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I visited the time warp UK attraction that’s like travelling to 1880s America

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AS someone who moved from the US to the UK as an infant, I rarely get the chance to feel ‘American’.

That was until I rocked up at the Moonshine Saloon: Immersive Wild West Experience in London.

The Moonshine Saloon's exterior is unmissable on Hounditch street

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The Moonshine Saloon’s exterior is unmissable on Hounditch streetCredit: Jane Cook
In addition to the detail-heavy saloon bars, there are two other rooms you'll get to see

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In addition to the detail-heavy saloon bars, there are two other rooms you’ll get to seeCredit: Jane Cook
It felt like I had stepped into a scene from HBO's Westworld

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It felt like I had stepped into a scene from HBO’s Westworld

Situated between Algate’s glass skyscrapers, the Saloon’s gaudy facade with its tea-stained newspaper boards and wagon wheels looked like it had been cut out of a Western film and pasted right into the centre of London.

It’s all a little too surreal for my friends and I, who are standing in a queue in a busy city street with unopened bottles of vodka and gin hidden in our bags.

The Moonshine Saloon’s gimmick, as the name suggests, is moonshine, and all guests are tasked with ‘sneaking’ in their homemade concoctions aka ‘store-brought spirits’.

Before long, a woman donning a ponytail, boots and a stetson with the loudest and cheeriest Texan accent I’ve ever heard is bellowing instructions at us.

Next, we are promptly ushered into a cloakroom – where things take a wild turn as we really felt like we travelled back in time.

With our modern clothes, phones and laptop bags, we look uncanny against the dark yellow-tinged interior, where piano music not far off HBO‘s Westworld plays, and the only sensible way of greeting is ‘howdy’.

The actress reminds us that we look like out-of-towners and hands out cowboy hats and colourful ponchos to blend in.

We are told that we are here to strike a moonshine deal with the legendary Moonshiner Cassidy (who runs the bar with her naive husband) and that we mustn’t tell her husband about the illegal operation.

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Already, you can tell something will go wrong.

The Saloon

It is when we push our way past the iconic double-swinging batwing doors (the hallmark of any good Western movie) , that I really question reality.

I went to TGI Fridays for bottomless brunch – the service was super quick and two things really shocked me

Before my eyes is a believable dim western bar, with shady figures in cowboy hats, and lantern-lit wooden tables with dollars, dice and playing cards.

Across the grimy walls are black and white photos, animal skulls, farming tools, and of course, wanted posters.

Cassidy’s innocent husband greets us as we sit down, checking everything is alright.

He asks us questions such as where we came from, but we are too shocked by our surroundings to respond.

Discreetly, our alcohol is taken by the bar staff and somehow transformed into four different mouth-watering cocktails, which are delivered throughout the experience.

Beforehand, we are asked if we have any particular preferences and if any members of the group would prefer to stick to one spirit.

By the end of the night, my gin bottle was returned to me, with only a small bit of it used.

The show is broken up into three segments; one of drinking, in which any of the actors can approach and talk to you, one of the story scenes performed by the actors, and moments where you’ll be led in a group into one of the two side rooms.

The story

Things take a turn for the worst when the Sheriff knocks up, crashing open the batwing doors and yelling the classic cliched villain line: “Well, well, well, and what do we have here”.

Every head turns on him and suddenly, it’s no longer fun and games as he has a ‘gun’ and isn’t afraid to use it.

Cassidy, her rag-tag team of misfits and the audience must work together to hide the moonshine business from the suspecting Sheriff and Cassidy’s husband.

It’s a tough gig, especially with alcohol involved.

We cracked up with laughter under the ridiculous Sheriff’s interrogation, and some even ‘accidentally’ said the word forbidden word moonshine.

As we got more and more intoxicated, our terribly fake Southern accent became easier for us, and we were soon dead serious about the moonshine business, asking Cassidy and crew lots of expert questions.

For those wanting to take a step further into immersing themselves, you can buy one of three ‘Character add-ons’.

These are unique costumes and personas that play an integral part in the story.

By the end of the show, through tears of laughter and the persuasion of the actors, I was convinced we were indeed a group of drunk bootleggers up to no good.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea because if you’re going to go full Wild West, you do need to lean into the corniness.

The Moonshine Saloon: The Immersive Experience is a cheesy, crowd-pleasing attraction, and for that, I loved it more.

For more action-packed experiences, check out our list of adult-only attractions that make you feel like a kid again.

And for fans of the Wild West, this UK theme park has launched a western land.

The expert bar team can tailor-make your cocktails

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The expert bar team can tailor-make your cocktailsCredit: JANE cook
Hats and ponchos are provided at the entrance

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Hats and ponchos are provided at the entranceCredit: Jane Cook
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