"Long live the guerrilla"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
All London’s trendy young things will have heard of the Double Club, the restaurant/bar/club funded by fashion house Prada which fuses Western and Congolese food with a similar music policy featuring everyone from Horsemeat Disco DJ’s to Lady Sovereign to Congolese singer Gordon Masiala. Does that sound hip enough? Hang on, there’s more.
Designed by Carsten Holler, an installation artist who participated in ‘The Unilever Series’ at the Tate’s Turbine Hall, this ‘guerrilla’ venue is so called due to its premise of remaining open for 6 months only. 50% of all profits go to the City of Joy charity which helps abused women and children in Congo. With these impressive credentials the Double Club was going to be either a complete revelation or a load of pretentious tosh.
I called two days in advance to book a table and to my surprise the earliest we could dine would be 9.30, and this was for a Thursday. Arriving a little early at the non-descript warehouse-like building, a friendly girl of supermodel proportions invited us to have a drink at the bar. Inside it was heaving, but it was one of the most beautiful crowds I had come across in a long time. Young, old, preppy, Rastafarian, bohemian, oriental, west Indian…every style, every type and every background blended together, like a microcosm of London had gathered here in Islington amongst these colourful walls.
My friend and I smiled at each other knowingly and went to order our drinks. “You just want a dry martini? That’s very strong” the bar man replied to my request for a dry, gin martini with an olive. “Erm, yes, I know…” I replied a little surprised. He hesitated a while longer until I had to firmly state that dry martinis were what I drank. “Tut tut, I may be petite, but does he not know who I am?!” I jokingly remarked.
After this amusing scene (and finally getting my drink, which was perfection) we were ushered to our table by another very friendly head waiter. Throughout our evening the staff had a way of making us feel like we were very special guests, attending to our every need and making sure everything was in order.
The food was pretty spectacular. We both opted for Congolese food, choosing ‘Liboke Na Mbisi’ which is catfish cooked in marantacee leaves; and ‘Pondu’ or manioc leaves and smoked fish cooked in palm oil. The catfish looked like something out of a sci-fi movie; a plate arrived laden with leaves that were 10cm tall which had to be pulled apart to reveal the fish. Marantacee leaves are popular in Congo; certain types such as this one can be cooked, and others are used as eco-friendly packaging for raw natural products at markets.
My Pondu was rich, creamy and moreish; the fish had been stewed together with the manioc leaves -which are essentially the leaves of the cassava plant- to make this hearty, delicious dish which I am extremely keen to have again.
There were many more enticing West African options on the menu which I hope to try before the restaurant disappears; yam leaves cooked in peanut paste with salted fish, Congolese braised chicken, giant spicy shrimps…The Western menu is a combination of French and English traditional cuisine, with options such as wild boar terrine, steamed pollock with braised chard and clams, and an organic stockpot of butternut squash, gnocchi and beans. At £80 for two with wine and dessert it’s a treat, yet worth every penny in terms of food and service.
After this wonderful meal we sought out the club where we’d just missed a live performance, but an eclectic mix of soulful music was still playing. The brightly painted walls and plastic chairs made me feel as if I was abroad, Congo perhaps? Amidst the heady atmosphere and smiling crowd we lost track of time and ended up staying till the early hours despite this being a school night.
Stylish and hip yet with the right attitude – their website even clearly states that ‘The Double Club endorses a non-membership policy and there is no entry charge’. Long live the guerrilla.
Leila reviewed The Double Club on Fri 08 May 2009