Private dining with a difference
Stephen Moore uncovers a secret dining club in Old Street
Disappearing Dining Club
Featherstone Street, EC1
07507 754 318
YOU DON’T even need to blink to miss one of the latest additions to the Old Street dining scene. With a small black frontage and a brief - albeit enticing - description in white script on the window, this one-table restaurant certainly lives up to its name.
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And yes, you did read that right. There’s one table. In one room. The number of clocks of various vintages on the walls almost outnumber the diners.
And herein lies its beauty. At weekends it’s a private-hire restaurant for six or more where you can exercise almost total control over what you want - choose the music, menu and wines or even bring your own chef if you like, or leave part or all of it to the more-than-capable staff. You could even bring your office along for a business breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three during the week. Pretty much everything is negotiable. And every Tuesday and Wednesday DDC - occupying a former Chinese takeaway front counter space - opens for bookings of one to five people to share a cosy meal around the table with strangers.
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Reserve your seats, email them any dietary requirements a week ahead and look forward to... well, the unknown. Before now, the nearest I’ve got to turning up to eat a meal with eight strangers was at an unpleasantly packed service station on the M5 at the start of the school holidays.
This, thankfully, is wholly different and far more welcoming; and our dinner guests are friendly, relaxed and entertaining.
As the wine and conversation flows and slices of artisan bread disappear, the first dish - a dill-cured salmon fillet orbited by tiny beetroot cubes and capers - arrives and is delicious.
A tender braised neck of lamb, cooked for three hours, follows accompanied by a ragout of slightly spicy beans, chorizo and some lovely roasted aubergine.
The ginger set off the beautiful dessert of poached pear, completed by a chocolate sauce brushed across the plate and a delightful vanilla-flecked ‘tile’ of pannacotta. Altogether the food was of a high standard and presented with style, better than the best dinner party many could throw.
Service was friendly and unobtrusive too. For �30 for the food alone, it’s not the cheapest choice out there, but it’s certainly one to remember.
A tasting menu (�60) will get you all kinds of delights including steak tartare and quail’s egg, smoked haddock velout�, and seared scallops with watercress, chorizo, pea pur�e and turnips.
And it’s worth saying that the weekend hire option makes sense too; the perfect answer for urbanites wanting to throw an intimate dinner party but barely have the space to feed their cat, never mind own a dining table. DDC fills the gap and, on the evidence of our two chefs tonight, is leagues ahead of hiring a staid function room or dingy ‘gastropub’ alcove.
The friendly intimacy can transform it into an extension of your home - and a licensing quirk means it’s yours until the early hours. It sits within the footprint of City Arts and Music Project, sharing its kitchen and less-than-salubrious toilets with the bar, which may dampen the dining club pretentions of some.
But you do get to chat with the chefs as you slip through the kitchens en route, and if you were that fussed you probably wouldn’t be dining here anyway.
The strong gastro credentials turn what may initially seem a novelty venue into a one of north London’s best kept secrets. – STEPHEN MOORE
Three-course meal: �30
Wines: from �20 to �40 per bottle
Children welcome: No
Disabled access: No