The Doll’s House, Hoxton Square

For all the noise about pop-up restaurants, there are very few which actually represent genuinely unique experiences, and fewer still that are able to compete with well-established eateries for quality or service.

The Doll’s House is therefore something of an anomaly. Brought to you by Adam Towner and Katy Gray Rosewarne (Dead Doll’s Club), this new members club on Hoxton Square may look like just another reclaimed industrial warehouse from the outside but is in fact one of the most unique new spaces we have seen in some time.

Towner and Gray have form, as anyone who frequented their previous project in Haggerston will affirm. With what appears to be little more than a pack of permanent markers, three stories of office space have been transformed into a 2D blueprint for a lavish country house. A bit like a giant doll’s house… you get the idea.

On our first visit the kitchen were running out great small plates of food in the ‘Conservatory’, the few we tasted were very good, but ultimately it was one of those nights where we decided to really put the cocktail barman through their paces – the boys delivered with both their mint juleps and pisco sours.

Dishes

Selection of dishes from pop up chef duo ‘Check On’ currently running the kitchen

If you’ve fallen out of love with Hoxton lately, give this a try – it’s a classy, grown up joint for your more discerning Barbie and Ken.

Interior

Interior view of one of the dining rooms at Doll’s House

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Grain Store, London

Last week, on the hottest day of the year, we headed to Bruno Loubet’s new place in King’s Cross: Grain Store.

Whilst entry does require running the gauntlet of the new Granary Square development (fountains, buggies, deck chairs et al), once inside the management have done a great job of creating a light and airy warehouse space that screams MEATPACKING DISTRICT.

At those temperatures lunch was always going to be dominated by drinks and just a quick glance at the cocktail menu confirmed that we had made the perfect choice for a lazy afternoon. We started with the Cedar Wood Lemonade (Cedar Wood Fino Sherry, Lemon Juice and Soda) and it didn’t disappoint, walking that tricky line between refreshment and masculinity perfectly.

The next choice, a black truffle-infused martini, wasn’t quite the same ringing success and frankly seemed like a waste of good fungi. Luckily, we had hedged our bets and its arrival coincided with the appearance of a cracking bottle of Muscadet, so all was well with the world once more.

Our initial concerns that the menu might be designed for ‘hippies who lunch’ were allayed when starters of crudités with cashew and yeast dip and olive soil, and falafels made with courgette, broad bean and prawn arrived beautifully presented. Cardigan-wearing festival food this isn’t: just a timely reminder that we all need more vegetables in our lives.

The main courses were similarly veg-focused but with perfectly-cooked lamb belly, pork belly, quail and the like added as garnish. This is guilt-free food and, when combined with one of the best drinks lists we have seen in ages, proved to be the perfect anecdote to the stuffy day outside.

Interior

Cost of meal with 1 bottle of wine (and cocktails):
£40 per person

Food:
8 out of 10 – genuinely innovative and refreshingly different

Atmosphere:
7 out of 10 – the large room started to feel a little empty by the end of lunch

Service:
9 out of 10 – polite, friendly and helpful

Overall:
8 out of 10

Summary in seven:
Another exciting new option in King’s Cross

Details:
Grain Store
Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4AB
Tel: 020 7324 4466

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elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food, Somerset House, London

We found ourselves on the Strand last week and, in want of a bit of culture, decided to pop in to Somerset House to check out elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food. It was an intriguing proposition – an exhibition about an extinct restaurant. What secrets would they expose about the (once) best restaurant in the world, and what else was there to know about Adrià himself? He’s a bit better than Heston but not quite as good as René Redzepi, right?

The exhibition is split into two sections: a history of the restaurant and its staff (dating back 50 years or so), followed by an in-depth focus on the evolution of the food itself, from rustic to ‘molecular’. Adrià has said of the show that “For some, I hope it will revive good memories, and for others it will give a flavour of a fine dining experience like no other.” And no doubt it will bring fabulous flashbacks for those lucky sods who got their acts together in time to visit during the heyday, and will certainly inform those keen to see backstage (plasticine models used for quality control anyone?).

However, we left feeling a little flat and, most tellingly, not even hungry. There was just no sense of what it might be like to go there with friends, and surely that is at the heart of what makes a truly great restaurant.

Display

One of the displays at The Art Of Food

Cost of exhibition:
£10 (£8 concessions), £5 on Mondays (excluding Bank Holidays)

Interest:
6 out of 10 – Thrilling for Adria fans, mildly interesting for the rest of us

Value:
5 out of 10 – A bit steep for the experience

Overall:
5 out of 10

Summary in seven:
Spend your cash on food with friends

Details:
Somerset House
Embankment Galleries West, South Wing
5 July–29 September 2013
Daily 10.00-18.00 (last entry 17.15)
*Until 21.00 Thursdays & Friday 27 Sept (last entry 20.15) except 26 Sept

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