Rack and Ruin @ Kitchen Party Clerkenwell
42 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HU
0203 174 email@example.com
Thursday – Saturday only through summer 2013
I’m not always convinced by pop-ups, for instance Jamie Oliver’s new one in the West End is planned to be there for three years somewhat commodifying and debasing the whole concept; however when a pop-up works it can bring a sense of vibrancy and fun to unexpected locations and if the food and drink are good then that’s a bonus.
Situated in the shell of a building previously occupied by an Argentinian restaurant (more of that later…) and curated by those trendy bar people Bourne & Hollingsworth, Kitchen Party features up to five bar and food pop-ups in a rambling building just off Exmouth Market. Participants will change every four to six weeks and include the Dine Mile High Club (of Destination Gothenburg), Russian Revels, The Robin Collective, Rack & Ruin, Blanch & Shock and the 4th Wall, London’s first ‘wandering’ bar.
We arrived fairly early in time for a drink at the 4th Wall. It’s all fake walls and chintz wallpaper but without the trademark Bourne & Hollingsworth teacups.
We order a Port in a Storm (£7.50) -a dark rum, port and ginger concoction that is warming and feels as if it might address my man flu-
and a Hollingsworth Fizz (£7.50)-a much lighter gin, green tea, soda and cucumber number that is refreshing and enervating. The cocktails are well balanced and blended as you would expect from some of London’s top hipster mixologists. A DJ turns up playing 70s tracks that are weirdly all in my own collection of vinyl which either makes me old or a trendy Hoxtonite-take your pick…
The bar quickly fills up with excited couples; some of the girls are dressed up flapper style accompanied by chaps in dinner suits wearing fake beards. They are off to the basement for Russian Revels, an immersive kitsch celebration of 1920s Soviet style, art and food that looks like it would be a lot of fun.
More serious types are off to Blanch & Shock for award-winning experimental fine dining but Fiona and I are heading for Rack & Ruin to experience the pleasures of flame on flesh.
We walk into a dark room at the back of the bar which is dominated by a glass-domed circular charcoal fire pit with racks of meat and vegetables cooking over it. This ‘assado’ is a leftover from the venue’s previous life as an Argentinian restaurant and is presided over reverentially by a grizzled South African bloke who clearly thinks he has died and gone to heaven such is his relish for his task. We sit at a long table with the other punters for the first sitting and start laying in to our bottle of Copertino D.O.C Maceria Monaci 2008 (£28), a fairly tannic red with notes of cherry, stewed fruits, tar and almonds, in preparation for the grillfest ahead.
The deal at Rack & Ruin is a very reasonable £25 for three courses and you are encouraged to eat as much as you can within the alloted time slot. There were three sittings the night we went but we didn’t feel rushed despite eating far too much…
Starters were already laid out-Kilner jars of Mackerel pâté, Tzaziki and Hummous with brown bread and butter. They were all fresh, tasty and authentic tasting.
We were then given wooden platters and could request what we wanted from the grillmeister. Between us we had beef, chicken, pork belly, mutton, trout, roasted squash, asparagus and courgette, with the pork, beef and fish being the standout cuts. Everything was full of flavour and there was a visceral sense of enjoyment eating so close to the assado.
We were also given a baked potato and a well mixed salad.
The kilner jars came into operation again for dessert; we had rhubarb and apricot marinated in cinnamon ginger and rum with a topping of yoghourt. This was light and easy to digest after the protein feast!
There was a real sense of excitement throughout the whole Kitchen Party operation. They are making a real effort to make more of an event out of eating out and their enthusiasm is infectious creating a feelgood factor amongst the clients. The food is good value and if a bit rough and ready-well that’s just part of the vibe. Go and enjoy or even better tell your grownup kids about it and appear effortlessly hip!