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Restaurant Review: Christmas at Number 42 by the Pale Blue Door/ Architecture Foundation

I was nervous before I went here. Was it going to be about the food or about a drag queen serving you food?

The underground restaurant ‘scene’ in London is about many things, one thing I have unfortunately realised five or six ‘supper clubs’ in is that good food is not always guaranteed. The first supper club I went to (Ms Marmite’s Underground Restaurant) made me question what all the fuss was about due to the lacklustre cooking. Having read that it was inspired by the paladares in Cuba I probably shouldn’t have been surprised as having eaten my way around Cuba 12 years ago I had learnt the hard way that paladares/ underground restaurants can offer disappointment and food poisoning (often together).

It was only the novel experience of mingling with strangers and the slightly illicit sensation that led me to try my second (Lady Gray’s tea room). Her great baking spurred me onwards and upwards to try Fernandez and Leluu’s brilliant Vietnamese extravaganza. Thereafter there was the slight commerciality of the Savoy Truffle Club (insofar as they run a tight ship which means you get acceptable food but a slightly astringent experience compared to the frivolity of the other supper clubs I have been to) and then well… Christmas at Number 42 done by those behind the Pale Blue Door in Hackney. Oh, and I nearly forgot, Nuno Mendes at the Loft is also meant to be part of this trend but there is something different about a professional chef cooking at home (however, it was hella good).

I hadn’t ever been to the Pale Blue Door but I knew it was a set designer’s/ drag queen’s mash up of a meal. When I saw that they were collaborating with the Architecture Foundation I booked three tickets to go, one of which was for Clair who first lured me to Ms Marmite’s earlier in the year and put the whole ‘supper club’ scene on my radar.

Beyond that I walked into Christmas at Number 42 ignorant and not having listened to Christina Aguilera for an age. That was about to change. The room was a revelation. Normally when people talk about ‘rooms’ they blather on about decor or some nice wallpaper. This was a pre assembled miniature house. We wiggled our way up to our table, on the second floor, into the kid’s bedroom. As we went pass our drag queen for the night (Russella, see http://www.russella.co.uk), resplendent in red, informed us that there was porn under the table (superglued we found out). So far so normal.

As we made our way to our table we passed the romantic table for a dinner a deux (a loo) and all the other rooms in what was an oversized doll house made up into a cramped acid tripping wonderland of a ‘room’. At this stage I realised that the food could, quite frankly, be forgotten as this was beyond a meal, and more akin to a performance.

And this is where I became more than impressed. Three courses of simple well prepared food later which had been carried into the nooks and crannies of the doll’s house by Russella in 5 inch glittered red high heels we were fed, contented and happy. The starter was a parboiled plate of al dente vegetables with a simple vinaigrette. The main was a roast bellyful of meat with accompanying veg and the pudding was a stewed apple mess (but in a positive way). Nothing fancy. All prepreparable. All good. Combined with the extra bottles of wine we smuggled in (though we were never quite sure whether it was BYO or just whether we were thirstier than others) it was enjoyable enough simply as a ‘food’ based underground restaurant/ supper club (putting aside the fact that we were 9ft off the ground in a replica kid’s bedroom as we ate it).

Then came the rest, i.e. Russella the drag queen, Christina Aguilera, the fastest made Christmas pudding I have ever seen and the strip. A confounding pointless cabaret mess but brilliant. I am going to have to start going to see cabaret at Bistroteque again as I forgot how fun it was.

  • Price – £40 and some strange dreams later that night
  • Address – temporarily London Bridge

4 Comments

  1. The London Foodie

    Hi Tom & Jen,

    Love your writing! I am surprised we have not bumped into one another at one of these supper clubs, we seem to be going to the same clubs although I have not yet tried the Pale Blue Door. Did you find out whether it is a BYO place? I LOVE Fernandez & Leluu, and am going back there on 18th Dec and for their NYE, i think they are the best supper club in London at that price range.

    Have you tried linking your restaurant reviews to Urbanspoon? I get a lot of traffic from them, I think it is a brilliant site, have a look at one of my reviews, it is not difficult to set it up, specially when you are reviewing so many restaurants in London.

    Merry Xmas to both!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  2. Tom

    Hey Luiz, good to meet you. We may well have been at the same things though you would have probably spotted me as I unfortunately tend to stand out due to being lanky and loud (and the suffering small person next to me is Jen :))

    We shall have to aim to rendezvous at something soon together. I know I will definitely be going back to Leluu & Fernandez's more than once in the near future… (though probably not this year as I can't take the hangovers). I've just added you on Twitter so I can keep an eye out.

    I suspect Chistmas @ No 42 was a "tolerated" BYO.

    Will go and have a look to urbanspoon now!

    Tom and Jen

  3. I’m opening a restaurant in Buenos Aires and surfing for fancy recipes, some how I ended up reading your article, I just love it, could not stop laughing about it, hahaha

    • I think they did a pop up in BA! But hope the restaurant opening goes well. BA remains one of my favourite cities and a place I always think/ wish/ hope I could live someday.

      But if you do transform your restaurant into a mini house like Pale Blue Door < that would be awesome.

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