Islington Barn: Former Garage Wheels Out All Kinds of Flavours
Ever hung your coat on a stray broom during a night out? In a countryside barn maybe, but probably not in the lively confines of Upper Street in London’s trendy Borough of Islington.
Welcome to the inner-city home of PipsDish for the past few months, where writer and pop up host Philip Dundas and food delivery service specialist Robert Barker will be until at least May.
Why garage in the headline you ask? Well, where ailing cars once lined up ready for repair now stands a dinner table adorned by hay bales as I make my way into the unique venue for Burns Night in late January.
That Pipsdish creator Dundas (pictured below on the right) is even operating here is a minor miracle. The food lover moved heaven and earth to convert the rundown car operating theatre into a suitable venue for selling and cooking all kinds of products with friend Barker, who runs Farm Direct.
“The Barn was a garage for 50 years, so it was knee deep in oil and grease and set up with six car ramps and a vast extraction unit,” Dundas told me, dressed in a kilt, while handing out welcome drinks to guests on the special Scottish-themed evening.
“I had to remove all of this myself with a power grinder and sheer goliath effort.”
The hard work has been worth it. The Islington Barn featured in Grazia Magazine’s ‘Top 10 Hot things to do in London’ earlier this month, and as I found out while perched precariously on the blocks of hay trying at all cost to avoid spilling any whiskey, they are in demand.
It’s easy to see why. Groups of people mingle freely as the sound of bagpipes fills the air before it’s time to find a home for our jackets, in my case the aforementioned broom, then cram into our seats, sorry bales.
Burns Night, while serving up the rare delicacy of haggis, is more about celebrating Scotland’s famous 18th century poet Robert Burns with a high-spirited evening than gorging on mind-blowing food.
Nonetheless, the PipsDish menu is a spectacular one. ‘Cock A Leekie Soup’ to start, the warming brew a perfect first dish on a winter evening.
The soup is followed by ‘Winter Salad o’Greens’, an interesting concoction and a contrast to the more easygoing liquid. Mind you, this is a Scottish celebration, so the soup is not the only liquid to be consumed.
A little while later and the evening’s signature dish is rolled out, ‘Haggis, Clapshot & Mash wi’ Whisky & Tarragon Butter’.
For those unaccustomed to haggis, its recipe contains a sheep’s liver, lungs and heart. A nice spicy kick later however, added by Dundas and chief sidekick Mary, is enough to make this bizarre mix a delicious meal.
Last up is ‘Cranachan wi’ Ice Cream’, a kind of oatmeal and raspberry mix, before more whiskey and wine is passed hurriedly around the table in order to toast the evening’s hosts and listen to some Scottish song.
On my right rests the piper, on my left sits a Johnny Depp lookalike and in front of me is a Scottish cycling fanatic, not forgetting I’m in an inner-city barn. A better evening in the company of complete strangers it would be impossible to have.
PipsDish may not be in the barn too much longer so visit before it’s too late. Rest assured however, they won’t be going anywhere too far away.
“Whatever happens PipsDish as a cooking and eating experience will carry on,” said Dundas.