Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mother Kelly's and Dead Dolls Club, 13th June

Bethnal Green used to be a pretty scutty place. But then it seemed that Shoreditch sprang a leak, with cool new bars and restaurants (Sager and Wilde, which I may have mentioned once or twice, Clutch) springing up on Hackney Road, which joins Old Street to Bethnal Green. And this spread further with Satan’s Whiskers opening on Cambridge Heath Road, and that has now been joined by the new home of the Dead Dolls Club, plus the redevelopment of the arches by Bethnal Green station. And so now… well, Bethnal Green is still pretty scutty, but you get the impression that it might not be for long.

Putting aside how I feel about the spread of Shoreditch to the east and what that might mean for rental prices in my area, I’m pretty happy to have so many lovely new places a mere stop away from my flat.

On Friday the plan was to go to the Dead Dolls Club to see Kansas Smitty’s jazz band and maybe stop in on the Craft Cocktail Co on the way. Which is what I thought we were doing as we approached an open arch I hadn’t seen before, stocked full of bottles. On closer inspection they were beer bottles, not cocktails and actually we had discovered Mother Kelly’s, which could easily become a favourite of mine even though I don’t like beer.

This place is a beer kingdom – they have six fridges with bottles of all kinds available (to drink in or take away for a 25% discount), and on top of this they have 20 more beers and ciders on tap! They serve one red wine, one white, one champagne, and keep food to a minimal but well-chosen offering of meat and cheese boards. I tried a bottled cider I hadn’t had before and followed this up with a white wine just to see how much attention they’d paid to it. It was unusual – very fruity and verging on sweet, quite soft and round. Very different to the wines I normally drink but not unpleasant. The beer on draft is served in 2/3 pints in the main, but they're priced accordingly so you're not getting gypped.

We then headed up to the Dead Dolls Club at about 10 pm, which is when I knew the band were meant to be taking to the stage.

Square Meal

Dead Dolls Club

And so, to another arch, namely The Arch, where Dead Dolls Club are in residence for the foreseeable. You step through its little café-like foyer and into the main room.

At first, we were underwhelmed. There was no one in there and the whole place felt sparse and cold. I’ve been to the Dead Dolls House and the original Dead Dolls Club and was expecting something more homely, the same stencils on the wall, the same feeling of being in a quirky parlour. I was disappointed. This felt like what it was - a railway arch.

But still, we took a seat and got a couple of cocktails and waited while the band warmed up. I had an espresso martini (if you follow the DDC on Twitter, you’ll know they’re quite proud of them) and Stephen had an old fashioned. We were both very pleased with our drinks – mine had a very strong coffee flavour that completely threw me off how much alcohol was in it. After three of these I was pretty sloshed and I don’t say that often about cocktails. I probably should have had some of Checkon's chicken to soak it up - we saw people chowing on buckets of the stuff and it looked pretty good. Stephen stuck to cocktails the whole night, having a julep and a negroni to follow up.

Kansas Smitty finally took to the stage and didn’t waste any time in whipping up some liveliness. They are a jazz band in the speakeasy, 20s-40s sense, not in the strokey-beardy 60s beatnik sense and they were brilliant! They followed up their frenetic start with something a little mellower but in general the whole set was up tempo and got people on their feet.

The place had begun to fill by this point. I don’t know if people were filing in specifically to see the band or if this just happens to be when the DDC gets busy but with the crowds the space came into its own. It’s clearly a place for dancing and merriment, rather than refinement, and the sparkly lights and humongous glitter ball now made sense. We had noted the rather utilitarian chairs and fixtures but who cares about those when there’s dancing to be had. I understood their thinking now.

We loved the band and were having a lot of fun – so much so that our original plan of getting the last tube home went out the window. Of course, this doesn’t mean quite so much when we were only a ten minute bus ride from home, but it is meant to illustrate that we liked the place. 

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