When Mr and Mrs Dead Dolls Club (Adam Towner and Katy Gray Rosewarne) set about their original Hoxton premises armed with their trusty drill and a set of marker pens they meant the Dolls House to be a short-lived pop-up restaurant, bar and home for now-celebrated Dead Dolls Club. But thanks to their fresh and irreverent approach to interior design, a refreshingly different, friendly approach to the concept of club membership and a playful way of toying with convention yet making you feel right at home, it’s exceeded even their own expectations.
So, 18 months on, it’s still going strong – so much so in fact that they’re soon to open another home for the Dolls House in Islington’s Upper Street. Far bigger than the Hoxton one, this warren of rooms is just crying out to be explored and adored as Adam and Katy doll up each space in their own inimitable hand-drawn style; rooms such as the ground floor Parlour, the first floor Drawing Room and the Library complete with Espresso Martini Bar and the second floor Ballroom; rooms that would look ramshackle in less imaginative hands are literally re-drawn to create inspiring spaces to hire for private and corporate events and generally in which to shirk, rest and above all play.
Drawing inspiration from a veritable Dolly Mixture of influences Katy populates her rooms with monochrome marker pen detail brought vividly to life with features such as the opulent-looking brushed-gold table tops and bar and soft furnishings featuring dogtooth and herringbone patterns and a splash of turquoise. Russian doll-like, with each room you explore there’s more and more to discover and delight in.
‘I love Quentin Blake, trompe l’oeil wallpapers, illustrative picture frames and all of that lovely ornate antique furniture you get in National Trust stately homes – and since we can’t afford that, I just draw it instead!’ explains Katy. ‘We’re particularly chuffed with the ginormous 1.5 metre diameter glitter ball we’ve just got our hands on for The Parlour!’
And if that Quentin Blake vibe lends a childlike Roald Dahl-esque charm to the surroundings, it’s tempered with the knowing, archly humorous quality that runs through every facet of the place. Take the membership policy for example. It doesn’t call for a second mortgage – just an online application and a well-chosen gift when you turn up for the first time in the form of a bottle of posh, top shelf liquor from their approved gift list, which makes this the antithesis of the established West End members’ clubs. Whatever you turn up with, as a new member you’ll get a very warm welcome including a drink from the bottle you’ve brought and a guided tour of the house.
As a member, you’ll never be charged entry whatever’s going on and you can bring up to four guests along (for a small charge) – and although you access the club through the front door like everyone else up till 11.30pm, you get your own private door from then on – and the members’ lounge is open and licensed till 4am!
Otherwise, the club’s inclusive vibe echoes throughout these walls – the ground floor parlour’s pub-like in feel, open to all and perfect for partying while the second floor’s Drawing Room and Library/Espresso Martini Bar are perfectly pitched for chilling out and lounging around.
Daryl Wilson, fresh from the heady gastronomic heights from some of London’s superb eateries; The Salt House (St Johns Wood), Ampersand and pop up dining experience the Poachers Pocket Supper Club, has created a menu that’s perfectly in keeping with the Dolls House way of making things look childishly simple: classic dishes created from locally sourced ingredients of superb quality – such as the 45-day aged Dexter Sirloin or the drool worthy duck fat chips for example. Daryl will be creating a lighter bar menu and be cooking a terrific roast dinner with all the trimmings on Sundays.
The cocktails continue that coolly classic approach, with subtle tongue-tingling twists on traditional tinctures such as the Amaretto, Whisky or Pisco Sour with lemon, sugar and egg white, the Negroni or the Old Fashioned – all of which blend rather nicely with the generally laid back and funky choice of music including live jazz and resident DJs Bex, Alex (Bear Grooves) and Jack in the ground floor Parlour.