Mike Fairbrass feasts on fun at The Dead Dolls House.
I meet my accomplice Alun outside what used to be House of Wolf on Upper Street Islington. The bad wolf was chased away by The Dead Dolls and it’s now their house.
A handsome old façade of curved leaded bay window remains but once inside what was wood is now overpainted stark white with black stencilled candelabras and grandfather clocks designed to evoke the brothers Grimm magical fairytale vibe.
This is the second “Bacchanalian feast” they’ve hosted, the first having had a Nordic theme. Tonight’s is Filipino and even though he has to catch a train back to the sticks at the witching hour, Alun looks undaunted by the prospect of four courses with cocktails and wine all based on the ancient banquets of the infamous Roman god Bacchus. I wonder if we will have to go the whole hog and pause for a quick Roman vomit before gorging the final courses.
We're led upstairs to ‘The Ballroom’, a pitched roof space with fairy lights and a glitterball. Two lengthy tables are laid out but everyone hangs around the little bar as it dispenses Garden Ginpoms, mixing Gin and Pomelo Asian grapefruit.
Alun says it’s not his sort of thing but the more he drinks of it the more it is. We hear from a young woman that the inaugural feast ran from Sunday lunchtime until late evening, apparently living up to DDH’s desire to be “the home of debauchery”. As she moves away Alun wonders if there might be nudity later.
It turned out that Sunday wasn’t the new Saturday because of Monday morning, so owners Gregory Barry (Aussie) and Morten Jensen (Danish) switched tonight to Thursday in the hope that it is still the new Friday.
DDH began in 2014 as a “rebellion against the archetypal hipsters of Shoreditch.” A pop up right in the hipster epicentre of Hoxton Square might have been joining in rather than rebelling, but who cares?
Executive chef Joe Hill worked with Gordon Ramsey, Tom Aitkens and Soho House so we expect good things as everyone suddenly shuffles to take their seats. It’s a lottery where you sit and tightly packed, so you meet your neighbours quickly. We plonk ourselves down opposite a warm and friendly couple who fulfil an essential ingredient for authentic Roman feasting by being gay men.
Arriving on sharing plates, we all have to guess what the first course actually is. “It’s Plantain”, “No, wait it’s Aubergine, is it?” The barbeque smoked flavour gives it anonymity but a quick check of the menu reveals it is burnt aubergine with sesame salted caramel and pickled daikon radish served with Dead Dolls prosecco. Having all disagreed we all now agree it’s delicious however disguised.
The menu says tonight’s feast includes a glass of booze per course as opposed the three hours of unlimited wine and prosecco apparently enjoyed last time - perhaps there won’t be nudity after all. A few empty seats remain nearby so we steal the unclaimed Proseccos and share them out. It’s what the Romans would’ve done.
Next we serve ourselves from a large round platter of charred sea trout looking splendid with pickled salmon roe on top. The accompanying glass of La Mancha chardonnay goes down well and bottles are left on the tables so it seems nobody is limiting our intake at all.
The fish is flavoursome and well cooked and its bed of asparagus and peas is just right.
We get chatting to a woman who used to work for the Daily Mail and before long sordidly lugubrious and yet fascinating stories emerge about Rebekka, Rupert and Dave that make me feel the true home of debauchery is Wapping.
The meat course appears on rectangular wooden boards, an unusual combo of pork belly and oysters and giant spring onions that must have nibbled Alice in Wonderland’s Eat Me cake.
Suddenly at the other table a man pours water over his own head in what we assume is a rebellious display of raw hedonism. We ignore him and happily glug the accompanying Fontanelles Pinot Noir enjoying what feels like a big entertaining dinner party.
The dessert of apple and walnut tart more than holds it’s own over alcohol dulled taste buds with a nice crunchy base and flavoursome filling refreshingly lubed by burnt miso butterscotch ice cream. It comes with a final cocktail of whiskey, egg white and caramel popcorn, but by now so many glasses litter the tables they could’ve mixed in Mr Muscle and still everyone would have happily necked it.
After the food I talk to Greg and Morton. They say they set out to provide a night they would want to go to and I should stay and get drunk. The guy from the other table takes off his shirt and starts dancing; perhaps the fun is just beginning.
Sadly, we don’t get to see how debauched the rest of the evening becomes as Alun suddenly realizes he’s late for his train. So like a pair of sozzled Cinderellas we have to bid our new friends goodnight and head for the station. I hope those we left experienced acres of nudity and partied until the 2am licence ran out.