Restaurant Review: The Dolls House Islington

Dine in Victorian opulence at a venue that seems purpose-built to inspire budding romance

I live in Islington and have enjoyed a number of the restaurants on Upper Street, so I was excited to take my date for dinner at the relatively newly opened Dolls House Islington, part of the Dead Dolls Club group of restaurants. Unlike many of the other restaurants in the area, The Dolls House doesn’t have a huge banner sign displayed across the front, so when you arrive to the glass-fronted Victorian building and walk in, you feel as though you’re somewhere very different from the norm.

I was early and, having been warmly greeted, I took a place at the bar while I waited for my date to arrive. I had plenty of time to explore the drinks list. I was surprised that the cocktail list wasn’t longer, but there was ample choice; having just returned from Mauritius, I ordered a Planters Punch to bring back some memories. When I took my first sip, though, I knew why the cocktail list was smaller than most – because the staff here specialize in making them exceptional. I like a good cocktail and, in contrast to other restaurants I’ve been to where the cocktail list goes on forever but the drinks themselves offer nothing to separate them from all the others, this one was exquisitely flavoured.

As I anticipated my date’s arrival, I glanced around the room, and it was only then that I truly grasped how big it was. The windows at the front must have been at least 10 feet in height, bringing in all the natural light that the setting sun could provide. While Upper Street is notoriously busy, The Doll House is situated quite a way up from the bustling Angel end, so you do feel as though you’ve been transported almost out of London.

The mirrored tables are laid out towards the back of the room, where they reflect the candlelight around the area and back off the glitter-balled ceiling, making the space ooze decadence.

When my date arrived, she ordered a glass of rosé prosecco and we were shown to our table. It was the first time we’d been out together, having only exchanged messages to one another, and thankfully the acoustics were at just the right level so we could hear clearly while still enjoying the old-school jazz and soul music being played by the live DJ.

I started to browse the menu while my partner went through the extensive wine list, which had clearly been given the same amount of consideration as the cocktails. After ordering a bottle of Shiraz, we made our menu choices. The Dolls House is a meat lover’s heaven; while there are plenty of alternatives, it was clear to us both what our main courses should be. My date chose a burger in a brioche bun, and I went with a sirloin steak.

For starters we both opted for the cured salmon, which was beautifully presented, and while you could taste the salmon it was laced with divine flavours that added piquancy to each mouthful. Everything to this point had us both nicely relaxed; The Dolls House had fashioned a perfect first-date experience that made us comfortable, happy, and able to enjoy one another’s company without a care.

When our main courses arrived I was struck with food envy. My steak looked perfect, but the burger my date was given looked delicious – and it was massive. Clearly it was incredible too, because though she said that it was way too big for her to finish, did I get offered any before it was all gone? However, I was not complaining as my steak was wonderfully moist and marvelously cooked, and when washed down with the punchy Shiraz left me lost for words anyway.

After a little bit of time we were presented with the dessert menu, which was a topic of conversation in itself. Against my better judgment I concluded that I didn’t have room for the tempting Pimm’s cheesecake, but my partner couldn’t resist ordering the chocolate truffles, and she was certainly not disappointed. Watching her beam with satisfaction as she picked through the luxurious morsels in front of her was the perfect end to a wonderful date.

The Dolls House Islington is a great spot for a first date – in fact, it almost seems like it was designed with that in mind. There’s no pretense, just an atmosphere and food created to ease away all your concerns, leaving you to enjoy the company of your date and to get to know one another.

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