Honey and
food and travel

Saturday, 19 July 2014

8 Hoxton Square

8 Hoxton Square had a lot to live up to. Every review had been raving, every person who had mentioned had done so with an eager smile and sparkling eyes. It took us a while to get there given all this positive press, and its proximity to both work and home. B's birthday treat finally gave us the right excuse.

Friday evening in Hoxton Square is not my cup of tea. Portable urinals are shipped in at some point on a Friday afternoon, bus loads of short dresses, high heels, sharp shirts and slick hair soon follow, the bass in the bars is pounding, drinks are all over the pavement, and it soon turns into a heaving headache of hell. Barely recognisable from the creative space of hipsters sipping coffee with matching dogs that it is during the day. So it seems like a slightly odd location for the 10 Greek Street team to choose to position their new site: full of foodies it is, but not on a Friday and Saturday night, the same nights that (I imagine) people want to eat out.

Maybe it's not surprising then that on a Friday night 8 Hoxton Square was not full. Sat on the banquette, just enough space from the table next door (a great privilege in this day and age of sardine-style restaurants), blackboards on all walls (no neck craning here), a personal bottle of olive oil already on the table, beautiful but relaxed interiors (just the right amount of exposed brick and pipework), and a small bar buried at the back, 8 Hoxton Square welcomes you. It doesn't scare you with pretentiousness, formality, fashionable neutrality to your presence.

With a glass of prosecco at a more than reasonable price, and a perfectly sized selection of dishes to choose from, there was an audible sigh of relief. This was the right place to understatedly celebrate a birthday. 

Food was chosen, and after a while began to arrive. Over the evening service was slow. The food made up for it, but doesn't make it forgivable. They weren't full or busy, and wine didn't arrive until after the starters, despite being ordered before. We'd been there for an hour and a half before we got our mains. We weren't in a rush, so it didn't really matter, but it did become rather frustrating after a while...

Grilled squid for me, fresh and fleshy with fennel and spring onion. B chose what he called a selection of wonderful things. Cured spanish ham, cheese, rocket, chillies. Both plates were balanced and colourful; wonderful summer evening fodder.

A little while later the mains came (the wine had arrived by this point), and the wait was forgiven at the first mouthful. It's worth waiting more than an hour for a plate of this food. 

My towering shallot tart tatin with girolles, goats' curd & summer truffle was a revelation. The shallots sweet and caramelised, the pastry crunchy and fresh, mushrooms woody and succulent, greens light and bright, goat's curd creamy, and summer truffle indulgent and more than a little bit special. This was the veggie option, but it was brilliant. The veggie (which I am not), had not been passed off with a few bits of leeks and old goats cheese here. B's risotto looked almost fake. A vivid green, with charred pink veal and sprinkled with the most beautiful sweet pea flowers, there is clearly no slacking on appearance downstairs in the kitchen. Expensive this place is not, but the food looks and tastes as if it will cost far more than the price indicates on the menu.

There was no umming and aahing about whether to have pudding or not (unlike the rather grumpy, irritating pair on the table next door). Chilled rice pudding with candied pistachios, cherries and rose petals with two spoons please. A rather large bit of indulgence, the best rice pudding we've ever tried.

So my advice to you would be go. Definitely go. But go on a school night, or if you have the option to, for a long weekday lunch. Sit outside in the sun, relax, ignore the slow service, and eat as much as you possibly can. The bill won't hurt your wallet too badly either.

Highlight: Shallot tart tatin
Lowlight: Slow service

8 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

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