The Bletchley: London’s “Sherlock Meets Turing” Pop Up Code Breaking Bar

By in Alan Turing, bar, cocktails, England, Europe, London, Sherlock Holmes
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“Sherlock Meets Turing”… that was the tagline for The Bletchley, a pop-up cocktail bar in London by Lollipop. They’re an events company which also brought ABQ, a pop-up cocktail bar based off of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, that welcomed guests to “cook up” their own cocktails using molecular science.

The Bletchley, named after the government code breaking facility in Milton Keynes, is where Alan Turing, a brilliant computer scientist, mathematician, and logician, cracked the German communications code during WW2 and saved countless lives. The set up of the bar is to allow the guests to play code breakers, being given a set of clues to break the enigma and receive their custom cocktails.

I happened to learn about this through word of mouth, my friends around London were talking about a new pop-up cocktail bar that boasted ciphers, puzzles and enigma machines to order your drinks. Things like your personality, tastes and preferred scents would all be used to make a special cocktail that was all yours, and no two people would get the same one. All in all it sounded pretty darn neat.

Being the nerd I am, especially one who is fond of shows like Gravity Falls, Sherlock and a lover of geek themed cocktails, this was a dream come true. I went to sign up and of course…it was hardly straight forward.

The Bletchley: London's "Sherlock Meets Turing" Pop Up Code Breaking Bar - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

When I clicked on the link sent to me, I was brought to a page with cryptic symbols and a simple question “Would you like to play a game?” Praying this was legit and not some random spin-off from the Saw horror series, I carried on and was brought next to a page with a black background  and numbers flying down my screen. Now I felt I’d hopped into the Matrix universe. A small bar spun with a mix of letters and numbers, pausing for only a moment to flash a word before spinning again and I was asked what that word was. It apparently changes for each person when you sign up, which I thought was rather interesting. It was the first puzzle and “cracking it” meant getting access to phase two, which was the sign up. Because of the overwhelming popularity of the event, tickets were limited and by the time I signed up I was number 6,780.

A few weeks later I got a random email with another link, and a new puzzle. This one was thankfully simple and I was at least allowed to buy the tickets. At £30 each, you and whoever else was in your party, were given 3 cocktails and because of the demand you’d politely be asked to vacate the table 2hrs after your session began. All in all it wasn’t bad and my friends and I all signed up.

Finding the sign up page was a puzzle, signing up was another puzzle, and then there was the matter of locating the bar! Around the side of the building, an unassuming door lay just slightly open with the words “The Bletchley” on it, Admittedly after everything we were wondering if we’d have to answer a riddle to be allowed in, but thankfully the door simple opened up and immediately we were immersed in the world of Alan Turing and the agents at Bletchley Park.

After making your way down a narrow set of stairs you came into this magnificent room which was literally covered from floor, wall and ceiling with numbers, letters, graphs, hastily scrawled notes and symbols with unknown meaning (or so it seems). The room was dimly lit and appeared thick with smoke and everyone wore era appropriate garb. Seeing people gathered in little clusters, hunched over actual enigma machines and clutching old school headphones to their ears as they read out something they’d all written down really made you feel like we were about to sit down and crack the code that would save the world. The bar area itself was perhaps the only modern thing about the room, just a little beacon to remind me that I’m not actually in the 1940’s

“#Sherlock Meets Turing”… that was the tagline for The Bletchley, a pop-up cocktail bar in #London by Lollipop. They’re an events company which also brought ABQ, a pop-up cocktail bar based off of the hit TV series Breaking Bad ,that welcomed guests to “cook up” their own cocktails using molecular science. The Bletchley, named after the government code breaking facility in Milton Keynes, is where Alan Turing, a brilliant computer scientist, mathematician, and logician, cracked the german communications code during WW2 and saved countless lives. The set up of the bar is to allow the guests to play code breakers, being given a set of clues to break the enigma and receive their custom cocktails. Everyone is done in era appropriate attire and there was even a smoke machine to set the mood. AMAZING event and outing (and cocktails!) . . . . . #Nerdventurists #TravelNerdy #TravelGeek #TravelGirls #NerdTravel #WeAreTravelGirls #roamtheplanet #travelwithme #doyoutravel #wanderlust #travelgram #travelandlife #lifewelltraveled #shewhowanders #travelingram #seetheworld #exploremore #postcardsfromtheworld #instago #visitbritain #visitlondon #England #igerslondon #ig_london #LoveGreatBritain #londonist #discoverlondon

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Before being seated you are asked if anyone has food allergies, which I really appreciated as I cannot have anything with dairy in it. Taking note you’re walked through the smokey room and brought to your table. A your table you’re given your own military jacket to wear, and if you’re really lucky a hat too (I was unfortunately not so lucky). There is a worn little folder which details what you need to do and how to work the machine. It was fairly simple to turn it on, then each person in our group had to enter our birthdates and the first four letters of our name into the enigma machine, it would then spit out a series of numbers and letters which you had to write down. Once that was done there was a pile of test tubes all marked with numbers and you had to smell them all and pick whichever one you liked the most. The smells all ranged from the soft and floral to the rather piney. I ended up going with a soft citrusy one, while the others in my group picked a coffee scented one and a sweet floral one.

Taking note of the number on the tube we added it to our respective custom codes and then we had to figure out how the correct combination for the switchboard to call in our orders. Which is was a bit difficult when the only “clue” we had was to look around the room for the correct clues.

The room is covered in clues, you could almost say everything there was a clue. It was at this point we all needed to embrace our inner Sherlock Holmes. As he says “you see but you do not observe” because it took as an embarrassing amount of time to realise that all the clocks were set to 4 and they were all red. Then after a bit more time adding numbers, coming up with odd complicated deductions and even at one point squinting to see what the other tables had, we noticed that the number three was almost always written next to the clocks. It’s all rather simple when you look at it now, but in that moment I felt like the worlds most brilliant detective.

Calling in an “agent” picked up and said “Hello agent, what is your name?” The name you give is your favourite colour so I was Agent Cerulean. After giving my code I passed the vintage headphones on to my table mates and we waited.

Our drinks came quickly and admittedly I was worried that this “blind” ordering was going to end up being horrible, it turned out pretty darn accurate. I loved my drink, it was citrusy and fresh with just the slightest sweetness to it. And with our drinks, came a letter bearing our agent names.

While we sipped at our cocktails we took a look at the letter and began to solve the next riddle which either because we were still riding the high of our first solved puzzle or because the cocktails were starting to kick in, we solved it pretty fast.

The Bletchley: London's "Sherlock Meets Turing" Pop Up Code Breaking Bar - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

We had to enter the year WW2 ended, then once the machine ran that combo, we had to enter the code: JRXVYK AFD GM OTP. Which once we ran it, it said “What is the square root of 30” and we had to use the answer to find the right combo for the cords for the switchboard. Solving it rather quickly the voice on the other end of the line told us to think of our favourite food and then write down the country it came from. Then we needed to look around the room and see which there were more of: circles, triangles or squares. Calling in I gave my agent name, then said Japan (because sushi is life) and declared triangles to be the ones I saw the most of.

The Bletchley: London's "Sherlock Meets Turing" Pop Up Code Breaking Bar - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

The next drink was just as brilliant as the first and completely different not only from the first one I had but also the one the others had. Unfortunately one of my table mates didn’t like her drink very much, but they were so quick to sort that out with no questions asked. Which I thought was rather nice of them, because you do take a bit of a risk when you order your drink blind like that.

Overall I loved this pop-up bar, so much that I went twice! It’s easier to sign up now, and less complicated than when I first had to try. You can simply go to their webpage : www.thebletchley.co.uk and book your night there. It is £30 per person for 2hrs and includes a total of three cocktails. So if you’re in London and are looking for something different than the usual pub, definitely pop on by and have a go at cracking the enigma!

 

    • Jean
    • May 6, 2017
    Reply

    Oh this looks like so much fun!! I’d gladly have paid £30 to drink here.

  1. Reply

    What an interesting idea for a bar! Looks like a lot of fun.

  2. Reply

    This looks like a wonderful experience.

  3. Reply

    I love Sherlock! This looks like so much fun 🙂

  4. Reply

    What an interesting way to have a drink! The place looks fun! Hmm,. I wonder though how long will it take for me to finish answering the riddles. LOL.

  5. Reply

    This sounds like such a cool and unique bar! I’ve taken note – would like to visit one day

  6. Reply

    This place looks awesome. I am from Miami and visited London last year for the first time. I found so many awesome bars and restaurants during my visit. I really love London so much and would love to live there! I am adding this place to my list for my next trip!

  7. Reply

    Although 30 quid sounds a bit steep, I guess you’re paying for the experience. I would be extremely thirsty by the time I found the pub and worked out what I wanted to drink. However, the pop-up, Sherlock inspired bar is a great novelty idea.

  8. Reply

    This place looks awesome and so exciting. But I would be terrible with puzzles if I had had a drink!

  9. Reply

    I love that idea for a bar! I have to admit I’m thinking of stealing that idea for a place closer to home. 🙂

  10. Reply

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I love finding nights which are a different to just sitting around different. Got a few friends in London who ADORE Sherlock so will mention this to them. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Reply

    This sounds awesome! I’m planning a London trip later this year so hopefully this will still be around. I’d definitely want to stop in!

  12. Reply

    Wow – what a cool idea. Reminds me of an escape room themed bar. Who wants to go to a pub when you can get to a place like that.

  13. Reply

    I don’t really get into tv series but I got hooked on Breaking Bad. The theme and ordering of cocktails sounds interesting and in line with the theme of the series. A night out here would be perfect, I love cocktails and in this environment it would be more fun.

  14. Reply

    Still think this is really awesome!!

  15. Reply

    Very cool idea for a bar! Sounds like a fun experience, although I think I’d get frustrated if I was having an off day and couldn’t solve the puzzles! It looks like they’ve really put in a lot of effort for this bar; I’d live to visit.

    • Stephanie Fox
    • May 11, 2017
    Reply

    Oh my god this sounds amazing! Love quirky and different places and if theres cocktails involved even better. It’s what every escape room in the world is missing ha!

  16. Reply

    Sherlock Meets Turing, what an interesting tagline for a cocktail bar. I have read a lot about Alan Turing and it’s good to know the connection. This looks like a one of its kind place. Quite an offbeat choice.

  17. Reply

    This bar sounds like so much fun. But looks like it takes a lot of time to be confirmed once you solve the first clue. I wish I could do this when I am in London later this year but doubt I will be able to get in.

  18. I have not been into anything similar to this bar. It is very interesting but I am not good at solving riddles. I would have to find a nerdy friend who’s willing to go through this. It would be so much fun because it is engaging and not your typical night-out with friends. I’d better check out their website.

  19. Reply

    This pop-up cocktail bar is so cool! I can see why your friends would be raving about it and that you had to try it too! I am a fan of this kind of stuff, so this has piqued my curiosity too. It is such a nice and unique concept.

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