Bar Tab: Doña, Stoke Newington, London

The pink floral canopy stands proud against the pale blue tiled shop front.  The shimmering strip curtain catches the stale orange streetlights of Stoke Newington and brings a touch of glamour to this space between a chip shop and the supporters club of a Turkish football team.  This must be the place.  Descending the stairs the colour hits you like a dream exploding in your frontbrain  Is this the belly of a whale?  A birth canal?  Our intrepid couple take a table.  Around the corner a life model disrobes.  Behind them old school friends discuss which of their classmates are now wastemen, and which are hench.  This must be the place.  Margaret and Doña arrive at the table.  The former a mezcal-led margarita with a salted rim of depth and contrast.  The lady of the house slaps you round the face with a handful of ginger, then offers coffee mezcal and lime to take the sting away.  It does.  Just.  The menu just days from changing, our visitors receive some samples of the new list.  Sabrina uses habanero to provide some bite and pink peppercorn to enhance the sour template.  Monica is a seasonal combination of espresso martini and chocolate liqueur – perhaps it’s time to upgrade the squat bottle of Irish cream this year?  The life model switches poses and someone asks for a 6B pencil.  Food from the upstairs Tigre Tacos blends the Mexican (chipotle mayo) with the British (beer batter and Bermondsey cheese) while the sharp white cabbage is a world away from the boiled version the neighbouring table may recall from the school cafeteria.  Bartender Dario swings by to answer questions on the sustainability of the agave plant and the importance of the relationship the bar team has developed with a range of independent producers. The neighbours posit the attraction of a ten year school reunion.  Our visitors finish with a boozy Virginia (mezcal, hibiscus, raspberry sage and rose) hurry for the bus home before the jocks arrive to steal their mezcal money. (92 Stoke Newington High St.