Cocktails, Food and Entertainment at The House of Wolf:
A month or so ago I went to the launch party for the House of Wolf in Islington. All was well for the first half hour or so of press preview, then the doors were opened and the place full to the brim. Too crowded to review, I asked to return. And discovered that in November two of my favourite chefs would be upstairs in residence. So, what could be better? Experimental cocktails and food at the House of Wolf cooked by Blanch & Shock (you may remember my review from The Endurance).
Well, all was going fine, until we started the evening with a fresh blackberry and absinthe cocktail. It was delicious, very refreshing and slightly herbal. And, a little deadly! But, still able to stand, we then made our way upstairs to the first floor experimental cocktail bar, The Apothocary. Our cocktails looked splendid, mine ‘Over the Pop’ based on a whisky sour but with popping candy and cherries and my dining companion’s Tiki with flambed pineapple to represent a beach.
These cocktails ARE experimental. I actually liked my version of whisky sour, the combination of popping candy and alcohol was really good. And, they are fun – ‘David Bellamy’ for instance comes in a vase with a poppy straw to drink through. But I’d still go back for another absinthe and blackberry;)
Then up another winding flight of stairs to the attic dining room. It’s a rather charmingly romantic room, like something out of La Boheme. But then the entire building is something of a stage set and a sensory experience. And, Blanch & Shock food didn’t disappoint at all.
We started with delicious Double Malt Bread with Hay butter.
Then a tiny starter of Raw Atlantic Prawns and Trealy Farm Lardo, melted over the prawns, Mallow Oil, Salad Burnet and Hogweed Salt. Despite the fact that I write about food, I really couldn’t tell you what ingredients like hogweed salt taste like. But I do know it was delicious.
Wild seabass pickled in dill vinegar was light and refreshing. Again it came with a whole list of components that a relatively uneducated palate like mine can’t identify individually and relies on trusting that the Chef knows what they are doing. From the menu, I know there was sea lettuce, chervil root, celery cress and oxalic leaves. I also know it looked beautiful. I expected nothing less.
The first of the meat dishes, wild mallard duck and chestnuts, hawthorn jelly, Jerusalem artichokes, melilot and scurvy grass was another picture on a plate.
45 day-aged beef from The Butchery, with salsify, oyster emulsion, dandelions and turnips in yoghurt whey was a dark and rich but very tender beef.
Finally dessert. Apple with quinces, yoghurt curd, sourdough brioche eggy bread and buttered black tea.
These dishes taste delicious. And different. But not different enough to make you think this is anything other than great experimental British food with the best locally sourced ingredients. It’s experimental but accessible.
If I have any criticism of the food it is that the menu is not for the very hungry. It is a tasting menu and served in tasting menu sized portions. But, there appears to be no option of extra courses or extra food. Plenty for me, but my male dining companion did leave feeling he could have eaten more. And I certainly wasn’t going to share any of mine with him!
I liked the concept of the House of Wolf when I first visited for the launch and now that it is up and running, I really enjoyed the food and cocktails. I’ll be curious to find out who follows in the footsteps of Blanch & Shock. But, if you’d like to try their expertly produced menu, then you have until Christmas. Meanwhile I’ve given them 4 stars – they would have got 5 if there had been anything on offer that provided a slightly more substantial meal.
Disclaimer: We dined as guests of House of Wolf.
House of Wolf
181 Upper Street