Housed in a pretty Victoria townhouse on Islington's bustling Upper Street, The Dead Dolls House may sound like a curiosity emporium, but it's in fact a rather stylish bar and restaurant.
There are hints of Victoriana in the interior decor, which boasts a blue, black and white colour palette, and stencil embellishments. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling, a sign that this venue turns into a busy hangout at the weekend, where groups of friends enjoy a meal and a cocktail (or several) before hitting the dancefloor.
Whilst not a vegan restaurant The Dead Dolls House's menu caters for vegetarians and vegans, making it a good option if you are eating out with omnivores.
The menu is simple but has a good choice of dishes, including steamed Chinese baos (the Badboy sweet fried tofu with lettuce and pickles is vegan or you can ask them to take out the mayonnaise and opt for the fried tofu bao with lettuce, pickles and sriracha), which at £6 for one is good value for money.
For starter I ordered the fried tofu bao, sans mayo of course, and without sriracha too, as when it comes to hot food I'm a wuss.
The bao was light, delicate and pillowy and even without all the sauces (although I did add a touch of ketchup to replace the aforementioned mayo) it was tasty and the tofu cooked well: crispy on the outside and creamy inside, but still with a bite.
The vegan mains included sweet fried tofu (£9), gluten-free leek and mushroom pie with vegan gravy (£15), spiced bean burger with vegan cheddar, lettuce, tomato and pickles served in a wholemeal bun (£11) and vegan hot dog, with vegan cheddar and grilled onions (£10.50) and the ubiquitous but nonetheless delicious bowls. The bowls are vegetarian rather than vegan, as they all come with poached egg, but these can be very easily veganised by simply omitting the ovum.
I opted for the nutrient bowl with sweet potatoes, spiced cauliflower, avocado, edamame, pickled ginger, kale, sesame and dukkah (£13), which was packed with flavour (brownie points for the cumin-spiced cauli), very fresh and well presented.
Aside from a disappointing sauce that accompanied her meal, my meat eating dining companion was impressed by her choice too, and described the chips as 'excellent' (and I, the chip thieve, concur).
We skipped dessert, but the menu features a vegan and gluten-free apple and plum tart, perfect if you have a sweet tooth.
The cocktail list offers six 'healthy cocktails' (is there really such a thing?), which includes a very interesting sounding Smoked on the Water (£11), with cachaca, apple juice, acai pure, lemon juice and echinacea. We went off menu and I ordered a gin martini, which was well made and promptly served. Just like I like them.
The wine list is small but has a good selection of sparkling, red and white wines and the Malbec we ordered was full bodied, creamy and smooth, as a Malbec should be.
If beer and cider are your tipple, then you are in luck as the list here boasts a good choice.
Dead Dolls House is a good place to come with a group of friends but perhaps not with a date. The aforementioned disco ball, which I'm sure goes down a treat at weekends, was a little distracting and out of place at 8pm on a Wednesday night and whilst they played music I love, I'm not sure Crystal Castle are the right mid-week dining companions, especially as when we visited the restaurant was relatively quiet.
Staff is friendly and the food arrived promptly, however the service would benefit from a little more attention to detail.
Both the salt and pepper mills on our table were empty and personally, when I am served a bottle of wine, I'd like the staff to open it for me and let me taste it, rather than plonking it on the table with the screw top still on.
Having said that, Dead Dolls House is a stylish yet informal option if you want to eat well, drink and dance without moving your party from venue to venue, if you fancy a leisurely brunch at the weekend or if you go out for cocktails and suddenly feel peckish.
There are also three also three upstairs rooms for private hire, for birthdays, events and even weddings.
Location: 181, Upper Street, London N1 1RQ.
Best for: large groups of people, dinner and dancing, private parties.