In London, new openings are taking inspiration from the hedonistic abandon and unrestrained extravagance of ancient Greece. Bacchanalia, a restaurant that opened in Mayfair in December 2022, has been described as “a fantasy land of operatic escapism” and “a Greco-Roman ode to opulence.”

In what the Evening Standard calls a “shameless display of debaucherous decadence,” the restaurant offers diners five-hundred-dollar pasta dishes served by waiters dressed in togas as they sit under larger-than-life statues of winged lions, unicorns and Greek gods. And in an on-the-nose nod to Grecian and Roman luxury, a floor-to-ceiling painting reimagines Thomas Couture’s “The Romans in Their Decadence.”

In April 2023, a new members’ club opened behind Bacchanalia. Called Apollo’s Muse, the club is billed as the “most private of private members’ clubs,” and will only grant membership to 500 people. The velvet-rope access is mirrored in the space’s lavish aesthetic, which Conde Nast Traveler calls “a master class in ‘more-is-more’ design” characterized by “overstated magnificence.” Floor-to-ceiling marble, mirrored tables, velvet bar stools and bespoke wine glasses from Murano are just the start—the club also houses a collection of priceless Greco-Roman antiquities from the first and second centuries AD, rivalling some of the world’s top museums and galleries.

In Singapore, a similar desire for release is giving rise to a budding rave scene. In a notoriously strait-laced city where a no-parties and no-nightclubs rule was enforced for two years—with live music venues only reopening in April 2022—people are escaping into dance parties in search of joy. “Now everyone's revenge partying,” one Singaporean raver told the BBC. “The Covid policies here were just so insane.”

We're seeing a surge in revenge experiences, observes Kenneth Carter, Interim Dean of Oxford College and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University. Driven, Carter tells VML Intelligence, by a "thirst for the unusual, for authentic experiences, for newness."

People "are looking for a sense of discovery and escapism from the everyday," agree Torquil McIntosh and Simon Mitchell, cofounders of design agency Sybarite—and they're finding it in "spaces that transport them away and take them on an adventure.”

The Intelligence take

In the case of Bacchanalia and Apollo’s Muse, these lavish openings come at a time when most of the world is facing down a cost of living crisis. As the New York Times writes, Bacchanalia is “as gleefully out of step with the grim temper of this country as a clown car at a wake.”

But they are also tapping into a cultural yearning for experiences that reawaken a sense of wonder and enchantment—perhaps driven by that very cost of living crisis, alongside other societal, economic, and environmental stressors. Preliminary data from a soon-to-be-released VML Intelligence trend report reveals that 61% of people in the US and UK agree that “life feels less exciting than it used to” and 73% say they “just want to feel something, to feel alive.”

As the New York Times concludes, if you can’t beat them, join them: “You can either recoil at the cartoonish debauchery of it all, or surrender to this immersive production and snap some selfies, along with everyone else.”

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