Stoke Newington

‘A boisterous, mezcal-fuelled good time’

Imagine, if you will, that the American film industry was not such an international juggernaut.

Picture the Barbie movie if it had been made in the bustling studios of Tegucigalpa instead of the parched hills of Hollywood.

Then imagine – I know I’m asking a lot – a restaurant created with that aesthetic in mind: Central American Barbie-core.

Hola Doña, a new Mesoamerican pop-up restaurant in Stoke Newington.

Thea Cumming and Lucia Massey, one of the biggest promoters of mezcal in this fair western capital, have extended their popular basement bar skyward.

Since the end of May, on Friday and Saturday evenings, the venue has been serving small plates based on chef Karla’s home country of Honduras.

Now this red and pink palace of feminine power sits proudly on the pulsing artery of Stokey’s high street.

Lucia Massey and Thea Cumming at Doña. Photograph: courtesy Dona

It’s a safe and unthreatening space, unless you are incurably masculine. If the latter, there’s a pub two doors down and a gym called Muscleworks around the corner – go wild.

Vaginal ceramic fruits wink from the walls, soft circular ball lights and imitation plants creep from corners.

Drinks-wise, the main offering is mezcal – unsurprising, considering the pair’s obsession. The hell spawn of the hooch world never disappoints (personally), although continues to divide (my partner).

A spicy mezcal margaret is a Harley Davidson-riding demon, but the cucumber and coriander option is a fragrant, spa-water-but-with-booze that is most angelic.

With more than half of the cocktails based around the M-word, maybe it’s time to give the Mexican fire liquid a spin around the dance floor.

When it comes to the food, the mango salad is a summer sensation. It’s like a sweet exotic swamp, with chunks of yellow fruit bobbing around like alligator heads.

The razor-thin plantain crisps provide crunch and solidity. Disappointingly, though, the crisps as a standalone dish are a little drab. I imagine this is what eating the discarded shell of a cicada might feel like: dry.

‘Perfect, elevated version of nachos.’ Photograph: courtesy Dona

Totopos with a creamy cheese bean dip are the perfect, elevated version of nachos to temper the fiery spirit and its alluring calls of inebriation.

Chicken skewers marinated for 24 hours in Dangerous Don Mezcal are perfect sweetmeats to dip into the provided ramekin of hot sauce. The flavours tempt us to double or even triple our order and gnaw away at the bamboo sticks and satisfying dark red flesh like suddenly carnivorous capybaras.

Chicken seems to be a strength, as the empanadas are warm, pillowy, and bursting with subtle juices. We dunk them into the multicolour trio of sauces with gay abandon.

Doñitas (Honduran arepas) are also available with the almost obligatory avocado.

Cassava fries are an interesting phenomenon – heralded as the next big thing in the baked tuber world, surpassing the sickly sweet potato and unmentionable regular spud. They are a nutty hit, with the added thrill of being poisonous unless cooked properly. Be careful, brave home cooks, because cassava fries are now available in some enlightened supermarkets. Doña’s version, however, does not possess the crunchy exterior/soft centre, instead tending towards mush.

Furthermore, the tamalitos are a wet pancake consisting of corn and black bean dough, and again make for a slushy experience, albeit wrapped artfully in a banana leaf cloak.

The empanadas are ‘warm, pillowy and bursting with subtle juices’. Photograph: courtesy Dona

Dessert is an easy choice. Quesillo (caramel flan) sits alone yet bonny at the bottom of the menu. The triangle in a small pool of honeyish nectar has just the right level of give. It disintegrates under the lightest of spoon-based pressure, cooked perfectly, saintly creamy, and doesn’t last long on the plate.

Sheltered in a corner by the entrance, our table seems worryingly petite for the seven or so dishes we ordered. Although they start in dribs and drabs, we are quickly stacking plates on the counter behind us and wolfing down leftovers to desperately “free up room”.

Small plates plus small table is some sort of poetic curse for many modern-day diners.

Almost every dish that tangoes threateningly towards our tiny square of wood is below £15.

Be warned though, with the club clattering away downstairs, everything heats up very quickly. The change from quiet restaurant to green room for the butterfly-like patrons fluttering up the stairs was a touch alarming.

However, if you want a boisterous Central American evening inside the heart of a plastic rose, keep the mezcal shots coming.

Doña will show you a good time. She really will.