Friday, May 29, 2009

Last night, an old friend was in town, and wanted to meet up in Islington. Urban Spoon threw up Double Club, a restaurant I thought had closed a few months back. As my friend lives in the US, I thought this place was an ideal place in which to eat, given that Congolese food isn't the kind of food you'd find all over the US, unlike the other dining options of Mexican and Japanese.

That, and because I'm one of those people who likes to go to places because they're cool and hip, but only if I can afford it. I'm a cost-conscious hipster.

Anyway, Double Club is a pop-up restaurant designed by German artist Carsten Höller and operated by Mourad Mazouz, the man behind Momo and Sketch.

Upon our arrival, the doorman/bouncer took my name and led us all the way through the club area and right to the maître d'. The maître d' then led us to our table in the incredibly cool dining area which seemed to be filled with the most beautiful serving staff you'd ever see. None of the thin statuesque African waitresses would be out of place on America's Next Top Model. Seriously. Fortunately for us, the staff were also incredibly friendly, something I didn't quite expect from a restaurant which has been on top of the 'cool' list for some time now.

Dining area

My friend and I took some time perusing the menu. You could either choose to have Congolese food, or Western dishes. Being the adventurous people that we were, we decided to eat only from the Congolese side of the menu. Our waitress advised us that the Congolese dishes were a little on the small side, and that we should order three or four plates to share, as well as a side.

So we ordered the white bean casserole with pig trotters, makayabu (salted fish with onion, tomato and chilli), bitekuteku (green vegetables with African aubergine and smoked salted fish) and a side of chikwange (Manioc paste cooked in Marantacee leaves) to share.

L to R: White bean casserole (£8.50), bitekuteku (£6.50) and makayabu (£8.50)

Chikwange (£3)

The food turned out to be a complete surprise. While the white bean casserole was just about above average, the bitekuteku and the makayabu were delicious. And the chikwange was pretty much like a ketupat but not as strong-tasting. And although the servings didn't look too large, my friend and I found ourselves unable to finish the food we'd ordered.

Somewhat disappointingly, the dessert menu didn't throw up any surprises. All of the options were decidedly Western, and nothing really caught our eye.

So, although we could have lingered longer (we didn't have to return the table for another 45 minutes), we went off to explore the rest of the club.
For an establishment sponsored by the Fondazione Prada, it was only fitting that there was rather nice art gracing the walls of the bar. Not in the framed pieces of art sense, but more like murals and graphics à la Andy Warhol.



And just like the restaurant, the bar was filled with incredibly beautiful serving staff. My friend pronounced the clientele 'achingly hip' which apparently also included me by virtue of the fact that a) I knew about this place, b) I'd brought him there and c) I generally manage to do cool things. Given that I was anything but cool when he and I were in school together, it was nice to hear.

As neither he nor I wanted to drink anymore (it was a school night, after all), we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and the fact that it was still light outside at 9 pm, and wander around Angel. 'Twas a pity as I would have loved to have stayed and seen the dance club when it was in full swing, but that wasn't an option.

Double Club closes in September, after which it will move to Milan. I'd love to return and try the Western menu. The burger is supposed to be very good. And given that 50% of all profits go to UNICEF/City of Joy, I can take great comfort and pleasure in the fact that I'm doing a good deed simply by eating.

Double Club
7 Torrens Street
London EC1V 1NQ
+44 207 837 2222

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