HOUSE OF WOLF - REVIEW - 16TH JANUARY 2013
Dotty Dishes first restaurant review this year was at the intriguing House of Wolf in London’s Islington last month. I had heard a lot of interesting tales about this place from eating with blindfolds to receiving syringes with your food, so I was very intrigued when I was asked to review.
House of Wolf is a relatively new member of the Islington dining scene and it is situated in a prime spot on trendy Upper Street in a lovely old building which consists of three floors - pub, cocktail bar and restaurant.
It bills itself as “a multi-functional, multi-sensory pleasure palace, dedicated to the creative pursuits of dining, drinking, art and entertainment” and I am aware of it for its talked about experimental dining and cocktails.
I arrived at 7pm for our booking and was taken up to the third floor and seated at a table for two by the window. My friend was running late so I ordered a cocktail, which was a refreshing twist on a margarita. I sat and perused the menu while I was waiting and you are only given two choices at House of Wolf, which is either a meat or vegetarian set menu. Since there was deer on the menu, and I am not a huge red meat eater, I decided to opt for the vegetarian menu and my friend went for the meat version.
The menus are both 7 courses (£42.50 per head) and the night we were there, chefs Kemble and Rodgers, of Mandarin Oriental fame, were manning the kitchen and finish their residency next week.
We were given some bread and salted butter to nibble on and our first course was an Amuse Bouche of a slither of seeded cracker with goats cheese topped with apple and grape. It was only a mouthful but it was both refreshing and creamy and tasted delicious.
We were both given the same first course of Warmed leeks, water vinaigrette, caramelised pear and walnuts and it came presented beautifully,laid out with such attention to detail, it was almost too pretty to eat. The dish was a good mixture of textures and sweet and savoury tastes and I really enjoyed it.
Next up was a a similar dish for both of us - Slow cooked duck egg, seaweed emulsion, shitake mushroom, red pepper compote and tapioca cracker - although my companions had salmon eggs instead of red pepper compote. I have to say, being neither a fan of eggs or shitake mushrooms, I wasn’t really looking forward to this one. I did try asking for mine without an egg but the chefs refused to serve it without so I just popped my egg on the side plate when it came! My friend really enjoyed this dish and said the egg was particularly lovely however I didn’t really care for it all all and would never have chosen it on a menu.
For me, the next dish was Miso glazed aubergine, black olive and raisin tapenade with charred chicory and for my friend, it was Steamed Cornish cod with Jerusalem artichoke and parsley sauce. My dish was nice and the tapenade was really flavoursome but I found the chicory just a little too bitter. The cod looked delicious and was cooked to perfection and my friend really enjoyed it. Both were presented with real attention to detail and looked beautiful on the plate.
For main course, my companion’s dish was Various cuts of silka deer, beet root, pickled turnips, trompette mushrooms and parsnip purée and mine was Potato gnocchi, watercress pesto, Jerusalem artichoke and trompette mushrooms. Both dishes were really tasty and the deer was cooked perfectly and a really premium cut of meat. The gnocchi was soft and stodgy and worked well with the watercress pesto which had much more of an interesting taste than normal basil pesto.
We were given sorbet in little wine glasses to cleanse out pallets after the main course and it was wonderfully refreshing.
Lastly came the dessert which I was probably most excited about on the menu, which is unusual for me as I am much more of a savoury person. The dessert was Chocolate pave, sea salt caramel, Earl Grey infused clementine and sorbet. The chocolate pave came in a long thin roll with sea salt caramel drizzled over it and two segments of tea infused orange and a small mouthful of sorbet. It worked really well and the rich chocolate and salty caramel were balanced with the juicy, refreshing orange.
We were asked to try a cocktail in the House of Wolf apothecary after dinner, which is a cocktail bar on the second floor made to look like a vintage apothecary. The bar staff even wear white coats! We were given a menu featuring some regular cocktails and a page of more unusual drinks, which of course we had to try. We decided to order the beach cocktail which came accompanied by a little plate of sea foam, jelly coconut shells and pineapple. It was rather strong and I have to say nowhere near as exciting when it arrived as it sounded on the menu. We also ordered another drink which came with a glass of maraschino cherries on ice and some popping candy in a shot glass. It was much better than the beach cocktail and I am a big fan of both maraschino cherries and popping candy, so it was a hit with me.
I liked the apothecary though and it has a secret tiny little room behind a door which looked like it could be fun. It would be a really cool bar to visit for birthday drinks with friends.
I enjoyed my visit to House of Wolf and I was a little nervous before I went about what unusual activities would be in store while we dined. However, even though the food was incredibly unique and interesting, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed that the meal didn’t involve any extra quirky touches. I had sort of built myself up to expect something so it was a shame nothing unusual happened. The menu always varies per chef so perhaps I will re-visit another time and see what is in store then. With their different pop-up chefs per month, House of Wolf really do have a unique selling point, as you never know what you are going to get when you visit. And that is rather exciting.
Dotty Dishes was a guest of House of Wolf.
House of Wolf, 181 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RQ.