Pop-up restaurants have gained a cult following amongst trendy Londoners in recent years, and the Stew House drew a crowd of revellers in Victorian and Edwardian dress to the door of what at first appeared to be a nondescript commercial building just off Hackney’s main drag. Stepping inside however revealed a beautifully dressed space full of flickering candles, partridge feathers and tromp l’oeil fireplaces and windows decorating the walls, with perfectly matched artworks from artist Dan Hillier.
First on the menu was a selection of fiendishly devised cocktails including a spicy ‘Dark and Stormy’ with a rum base and a strange concoction called ‘LDC’ (with the ‘L’ standing for lychee!). The meat-eaters’ starter consisted of a traditional ham hock terrine (with a Cherry Coke twist) accompanied by a home-made piccalilli, while the vegetarians tucked into a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart. Main courses were, of course, a selection of stews – I tried the warming Welsh Cowl with lamb, while some of my compatriots tried out a very unusual venison, port and chocolate stew. Last was a thankfully light apple crumble and custard.
I’ve not had the pop-up restaurant experience before but having experienced a night at the Stew House I now understand the appeal – they’re the equivalent of a gastronomic secret society if you will, with everyone present in on the secret. At the Stew House they accommodate people at long refectory tables and, due to the very informal atmosphere created, conversations were flowing backwards and forwards freely between complete strangers – it was a refreshing change to the rather stuffy atmosphere of many London restaurants.
There are no further eating spots available this month, but there is limited availability for the two days in early February when the Stew House will be opening its doors again – tickets are priced at £20 per person and you pick them up on the website here.