The Double Club

Posted on Friday, 24th April 2009

Note: This restaurant is no longer operating.

The restaurant at The Double Club

The restaurant at The Double Club

I cannot think of a better word to describe the Double Club other than ‘cool’. No, two words: ‘real cool’. Throw in a movie star and his entourage, which included a swag of beautiful young girls at the table next to us, and it completes the picture as to how ‘cool’ this place is. That, and a fashion-conscious ‘arty’ crowd and you get the picture. Housed in an old Victorian warehouse, the Double Club is a conceptual artistic project which brings together Western and Congolese elements. Created by Carsten Höller, the Swedish-based German artist who was behind the looping slides set up in the Tate Modern a few years ago; and funded by Fondazione Prada, a non-profit organisation based in Milan; the space is divided into three parts to bring us a bar, a restaurant, and a discotheque. Within each space, it combines, but without fusing, Western and Congolese influences through the use of artistic displays and functional elements drawn from both these spheres. The spirit of the project is further enhanced by encompassing the more fundamental aspects of both cultures, that being music and food.

The design is eye-catching and dynamic. It commands your attention without demanding it. In the restaurant, the lighting is dim and demure, and attractively so. The Double Club opened on 21 November 2008, and as all artistic displays tend to do will close after a set run, in this instance after six months.

As the food at my last artistic project of a temporary restaurant (Flash at the Royal Academy of Arts) was poor, I approached dinner at this similarly temporary establishment with some hesitation. But the food was delightfully very good. This was surely helped in no small part by the man who runs The Double Club – Mourad Mazouz – who is also the man behind Momo and Sketch. The menu is split between Congolese and Western (heavily French) choices, and customers are encouraged to mix and match as you wish.

Giant spicy shrimps

Giant spicy shrimps

White bean casserole with pigs trotters

White bean casserole with pigs trotters

Feeling for a taste of something new, we chose three dishes from the Congolese section of the menu. Kossa kossa, giant spicy shrimps (£12) was meaty, and flavoursome. It was spicy and tasty with lots of heat, but required more salt in its seasoning. A white bean casserole with pigs trotters (£8.50) was hearty, delicious and packed full of flavour, although I yearned for more pigs trotters (but that was perhaps me being greedy).

Catfish cooked in marantaceae leaves

Catfish cooked in marantaceae leaves

Liboke na mbisi, catfish cooked in marantaceae (arrowroot) leaves (£11) was gently flavoured from the onion, garlic, and chilli with which it had been cooked. But as this fish is extremely bony, it made for awkward eating. The skin is also quite thick, and as it is steamed, might not perhaps appeal to all. A side dish of chikwange, manioc (cassava) paste cooked in marantaceae leaves, was slightly gooey in texture, and tasted starchy and bland. Apparently a Congolese specialty, it didn’t appeal to our Senegalese waitress either, although was certainly worth a try.

Chikwange, manioc paste

Chikwange, manioc paste

Western starters range in price from £6.50 to £9.50, and included such offerings as Cornish crab salad, wild boar terrine, and crispy pork belly. Mains started from £12 for an organic rump of beef burger, and went up to £21 for a cote de boeuf. Despite not having tried the Western mains, the well rounded cooking displayed in the Congolese selection suggests that the Western-styled dishes would fare well also.

Seeing as there were no Congolese desserts options, we settled for Western ones instead. A steamed banana and sultana pudding with chilli roasted pineapple was delicious (£6.50). Accompanied by a vanilla custard which contained the slightest hint of aniseed, it provided a flavoursome contrast to the pudding. The pineapple, accessorised by a slight drizzle of finely chopped chilli added a great burst of flavour to the naturally sweet pineapple. An apple tarte tatin with double cream (£6.50) was lovely. But it could have been warmer, and the pastry crispier.

Banana & sultana pudding with chilli roasted pineapple

Banana & sultana pudding with chilli roasted pineapple

Apple tarte tatin

Apple tarte tatin

Service was resoundingly friendly and the wait staff resembled a gathering of The United Nations. The maître d was French, the lady who manned the main door was Congolese, and we were served by both a Polish waiter and as previously mentioned, a gorgeous Senegalese waitress, who co-incidentally had a smile that beamed from ear to ear. The place might be cool, but it’s also unpretentious and relaxed. By the time we left, the bar area was packed with a buzzy crowd, so buzzy that it would have been difficult to hold a conversation. Food from a simpler menu is also served in the bar area. Wines are available by the glass and hover around the £4-5 mark. Cocktails are priced at £7.50, which for London is pretty reasonable.

In keeping with its philanthropic philosophy, the venue operates both a no-members and no entrance fee policy, although reservations are necessary for the restaurant. Furthermore, all profits are donated to the City of Joy Charity which helps abused women and children in the Congo. The Double Club is due to close shortly, but from speaking with one of the waiters, he told us its lifespan might potentially be extended for a few more months. But go soon before you miss out on this slice of cool, and your chance for some lovely food and a potential celebrity sighting.

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Summary information

Food rating: [xrr rating=3.5/5]
Service rating: [xrr rating=3.5/5]

Price –
From the Congolese menu: about £30 each to share 3 dishes, 2 sides and 2 desserts.
From the Western menu: £25 to £37 for three courses.
Excludes drinks and service.
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The Double Club at:
7 Torrens Street
London EC1V 1NQ
Tel : +44 (0)207 837 2222
Web: http://www.thedoubleclub.co.uk/

Double Club on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “The Double Club”

  1. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie Says...

    Cool! and the food looks tasty!

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