I normally know Vauxhall as the backdrop to some of my mates’ more, uh, colourful night-out stories, but it turns out there’s more to it than drag queens and dark rooms. Just lately, for instance, a daytime meat fest has popped up in a converted stable, with unlimited prosecco, as many ribs as you can eat and a vague Wild West theme, all for £29.
It’s called NolaRola – don’t ask me why – but it’s a different breed to the ten-a-penny bottomless brunches you find these days all over town. The latter typically involves some kind of egg, the plinkity-plonk of a piano and the ever-present fear of being taken firmly by the elbow and told, ‘Sir, you’re making a scene’. NolaRola, on the other hand, is more of a rough-and-ready booze-up that’ll render you incapable of ingesting anything – or, indeed, doing anything at all – for the rest of the day.
It was just what we wanted after a long, soul-destroying morning of house-hunting. (The rumours are true, by the way. House-hunting is shit, estate agents are shit, the whole property market is shit. But that’s another blog post.) Tables are set up to be shared, with a plastic washing up tub on each for empties and bones. At the back, a DJ from New Orleans was belting out soul tunes, and the atmosphere was buzzing but chilled.
There’s a fully-stocked bar, but only a psychopath would spend £4.50 on a bottle of Desperados when their ticket includes unlimited free prosecco and flagons of lethal whisky punch.
We arrived at around 2pm, halfway through the service, and already some people were clearly feeling the effects…
Under 25s having fun, eh? Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than being publicly doused with cold water – or cold anything, for that matter. (The menu lists extra bottles of prosecco at £10 “for spraying”, which is a criminal waste of alcohol if nothing else.) I didn’t even do the Ice Bucket Challenge, because a) I didn’t want to and b) the internet isn’t ready to see me in a wet T-shirt. But each to their own, and to be fair it was pretty good entertainment.
As prematurely middle-aged, relatively sober people, we were more interested in the food, which came around in American-style plastic baskets filled with crunchy slaw, deep-fried kale, fries and ribs sourced from Smithfield Market. I’m usually suspicious of any all-you-can-eat claim that includes meat as it’s so easy to end up forcing down half a pound of gristle, but these were of very good quality. They’ve done a bloody good job on the marinades – there’s homemade Piri-Piri, but my favourite ribs were the BBQ ones, which are soaked in a secret(ish) recipe of Dr Pepper, black treacle and Marmite, which gives the meat a sweet ‘n smoky, umami finish.
Pro tip: bring Wet Wipes and a toothpick. And leave the lippy at home.
NolaRola is obviously not a natural gathering place for vegetarians en masse, but if you do have any in your party – and the venue is great for parties – there’s a meat-free option with halloumi, kale and pomegranate seeds. It’s not as good value as the ribs, but I guess that just means the veggies have to put in some extra effort on the booze front.
Pudding was ‘the rockiest road you’ll ever walk’ – a densely packed, dark chocolate tart with as much rock as there was road, and the careful smattering of miniature marshmallows that gives a good Rocky Road that unique kind of chewiness. I got the sense someone’s grandma was once famous for the recipe. It isn’t often I eat a whole dessert myself, opting instead to gouge out bits of my tablemates’ – fewer calories, you see – but this thing went down like the Titanic. Whoops.
NolaRola is on every Saturday until 1st October, and tickets are available via DesignMyNight. It’s an event best enjoyed with at least half a dozen of your most fun-loving mates, so get your organisational hat on and rally together a group. Sessions run from 1pm, and you have two hours to do your worst. And if your worst includes being persuaded to sit in stocks and get sprayed with booze, so be it.
NolaRola, The Yard, 4 Durham Street, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5JA
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.