Hoxton’s Beagle restaurant is a well-balanced mix of hipster style, quality dining and understated charm. Housed within the railway arches beneath Hoxton Overground station Beagle epitomises what we expect from East London eateries.
When James, a school friend of mine, and I stepped beyond the thick, heavy curtain that protects diners from the harsh January night air we were both immediately struck by the noise. Surprisingly, the overhead volume from passing trains is minimal in comparison to the cacophony of human noise that bounces of hard surfaces and tall ceilings.
We sauntered to the bar and shouted our order – two double Hendrick’s and tonic – at the bearded barman. We stood in the archway that separated restaurant from bar waiting to be led to our table for far too long. Eventually, we were recognised by an apathetic waitress who, when asked how her day was, declared it was her last at the restaurant and the subsequent service suggested she had already left.
We poured over the chef’s menu, which changes relatively frequently, and were excited by the selection of dishes on offer. Ordering took some deliberation.
From the selection of first courses, we landed on the mussels with nduja – the ever so trendy paprika sausage – fennel and leeks. The combination of flavours here were perfectly tasty. Disappointingly, however, was the freshness of the mussels. All were pale in colour, lacking the vibrant orange shade synonymous with quality mussels, some were still closed and some exceedingly chewy. Alongside this, came the roast beetroot, Graceburn, chicory and buckwheat salad. Contrary to the mussels this dish was a success. Fresh and flavoursome, the earthy beetroot and creamy English feta paired immaculately.
As with the starters, the main courses were similarly hit-and-miss. The confit pork belly, swede, sprout tops and mustard was exemplary. It demonstrated the success of cooking great ingredients, very simply. The belly, whilst fatty, was in no respect tough, the crackling cracked and the meat shredded with ease. Really enjoyable. The onglet, on the other hand, was not so impressive. A cut of beef rarely found on restaurant menus, this steak was tendinous and riddled with gristle. James and I both chewed on a hunk of the meat but to little avail. The duck fat chips were very tasty but did not make up for the failure of the onglet.
I had a pleasant evening at Beagle; the bar, the booze it stocks, the company and some of the food made it very enjoyable. There were faults, however, and they were pretty glaring. The grandeur of the building, the hip style it embodies and the refined menu suggest Beagle will be a memorable experience, yet I was not blown away.