Geek Speak: Sinking Our Teeth into House of Wolf
We all love a bit of costume drama, but nothing sets the senses alight than the industrial yet juxtaposed decadence of nostalgic Victoriana.
At Geek Speak, we have a soft spot for all things steampunk, clockwork, top hats and vials, and dark poetry.
For those who don't know steampunk, it is a sub-genre of science fiction that meshes Victoriana and clockwork or steam-powered machinery in conjunction with period costumes.
And at Geek Speak we can't get enough.
With the revival of Sherlock Holmes on the big screen and Hellboy and Suckerpunch heavily using the mixture of dark and decadent Victorian-inspired backdrops, we've been on the lookout for a venue to sate our appetite.
And we found just the place.
Nestled amongst the humdrummery of Islington Upper Street's hipster bars, tapas restaurants and the thousandth lame wine bar is the three-storey Victorian lair of pure gastronomic pleasure, House of Wolf.
House of Wolf aims high with its gastronomical offerings.
In a unique twist that coincides with its role in the Experimental Food Society, it changes its two head chefs every month.
In true decadent style, you don't 'order' from House of Wolf, instead you are served a five-course tasting menu with two surprise amuse-bouche at the beginning and near the end of the meal.
As the menu is created by the two chefs of that month, the food is never the same after four weeks.
The evening Geek Speak dusted off its finest dinner jacket and prepared for a meal laced with Victorian pleasure, and possibly gout, the food was in every sense of the cliche to die for.
The menu itself was to European taste but covered with rich Japanese ingredients and flavour.
The first course of warmed leeks, smoked goats curd, beetroot, pear and walnuts was a surprising twist on almost a Waldorf salad. Despite my own taste bias of not mixing sweet and savoury, the dish made me love the mesh of flavours. The sweetness of the beetroot and pear offset the salty goats cheese and leeks, which made every bit melt in your mouth.
On to the second course, which happened to be my favourite and subsequently the highlight of the meal: slow-cooked duck egg, seaweed emulsion, salmon eggs and tapioca cracker.
Showing the love and care that can be put into cooking an egg, the duck egg was cooked over two hours, leaving the result as a velvety centrepiece to the dish. The shiitake mushroom, drenched in soya sauce, added to the savoury fans dream and the salmon eggs and seaweed sealed the deal as a thoroughly Japanese inspired concoction.
The hostess looking after us said this dish was the one that divided diners the most, as some gleaned it was too salty. However, I couldn't disagree with them more, as it was just the perfect balance.
The third course of steamed Cornish cod, Jerusalem artichoke, kaffir lime, parsley sauce urged you on the journey and the subtle, traditional dish was a sharp contrast from the egg.
The coup de grâce for the savoury portion of the meal was the changing cuts of sika deer, beetroot, pickled turnips, parsnip puree. Each morsel was a melt in your mouth bite, which relied on the richness and quality of the meat, rather than being drenched in a sauce.
Those with a sweet tooth would have passed out from the sheer delight of the final course; chocolate cream, sea salt caramel, earl grey tea-infused clementine, mandaria sorbet. The mixture was an experimental mix but went beyond the tired cosmopolitan concoction of chilli and chocolate.
The salty hit of caramel complimented heaviness of the creamy chocolate and the clementines were like nothing that has been tasted before.
Now we all love a cocktail here and there but usually in a city like London, the offerings are usually sugar-laden liquids with a drop or two of alcohol in a two-for-one deal.
So it was a relief that even in House of Wolf's 'Apothecary', the cocktails were created with the same experimental vein running through it and complemented the menus and décor down to a fine art.
Stephen Quainton, bar manager, has been tending and managing bars for 15 years, including at Soho House, but moved to House of Wolf and became the co-creator of some of the most unique concoctions.
"House of Wolf is one of the most unorthodox of places I have worked at, as we aim to offer a fun and interesting experience for all of our customers. Even though we take what we do very seriously, we do not aim to take ourselves too seriously," Quainton told IBTimes UK.
After months of experimenting, Quainton and another colleague came up with a range of cocktails that assault your senses.
Dubbed the 'fertilizer for humans', Geek Speak tried the David Bellamy, which is a hibiscus-infused Belvedere vodka cocktail served with a Szechuan bud.
When you initially taste the cocktail is has a strong, sharp, yet pleasant taste. However, there is a flower bud that you are given to roll around on your tongue, chew and the exploding of harsh chilli taste nearly knocks you out. But if you immediately drink the cocktail afterwards, it tastes like chocolate.
The Black Treacle was the second cocktail for the Geek Speak try out, which was a black pudding-infused Havana 7 with fresh apple and syrup, served in the appropriate tin. On the side, a slice of black pudding brought all the flavours in together in a truly unique experience.