House of Wolf, 181 Upper Street, London N1

Might the experiments at House of Wolf be better left in the lab?

Experimental dining is a baleful concept. It takes two wonderful habits in which our species excels and, by conjoining them, besmirches both. Dining is wonderful because it elevates food from the realm of nutrition to that of culture. Experimentation is wonderful because it was only when our forebears threw off the shackles of organised religion, and dared to know through science, that our lives went from being nasty, brutish and short to stuffed full of newspapers with pompous restaurant critics. But experimental dining? No.

When I turn up at a restaurant, I want the experiments to have been finished, boxes ticked, conclusions drawn, perfection on each plate. What I don't want is the sense that the kitchen is making it up as they go along. Particularly when you're paying more than average for the experience.

Worse still, when you book, the following text arrives as part of the email confirmation. It's all in capitals, but I'll save you the headache: "By booking and attending House of Wolf you are entering into an experimental dining scenario. This means you accept things may stray a little out of the ordinary in terms of both the food you will be served and the manner in which you consume it. Please use common sense at all times when handling sharps [sic] and using the various implements you will be supplied with. We can accept no responsibility for injuries sustained in this manner."

There are two points to make about this. The first is that it is wholly irrelevant to the experience of House of Wolf. The second is that a paragraph could hardly be better crafted to destroy the appetite in advance of arrival.

House of Wolf boasts "pop-up chef residencies" and November's comes courtesy of Blanch & Shock, whose tasting menu is £45 (there is an accompanying, but not compulsory, drinks list at £25). A full 87 minutes after we arrive, all we've eaten is the first of six courses: an Einkorn wholegrain bread and yoghurt whey butter, the latter coming from a churn in the kitchen, apparently. We are told that by a waitress called Katie, who seems to be the only one of the waiting staff to have a clue what is going on – though the fact that the menu changes monthly may help explain why they often haven't the foggiest what they're serving up.

It's almost an hour-and-a-half in by the time we get raw prawns in British lardo, with hogweed (also known as cow parsnip), mallow oil and salad burnet. The leaves are fine and flavoursome, the prawns lifeless in every sense, and the salty, ultra-fatty lardo is half-left by my mate Eve but gladly gobbled by Henry, Charlie and I. Next is a wild sea bass that has been left in dill vinegar for 20 minutes to "cook", Isle of Bute dulse, purple oxalis leaf, chervil root and celery cress. If you're struggling to keep up, so are we. This tastes like a tour of Monty Don's childhood, except for the sea bass, which is too tough.

Then there is excellent wild mallard duck with chestnuts, scarlet hawberries, Jerusalem artichokes and melliot; dry beef with under-powered fermented turnips (missing from two of our plates), dandelions, and a lovely oyster emulsion; and finally "textures" of Brogdale apples, quince, sourdough brioche eggy bread, yoghurt curd and buttered black tea.

That's a lot going on. Experimental dining indeed. I have huge admiration for the young, ambitious chefs here with brilliant imaginations, but taken together, their menu tastes more like an argument between courses than a conversation. This point hits home when, finally, we are given a bonus cocktail – a horrendous, boozy beetroot mixture – and then, dear me, told to bite on a szechuan pepper, which makes our tongues fizz and converts the House of Wolf, however briefly, into the House of Flying Daggers.

This is yuppy central, by the way. Everyone is under 35 and the music is Finley Quaye, Tenor Saw and Barrington Levy. It's well-intentioned, but a long way from the finished product. Anyone who has worked in a new opening knows it takes time to get the process right, and I am loath to be harsh about an ambitious start-up. But seriously, guys. Experiments are for your lab, not for our dinner table.

5/10

SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HELP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PROMISE, 7 GOOD, 8 SPECIAL, CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

House of Wolf 181 Upper Street, London N1, tel: 020 7288 1470 Dinner daily, about £180 for four, plus drinks

Daring to be different

The Fat Duck

High Street, Bray, Berkshire, tel: 01628 580 333

Heston Blumenthal’s mind-blowing theatre-on-a-plate offers a transcendental experience; the only thing more incredible than the food is the bill…

Gourmet Spot

The Avenue, Durham, tel: 0191 384 6655

It’s not the location (off-centre), the wine list (pedestrian) or the dining-room (too small) which makes this basement restaurant stand out… but cuisine that’s not afraid of experimentation

Midsummer House

Midsummer Common, Cambridge, tel: 01223 369 299

The daring cuisine delivered  in a tasting-menu format by Daniel Clifford currently ranks it among the UK’s top-10 culinary destinations

Reviews extracted from Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2012 www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments