Thursday, 10 January 2013

Free Company @ House of Wolf

House of Wolf
181 Upper street, Islington

With London still revelling in 'pop-up' restaurants and short term chef residencies, House of Wolf has arisen trying to strike while the iron is hot, with the promise of experimental dining. Experiments are always a risk, but at House of Wolf  they simply relinquish control to the latest upcoming chefs with a series of residencies and pop-ups back to back. Most recently they had in Blanch & Shock to mixed reviews. This time round was a very short 4 day residency from Free Company, a trio of upcoming chefs most notably from the Salt Yard group, already a plus for me having so many times revisted Opera Tavern. I didn't want to miss them this time after hearing good things at their stint in the Endurance.

House of wolf is rather elaborate in decor, like a Victorian wonderland with crystal studded animal heads dotted around. The dining room is on the 3rd floor and despite the decor everywhere else, the stairwell is quite dingy and forgotten about. We were seated in the empty dining room. Is 7pm too early to eat on a work night? For such a fashionable place like this apparently so. Having the place all to yourself can appear to be a virtue, but I quite like the hustle and bustle of a packed out place. It also begged the question, would it be like this the whole way through. After recommending it as somewhere 'different' to try out, I was almost made to eat my words and I wasn't quite hungry enough for that.
Before arriving I was emailed by House of Wolf stating
In keeping with House of Wolf’s experimental approach to life, the menu is a closely guarded secret until the night itself. 
Completely in contrary to what appears splashed on their, and FC's website, with the menu fully detailed including method of cooking in some cases! Thankfully they had as well, I don't think I could part with so much of my hard earned cash without otherwise being privy.

First up was some savoury doughnuts, perfect finger food to start the evening off. Combination of blue cheese and sweet doughnut works really well, much to the audible pleasure of my companion (maybe it was a good thing there was no one else around). Being a residency there must be things that are foregone when compared to a permanent setting, in this case plate choice seemed missing, plating up a couple of scallops and cauliflower tightly into the corner of a largish plate makes a small portion is perceived almost minuscule. Like something else was missing in the vastness of the plate. Nether the less it was a great course with the walnuts adding a delicious contrast to the tender molluscs, and the caramelised cauliflower was exceptional, maybe if they were cooked like this more when I was younger I would have eaten more.

Probably my favourite course was the cod cooked in iberico fat. The texture, akin to that of raw fish, and nutty flavour brought through from the iberico fat was eye-rollingly good. If only there was more! With lemon puree and mussels complemented beautifully, although was unsure of the puffed fish skin which was an odd texture that was hard to cut and seemed to demonstrate more technique than actually add to the dish.
The duck with pickled pear was joined a little way through starting with a duck soup, cassoulet-style. The duck soup stole this for me, there is nothing more endearing in winter than tucking into some excellent french peasant dish. 
To finish was roasted banana with banana and lime ice cream, salt compressed lime, and brown butter puree. A little too sweet for my companion, but I loved it, with quite an intense punch from lime.For 'petit fours' was a suprise, a rich chocolate ganache with a gelatinous cherry coating, made to resemble a cherry, even with the stalk.Was far too close to a Heston style illusion for me and looked lonely on the comparably large plate it was served on.

It would be great to see these guys have a more permanent set up, clearly there is a lot of talent on display.  I just think with such small time scales together there is less time for feedback, to develop recipes and for £44 a head (with service added) it was over the odds for what it was. House of Wolf is an odd one, I've heard bad reports of service, but our waiter was great, not over bearing and was charming, but it's not somewhere that I'm ever going to recommend to anyone for food though. That is because the food doesn't belong to them it will only belong to whoever is cooking that month. I would recommend Free Company if they 'pop-up' else where

House of Wolf on Urbanspoon

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