You might not notice The Dead Dolls Club upon first passing. Its exterior is unremarkable; the dark facade as non-descript as the other blocks which neighbour it and line Hoxton Square. You’ll have to squint to read the name on the door and make sure you’re in the right place, but once inside, you’ll realise that this is an East End Warehouse like no other.
Walking into the first room is like stepping through the looking glass. A glowing bar stands beckoning in front of you, overflowing with spirits of every kind, piled high with frosted, frothing glasses and, for some peculiar reason, china dogs.
The walls are covered in felt tip pen. But this isn’t the scribbling of a protesting adolescent, they’re hand crafted archways, potted plants and bookcases, with silver touches that create a fairytale setting. Standing three floors high and topped by a roof terrace, the Dead Dolls Club really does resemble a doll’s house, which suits its owners perfectly.
Husband and wife team, Adam Towner and Katy Gray Rosewarne, have a penchant for taking over derelict buildings and redressing them as unique watering holes. The Dead Dolls Club is no different: a former textile factory the couple have turned into an ornate members club that oozes character. It’s very much short term though; the building is scheduled for demolition in early 2015.
The upstairs dining rooms overlooking the Square are dazzled by sunlight in the daytime, and offer a manor house like setting for diners in the evening. Downstairs is home to regular dining pop-ups, but back upstairs the venue is launching a new menu format.
It’s a tantalizing mix, described as a “modern British tapas”. Runny quail scotch eggs and rich veal meatballs dashed with gremolata are succulent and tender. Other popular mouthfulls include scallops, crispy pig cheek, apple and fennel and Pork Schnitzel Holstein. The salisfy, Jerusalem artichoke vinaigrette is certainly an education in root vegetables, but full of colour and sharp flavour nevertheless. Portions are small, the idea being to order a few- which won’t go easy on the wallet, but the dishes are rich and full of enough strong tastes to satisfy the hippest foodie.
To wash down this picnic, the club’s bar offers a range of powerful cocktails, made up of spirit brands not usually found in the supermarket. The Aviation (gin, maraschino, crème de violette and lemon) is bitter and refreshing, while the Old Fashioned (Rye whiskey, sugar and bitters) is sophisticated and sweet. They’re devilishly moreish, and mixed by an excellent team of bar staff who are happy to take unusual requests and even invent something new on the spot.
In direct contrast to the cocktails and tapas vibe, The Club also offers Sunday Roasts for £25 a head. Each uniquely decorated dining room is available for private hire.
How does one become part of this quirky club? It may not surprise you to learn that The Dolls House is indeed a members only affair. But it’s not one for the likes of Bullingdon Club collectives. Anyone can book a table, may it be in the bar or dining room, but you’ll need to bring a “gift”.
“Flowers for the table, a top-shelf bottle for the bar…or a china dog. I’ve got quite a collection of china dogs now,” says Adam with a smile, “I’m not allowed a real one”.