Restaurant Review: The Pandorica
A Doctor Who-themed eatery brings out the Valley’s “Whovians“
The Pandorica serves British favorites, like bangers and mash (above)
Photographs by Teresa Horgan
For most passersby, the waterfall found inside the window of Beacon newcomer The Pandorica is mere restaurant décor. Loyal fans of Doctor Who, however, might decipher England-born chef/owner Shirley Hot’s more abstract intention. “It’s symbolic of the fall of Gallifrey,” she explains. “Doctor Who fans love clues and a little mystery.”
When Hot was transforming Beacon mainstay the Cup & Saucer Tearoom — the British-inspired lair she bought in 2007 after rising through the ranks of server and cook — into a new restaurant, she never envisioned it as a kitschy ode to the BBC-produced sci-fi series. But after binge-watching old episodes of it on Hulu, she realized that the bathroom door in her restaurant, at least in stature, strongly resembled that of Doctor Who’s iconic blue TARDIS police box. So, die-hard lover of the show that she was, she recreated it to look as if it had been plucked from the set. “It was really going to be just this one fun thing that celebrated Doctor Who,” she remembers. “I didn’t know anyone else who watched it, so I was surprised when all these people came out of the woodwork just to see the bathroom door. I didn’t realize there was such a fandom out there. That’s when I decided to take the theme a little further,” she says.
The Beacon eatery is adorned with props and photos from the popular BBC series, and a Dalek (left) can be found watching diners as they eat Who-inspired dishes
The Whovian design touches at first were subtle, mostly in the form of artwork as to not overwhelm guests who had no knowledge of such things as extraterrestrial Time Lords and mysterious planets. Then someone on Reddit rhapsodized about The Pandorica, “and it blew me up,” Hot says.
Hot was first enraptured by the Gallifrey-fleeing Doctor’s adventures from the series’ inception in 1963 — “I don’t remember too much about the first doctor, but I was very much into the second one” — and now her life is consumed by this gripping, fictional otherworld. Named for a prison built by the Alliance to keep the Doctor from destroying all in his wake, The Pandorica features such “props” as an oversized Whispering Angel, an illuminated crack in the universe, and “lighting that makes you feel as if you’re inside the TARDIS,” says Hot. A mural of the exploding TARDIS graces the wall and a TV constantly streams episodes of the cult hit.
Owner Shirley Hot (left) even recreated the blue TARDIS police box (right) to look as if it was plucked from the set
The menu naturally nods to Doctor Who as well, with dishes like WHOmmus and the 11th Doctor’s beloved fish fingers and custard (a dessert version takes the form of battered and fried French toast). Here, petite corn dogs are named K-9s after the Doctor’s robot dog, and even unconventional alligator meat, because of a reptilian reference in the show, finds its way into the Solarian Nest, served atop fried potatoes.
In the mid-1980s, Hot moved to the Hudson Valley from the Bronx, drawn by the region’s pastoral allure. “I lived in the Midlands of England, and the area very much reminded me of home,” says the Beacon resident. But she also notes how her adopted city has evolved in recent years, rapidly growing and attracting a younger demographic. These shifts helped give her the confidence to make the ambitious move from scone-dispensing tearoom to television playground. “Beacon has changed so much, and I was getting feedback that the Cup & Saucer had become dated. So, I really took the time to think about what I wanted to do next, and I realized this was the right fit. There is just so much happening here now,” she adds.
Now it’s not stellar Earl Grey diners seek out when they pay Hot’s low-key restaurant a visit — although The Pandorica still flaunts a comprehensive tea selection — but doses of creativity and geeky nostalgia. Wednesday evenings, devoted to trivia, are especially lively.
“The most wonderful part of this experience is watching guests, all brought together by a love of this one amazing show, come in every day,” muses Hot. “Whovians can be shy, maybe even a little socially awkward, but here they are talking to each other and making new friends instantly. I see their eyes brighten when they watch an episode, and it just fills my heart and refreshes my spirit.”