Cabaret has a new home in London’s Soho. The iconic Windmill Theatre’s doors have opened once again to the public as the hottest new attraction in London. The theatre’s new owners, Ryan Bishti and his partners, have created a blend of cabaret, dining, and theatrics that has brought the vibrant history of the theatre to life.
Since the 1930s, London’s Soho has supported a thriving cultural scene, and at its center was the Windmill Theatre. The iconic building stands out against its neighboring buildings, its turrets and neon signs evoking equal parts fantasy and exoticism. Its doors have seldom stayed closed – in fact; the building is best known for never closing during the Blitz in WWII.
From cinema to strip-tease joint, the Windmill Theatre certainly has made a mark on London’s past. Its name was once synonymous with celebrity intrigue, playing host to politicians, movie stars, and aristocrats of London. The Windmill has been home to cinemas, stripteases, and dancing clubs during its remarkable history.
In many respects, the theatre has been the scene of pioneers in the entertainment industry, hosting the pioneering Laura Henderson, who became immortalized in the musical Mrs. Henderson Presents. So it should come as no surprise that Ryan Bishti and his partner, Amrit Walia, have capitalized on the fantastical history of the building. Their endeavor focused on capturing the entertainment and risqué fun of the Windmill, but with modern twists.
Of course, Ryan Bishti is no stranger to pioneering businesses. His company, The Cream Group, specializes in bringing high-end entertainment, cuisine, and hospitality to London and the global market at large. His projects have made waves in the hospitality industry, but the Windmill Soho is a bit more personal than just a business endeavor. Bishti himself had admitted that when the Windmill closed in 2018 after losing its license, he jumped on the chance to bring the historic building back to life.
His efforts have certainly succeeded. In the hands of Bishti’s entrepreneurial expertise, the Windmill Theatre has grown into a magnificent combination of 21st-century tech and classic cabaret. The building now boasts high-tech LED screens, drones, and motion capture technology to bring the theatrical displays of the Windmill to pack plenty of entertainment into the intimate space of the theatre.
The Windmill Soho sets out to mesmerize its guests, displaying everything from circus acrobatics to the classic Windmill Girls – albeit with a bit more clothing than their predecessors. The acts and entertainment offerings have evolved since 1930, with male performers, a pink flamingo, and more traditional cabaret performances taking place on the stage.
Truly, this new iteration of the Windmill has taken luxury cabaret to a higher level. While the auditorium allows for plenty of dancing, private dining and events add an element of intimacy to the traditional cabaret environment. The shows planned by Bishti’s sister Camille and the London-based production studio High Scream wow the audience seemingly without end; entertainment carries on continuously from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., leaving no guest lacking for thrills or engagement. High Scream’s involvement shows just how grand the Windmill Soho’s offerings are – the studio has planned shows for the likes of Avicii, Disney, and the 2020 MTV EMA show.
The seemingly endless array of entertainment doesn’t stop with the shows. Ryan Bishti’s team has sought out the best talent in the industry to create a memorable, unique experience for guests at the theatre. Among them is Michelin Starred Chef Andrew Mcleish, whose decadent menu has brought an avant-garde array of sashimi and wagyu beef to tantalize guests’ tastebuds. A drink menu of traditional and adventurous beverages adds a layer of the classic speakeasy vibe to the Windmill’s offerings.
But ultimately what stands out most about Ryan Bishti’s endeavor at the Windmill Soho is its attention and dedication to its lauded past. The city of London holds a strong affection for the theatre, whose “We never closed” motto (jokingly told by Londoners as “we never clothed”) encapsulates an important piece of London’s past. The club’s motto is rather apt for today’s world, where entertainment venues have evolved to thrive around the COVID-19 pandemic. Ryan Bishti accepted the challenge, creating an environment safe for guests that still provides quality entertainment within the Windmill Soho and emphasizes the determination inherent to the building’s storied past.
As Bishti’s team sought to update the building, they worked to keep alive the spirit of the Windmill’s colorful and fascinating past. Previous workers of the Windmill, including past showgirls, have given advice and historical accounts to improve the theatre’s authenticity. Physical vestiges of the Windmill’s past remain, Bishti had the 50-year-old mechanical stage repaired and the neon signs of the building refurbished. In honor of the Windmill’s origins as a cinema, the mezzanine balcony was christened Palais Du Luxe, and Mrs. Henderson has a speakeasy named in her honor.
The reopening of the Windmill Soho has renewed more than just a building; much like the Windmill, the Soho neighborhood has gone through many changes and struggled through challenging times. Bishti’s endeavor has brought a fresh source of entertainment to the city while also revitalizing the Soho neighborhood itself. Furthermore, the opening of the Windmill Soho has proven once again that this building can overcome insurmountable odds, be they the Blitz or a pandemic, with the right people guiding it. As the Windmill Soho begins a new chapter, one thing is certain; this one is sure to be the most thrilling one yet.