As far as pop-up restaurants go, I’m not terribly experienced. But in view of this year’s resolution to not miss out on things, and having only just made it to the very last night of the Minotaur pop-up, we booked early for The Dead Doll’s Club‘s new venture.
The Stew House is rather charming in its modesty, purveying the no-fuss staple alongside contemporary art. But despite the no-frills menu, the ‘secret’ location (shared only by invitation shortly before our booking date) and the request to dress up, was enough to capture my attention.
We arrived to an unknown (to us) corner of Hackney, intrepidly seeking out the transformed venue, and finding our target behind heavy double doors and a red and gold glowing window. Inside we were met by a wonderfully long table set with candelabras, vases of pheasant quills and old liqueur bottles for water…..Above us, broad streamers made up a false ceiling, cleverly lit from behind in hot tones creating a cosy glow…..And on the walls false windows and fireplaces in thick black ink on white, interspersed with real framed drawings of antlered skeletons and strange portraits of men wearing feathers. The effect is of an opulent, ancient feast, somehow sprung up in a contemporary picture book, and as guests arrived dressed fopishly in top hats and blousey shirts I felt rather transported into a strange time that never existed.
Our cocktails (a yummy LDC of Gin, Elderflower and Lychee) arrived in cute hexagonal jam jars as we chatted to our neighbours on our large, sociable table. And having been asked if we were hungry to start (yes we are!), we were brought pretty starters on slates. We did our usual half and half switch, as Adam started off with the veggie tart and I took the meat option before swapping half way through. The goats cheese and red onion tart was tasty enough and based on an excellent puff pastry. But the ham hock terrine with piccalilli was sublime and melt in the mouth tasty.
And for the main event, we chose what seemed to be the super popular choices of Welsh Cawl and Venison with Port and Chocolate. The latter was made up of deliciously tender and tasty meat, but the sauce was rather too rich for both of us and we needed several of the hunks of seeded bread to get through. The Welsh Cawl however boasted both perfectly cooked meat and perfectly balanced sauce….everything was beautifully cooked and seasoned and brimming with fresh, hearty flavours.
I was somewhat upset that the bread and butter pudding the sample menu hinted at wasn’t on the evening’s menu, but the apple crumble with fresh custard that came as our pudding was by no means a disappointment (especially accompanied by a gorgeous Dark and Stormy cocktail).
But it’s really the surroundings and the fabulous atmosphere that will take us back to The Stew House, and probably next time with friends….I think it’s less of a couples night out and more of a group thing. And if they happen to pop up elsewhere in the summer, it’ll certainly make my list of birthday events!