Saturday, 5 July 2014

Restaurant review: 8 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch

Following the location-based nomenclature of their original 10 Greek Street in Soho, 8 Hoxton Square is Luke Wilson and Cameron Emirali's recently-opened second restaurant.

On a summer's evening, with the patio doors flung open to admit the cooling breeze coming in from the square, this is a lovely little fastness to hole up in. 

Scrubbed brick walls, straight-backed banquettes and wooden-slatted chairs reclaimed from a Victorian primary school, make it clear that the emphasis is on the food, not the fittings. 

The daily-changing menu is chalked up on a board and it's all about freshness and seasonality. It was one of those menus where you'd like a few more stomachs, much like a cow, in order not to have decide. 

My Dad was a very happy dining partner, because his favourite was on the menu. Whole plaice and brown shrimp. It was a tense moment checking they still had some left (see Social Eating House) and I only felt I could relax after his order had been accepted by the kitchen. Phew.  I ate smoked eel. 

On a totally peripheral note, they have a nice knack of cutting lemons in a shallow way so that you don't get any pips when you come to squeeze it. Far nicer than those Women's Institute style muslin wrappers that lemons usually come in, or the metal paper-clip style squeezer you get on Indian starters, next to the raita. 

The colourful hipsters of Hoxton streaming through the doors were a source of amusement to my Dad. Including one girl wearing a floppy hat with a wider brim than that absurd hat of Andie McDowell's in Four Weddings a Funeral.

All in all, the vibe is nice and I think it's good value for well-cooked, simple yet engaging dishes. Nice staff and an imaginative wine list to boot. 

Restaurant review: The Berners Tavern, London

This is one of the new 'it' hotels, where George Clooney was recently snapped with his bride-to-be.

I've now eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner here - although not all in the same day, which would show a stifling lack of adventure - and I'm underwhelmed. Considering it's Jason Atherton - whose trio of Socials in Soho wow me, it's a misfire.

It certainly looks the part. A magnificent grand ding room, walls covered in a mosaic of oil paintings, and a sparkly Gatsby-style bar where pretty things drink pretty drinks.

The food is just a bit predictable. It might be that this is a hotel and needs to cater to a broader appeal than his other restaurants.

The service is really where my vexation finds its victim. For breakfast the other day, we had to wait 20 minutes for our order to be taken.  This despite some very good impressions of meerkats from several of us on the table. They repeatedly bring the wrong orders to your table - this happened twice.

And I'd avoid the main bar after midnight like the plague. Unless you're an overpaid financier or a lady of the night.