The Burning Beat at the House of Wolf - all the better to tease you with

Posted: Mon Oct 29 2012

Cabaret meets experimental food and drink, comedy, art and secret cubbyholes at London's first 'permanent pop-up venue'.

Billed as London's first permanent pop-up venue and calling itself 'a multi-functional, multi-sensory experimental pleasure palace', House of Wolf opened its doors earlier this month with a mission to explore the new in eating, drinking, art and entertainment - and, of course, they found space for cabaret within that. Located on Upper Street, the three-storey building occupies the site of one of London's earliest music halls, so performance is in its foundations.

The venue is a mix of retro-stylish, curiosity-shop eclecticism with an experimental, even clinical edge - and perhaps a whisper of Hoxton hipsterness. Experimental drinking and dining are the venue's bread and butter, so to speak. In the main bar, you can sip a Bolivian Drug Mule, made with coca-leaf distillation, under reclaimed-decanter chandeliers; upstairs, get more adventurous in the thrift store-meets-drugstore environs of the Apothecary bar. Watch out too for the hinged filing cabinet leading
to a secret cubbyhole.

The woody dining room beneath the building's eves, meanwhile, plays host to a different guest chef each month - current diners can be spotted using twigs as cutlery. House of Wolf also has artworks on its walls by the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, holds disco and comedy nights, and schedules talks and events with an esoteric bent, covering subjects from Egyptian astronomy to Dickens's love life.

Flying the flag for cabaret is the venue's regular Saturday night party, dubbed the Burning Beat and concocted by David Harris of the Boom Boom Club. Music is to the fore: the tone is set by regular bands - notably Tankus the Henge, a six-piece specialising in stomping oompah steampunk with a Balkan twist - and DJ duo the Roustabouts, known for their carny-style get-ups and mix of electro-swing and jukebox gems. Performances pop up rather than run through the night - there's an emphasis on burlesque and circus skills-based work with a twist from the likes of freaky showgirl Roxy Velvet, alt-burlesque stand-out Sabrina Sweepstakes and contortionist supreme Lucky Franco. The visual, visceral, hit-and-run vibe is a less conspicuously transgressive version of that found at the Box and, even if the low stage at the end of the room isn't great for sightlines, the Burning Beat offers plenty to get steamed up about.