered us a half and hour early. Better than a few years late, I suppose. My companion and I had a little time to kill, so we set the hand brake and alarm on our transport and took a stroll down the street of this quaint New England town.
You can imagine as All Hallow’s Eve was approaching no one seemed to give us a second glance. Arm in arm we window shopped as the cool breeze picked up my scarf and waved in the wind as it trailed behind us. Suddenly, a stranger approached with a smile on his face. I greeted him and he asked point blank if I had a Jelly Baby. I grinned, reached into my pocket, and pulled out my white paper bag filled with my favorite treat and offered him one. He happily accepted and wandered off in amazement that I had what he asked for. Why wouldn’t I?
We took a few minutes to wander into the local Notions & Potions shop located a few doors down from our ultimate destination. The store clerks appeared quite excited by our arrival. We were complimented on our attire and struck up a casual conversation about how they were big fans. Such a surprise that my reputation seems to precede me. I don’t think I had ever visited this locale before, but they were quite familiar with my “identity”. Alas, time was slipping away from us and we had a reservation to keep.
Back out into the night we went, but we didn’t need to go far. In the slight distance, a wilting sunflower broadcasted that we had arrived. My companion made a sarcastic comment that we had finally landed somewhere I had actually intended to go. Not paying her much mind, I opened the door to the Pandorica, waiting for the other shoe to drop… But it didn’t. What we discovered was a Whovian’s paradise. The walls of this establishment were covered in art paying homage to the longest running Science Fiction TV show of all time. The owner of the establishment, Shirley Hot, greeted us with a big smile on her face. There were several patrons at assorted tables and they seemed to be in a dither about something. Perhaps they were “blown away” by the spectacle of the huge mural showing the TARDIS exploding in the Van Gogh style on the majority of the back wall of the restaurant.
We were shown to our table and I bid my companion to take a seat. The lovely waitress brought us our menus and took our drink order: a glass of wine for my companion and some water for me as I knew that I would be “driving” later and we didn’t want to imagine where we would end up if I was under some undue influence.
I took a few moments to take in the atmosphere of the restaurant before we ordered our supper. In addition to all the art on the walls, which was for sale, there was plenty of other décor that caught my eye. Tables were decorated with Police Box jars holding sunflowers, there were both modern and classic episodes Doctor Who playing in the background and even the loo was quite familiar. To get there you had to go down a side hallway that had a “crack in the wall” until you got to a very recognizable “police box” door. Once inside, the walls were wrapped in paper that looked like a console room. Mind you, not mine, but it did seem familiar. And last but not least a large, glowing Pandorica art installation that was coming out of one of the walls. Most impressive!
But back to the main reason we had made our plans to spend our night here… the food. Well, maybe not the only reason. Anyway, our menus were again, quite reminiscent of our favorite police call box and when we looked inside our eyes opened wide. There was quite a selection of unique delicacies… we hoped that our eyes weren’t bigger than out stomachs. So many different themed dishes like the WHOmmus, Gallifreyed Potato Pancakes, Appalapachia Salad, Madame Vastra Po Boy, Thymey Whimey Beef Cottage Pie and more! We truly had a hard time choosing, but time waits for no one and we made our selections.
While we waited for our appetizers to arrive, we eavesdropped on the conversations happening at tables around us. What was truly surprising was the amount of families that had come out to dine. But what warmed my hearts were the geeky-laced discussions taking place. Parents indulged the inquisitive nature of their children and joined them in the enjoyment of the environment. Some were dressed in “costumes” such as bow ties, leather jackets and plenty of sonic screwdrivers to go around. Truly, the idea behind this restaurant was to create a fun, family-friendly environment where lovers of a certain time lord could congregate and share that love. After a few pictures with some of the patrons, our appetizers arrived.
I ordered the K-9’s (of course) while my companion ordered the Warm Spinach Artichoke Dip au gratin. Let’s be honest… I really wanted to try the (real) Fish Fingers and Custard, but I was chicken. A delicacy to be saved for a future exploration!
The K-9’s were homemade, lightly wrapped mini corn dogs, which were perfect as the wrapping didn’t make them too thick and overwhelm the dog with the taste of corn bread. It was just the right balance. It was “companioned” with a honey mustard that wasn’t too strong and helped accentuate all the flavors. I was quite pleased! Of course, I shared with my companion. Her artichoke dip wasn’t too cheesy as some dips can be and was extremely tasty with full rich flavors of spinach and artichoke. The “blue” tortilla chips were a nice touch!
After filling our bellies the main courses arrived on beautiful china plates, again adding to the flavor of the surroundings. So civilized! I had ordered the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. My
mouth is watering even now as I recall how divine it tasted. The bacon didn’t over power the meat and the loaf was not over spiced, but the gravy was the true treat as is was wine-based and brought the entire plate together. The potatoes were both filling and delicious.
My companion’s dish was the Thymey Whimey Beef Cottage Pie and was quite yummy according to her reviews although be careful as it comes out of the kitchen extremely hot. It was a great mix of meat, potatoes and vegetables and you could really taste the thyme!
We were stuffed to the gills at this point, but skipping desert was not an option. So, I took the opportunity to sit down with the restaurateur, Shirley to find out a little “history” about the Pandorica and allow myself some time to be ready to eat again.
I inquired as to how she came up with the concept of the Doctor Who themed restaurant and she was happy to indulge me. Shirley has been a huge Doctor Who fan since she was a child. She was born in England and has been watching the show since it starred William Hartnell. So there was a “fixed” point in time where she hadn’t been
watching the more modern episodes and decided to binge watch. I think a lot of people may have that experience. She was in the process of remodeling the (aforementioned) bathroom in her restaurant and noticed the structure of it was very TARDIS-like. She talked with an airbrush artist friend of hers to see if the door could be made to look like the entrance to the TARDIS and then she planned on calling it the WHOloo (she had been watching the new series on Hulu)! Shirley wanted to do it for herself to be a touch of England in her restaurant, as she didn’t really know anyone else locally who watched Doctor Who. But the artist spread the word about the door and people started coming into the eating establishment talking about how they, their kids and their friends loved the show. Shirley decided to rename the place to the Pandorica because it was unassuming and to those who know, understand and to those who didn’t understand it, it wouldn’t matter because it was still a pretty name. As it turns out the more fans flocked to the Pandorica, the more Shirley added to it as a reward and as a result it became what it is today.
Since this was my only experience so far at the Pandorica, I enquired about her customers and how many came in costume. Her response tickled me, as the kids definitely love coming in costume. She has had a lot of different Doctors come through her doors including few Tom Baker’s, a couple of Capaldi’s, but mostly Tennant’s. Are we surprised?
Most people don’t even know that the restaurant is there, but the huge TARDIS exploding mural (I kept staring at it throughout the evening) caught people’s eye and they would do a double-take, get all excited and come in. One night a local artist, named Alissa Mendenhall, did just that. They got to talking and showed Shirley some of her work, which then led to her asking Alissa if she would display some of her art on the walls. As a result, Alissa has grown as an artist and expanded her styles. Most people think that they have five different artists, but it is only the one, almost like different incarnations of the same person. Shirley was so kind that she gifted me a print of one of the 4th Doctor pieces (we went ahead and purchased a different piece as well).
This Pandorica opened 7/7/14 and soon after the Doctor Who World Tour commenced. That August, the restaurant was posted on Reddit and remained on the front page for approximately 3 days. The exposure was crazy. They were picked up by different news entities and they trended! As a result, an interviewer of Steven Moffat, Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi at the World Tour handed them the menu and some pictures and Steven supposedly said “The Pandorica… that’s fantastic!” He thought it was marvelous, as he had written the episode. Jenna supposedly said “Fish Fingers and Custard. I’ve got to try it,” and Peter said they have to go up there and try it since it sounded fantastic. As much as Shirley would adore having them come and partake, to date it hasn’t happened, but “WHO KNOWS” what the future holds!
By this time, I was ready to indulge in “sweeties” as Shirley called them and both my companion and desert were waiting for me. The selection of teas on the menu was most impressive and we decided on a white raspberry that was again delivered in appropriate china with a tea cozy. My companion chose the Madame De Pompadour Cake that was both fresh and inviting, and studded with blueberries and layered with a creamy mascarpone filling. Truly a delight. I once again couldn’t bring myself to order “Fish” Fingers and custard, this time faux fried (French toast) fingers and custard. It was the Bread Pudding #9 that drew my attention. Named for the 9th Doctor it was chock full of bananas and the chocolate and custard that accompanied it melted on my tongue. There wasn’t a bite left by the end and I must say that we were quite stuffed.
The kitchen closed at 9:00pm just in time for a new episode of Doctor Who, The Woman Who Lived, on BBC America (insert episode) and many patrons stayed to enjoy in camaraderie. Honestly, we were among our people. Everyone was so gracious and excited for us to be there. Certainly parting was sweet sorrow, but we were welcomed to come back anyTIME.
Personally, I encourage even more Doctors, companions and fans to travel to the Pandorica to partake in the same wonderful Doctor Who themed culinary experiences. We will return again some day in the future (or the past) and I will try those Fish Fingers and Custard… even if I have to do it in a different incarnation.