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Thursday, 6 December 2012

House of Wolf, Islington


Previously, it housed Albert and Pearl, a swine among bars with ideas above its station (that's Highbury and Islington if you are tubing it); if you were part of (cringe!) 'Cool Britannia', you'll have fond memories of the place as The Medicine Bar; and if, like me, you used to ride a penny-farthing, you'll have enjoyed it as a Victorian music hall. Now this rickety ramble is in the clutches of the crew behind Brighton venue Madame Geisha who have transformed the Islington jumble into an ‘experimental pleasure palace’ that comes on like a Jack The Ripper era cocktail bar as imagined by Tim Burton. Tweedy young fogeys and vintage-clad chapesses who frequent postmodern gin joints such as The Worship Street Whistling Shop and Purl will adore it. Overwhelmed, minimalists may need smelling salts and a period of repose in the secret Victorian ‘fainting room’ while they recover from House of Wolf's ‘multi-sensory’ overload. I popped in for a tequila at a Patron pop-up, and I'm still reeling from an encounter with a fortune teller who tells me I'm about to father a set of triplets who will be born hideously deformed. Ah well, I can always pimp them out to a future House of Wolf freak show; for Gothic divertissements are very much in the spirit of the entertainment provided in the venue's ground floor main bar-cum-performance space.  Expect live sets from name-to-drop musicians, off-the-wall bingo, quizzes, cabaret and Saturday late The Burning Beat - billed as ‘wild-eyed-gypsy carnival rock n’roll'. This room's bar does a range of a dozen cocktails at around £8.50, but the intrepid will fancy an adventure in the Phileas Fogg-esque Apothecary upstairs. Here, lab-coat-clad professors (resting actors?) prepare arcana such as a black pudding-infused rum libation served in a Lyle’s treacle tin; a doctored knickerbocker glory unsuited to any child except The Omen's Damien; and the vodka peculiar that is popcorn-flavoured sour, Over The Pop. Over the top? Exciting innovation or pretentious tosh? Online reviews have been rapturous... and damning in equal measure - particularly in respect of the restaurant's outlandish 'experimental' food. But don't shoot the Wolf until you've checked out its den for yourself. Beast/ beauty? Either way, you won't be indifferent.
181 Upper Street N1 1RQ 7288 1470 http://houseofwolf.co.uk