Revisiting Brideshead: An Indulgent Evening at House of Wolf
On Wednesday night I was fortunate enough to visit Islington’s House of Wolf. The 3 storey self-described ‘pleasure palace’ boasts a pub-cum-drinking den on the ground floor with a music hall vibe, a whimsical cocktail lounge on the second floor and an elegant attic room for dining at the top of the building. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect when we entered, and wondered if we would be eating in the lively, darkened downstairs, but were swiftly led up to the aptly named ‘Apothecary Bar’.
Our bartender, Helen, asked my partner and I where we wanted to sit and after looking around for a moment, offered us a more intimate seat behind a 4 foot tall bookshelf. I for one was thoroughly confused because that sounded incredibly uncomfortable, but she grinned and swung open the bookshelf to reveal what could be the tiniest drinking den in London. Adorable!
A pair of well-loved floral Dr Martens appeared at the tiny doorway and Helen poked her head through to offer us the cocktail menu. An experimental offering accompanied a more classic menu, but we of course opted to drink from the former, choosing ‘Rumble In The Crumble’- home made rhubarb and plum compote shaken with lemon, vanilla and bison grass vodka with cinnamon foam and shaved nutmeg. It looked like a milkshake, tasted fabulous and I’m pretty sure it went with my outfit, but even that was eclipsed by ‘Over The Pop’… a popcorn infused bourbon sour served with 3 maraschino cherries on a glass of shaved ice, with a shot glass of popping candy to dip them into. Genuinely one of the nicest cocktails I have ever had and definitely the most fun.
Next we were led upstairs to the restaurant to experience David Ahern’s adventurous five course tasting menu. I won’t give away every dish in meticulous detail – it truly is worth finding out for yourself – but I can say we tried delightful tiny salmon bacon sandwiches (SBLT!), deviled quails eggs, pickled berries with spelt salad and charmingly presented chowder. The food was delicate and the presentation graceful and clever without being too pretentious.
The prim atmosphere that can sometimes accompany menus including the word ‘jus’ (can we just accept that it is gravy, please) was non-existent, largely thanks to our waiter, an exuberant, slightly eccentric fellow named George, who made the whole experience comfortable and fun. Around the third course we asked if we could order another cocktail and he offered us a glass of Malbec each instead, on the grounds that it would go with the 12 hour braised beef cheeks up next.
We were perfectly happy with this suggestion, but before leaving, George appealed to our better natures and offered us cocktails alongside the wine. I went for the house classic champagne cocktail and we asked if he could make my partner ‘something involving Baileys’, which he declared would be far superior to my drink (with a flourish). Oh, did he deliver – returning a few minutes later with a tray of four drinks, leaving me feeling like a character in an Evelyn Waugh novel. The Baileys came in the form of an espresso martini and I am still thinking about it several days later.
Dessert was a customarily playful affair- a rhubarb ‘poptart’ with toffee apple lollipops, unsweetened beer custard and candy floss cordial. By this point I was so stuffed full of food I thought I would have to be rolled home but I soldiered on (!) and we finished up with coffee before collapsing into a taxi home, full, content, and not a little drunk.
If you can fork out the £42.50 a head for the tasting menu (or just stick with the more wallet friendly bar snacks), House of Wolf is definitely worth a visit. You could save it for a special occasion, or you could just be terribly louche, go on a weekday evening and let it feel like one anyway. We recommend the latter!
Guest Reporter: Sofie @ FashionBite xx