This smart-casual restaurant, a sibling to Soho's 10 Greek Street, combines fab Modern European food, great wines and ace service for a grown-up Hoxton crowd.
Hoxton Square was once the apogee of the east London bar scene, full of creatives clutching bottled beers on their way to the Lux Cinema or a club night. But the Square’s matured – now so mainstream the once-edgy streets have branches of Bill’s and Byron. As the arts crowd has moved further east, a moneyed new media set is moving in, clinking wine glasses as they go. The neighbourhood’s becoming less cool, perhaps; but the cash-rich techies are making it a better place to eat.
8 Hoxton Square is targeted at those who are looking for something more interesting than beers and burgers, more destination than pitstop. It’s an outpost of the no-reservations 10 Greek Street, one of Soho’s most deservedly popular restaurants. Both branches brilliantly combine great food, great wines and great service – a common goal, but one that’s harder to realise than a Middle East peace plan. But in a welcome departure, 8 Hoxton Square takes bookings. Result!
The term ‘Modern European’ was coined by Time Out in the mid-1980s to describe an emerging blend of British, Italian, French and Spanish cooking, still flourishing today. A courgette flower stuffed with crabmeat, then battered, fried and served with a samphire garnish, roasted tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon is evocative of the seaside. Seafood is a strong point, with two meaty monkfish tails pan-fried then served on a bed of borlotti beans. Italian influence is evident in the combination of fennel, olives and pungent shavings of bottarga, the dried fish roe giving each forkful surprising depth to the monkfish. The ‘Tuscan beef’ is actually French in style, this tartare of raw diced beef was topped with a raw egg and garnished with tendril-like deep-fried ‘chips’ – retro, but classics never go out of style. The meal moved on to Spanish-style succulent fresh cod cheeks, wrapped in Iberian pancetta and topped with colourful guindilla peppers.
Executive chef Cameron Emirali’s dishes are accompanied by Luke Wilson’s expertly chosen wine list. A score of unusual and excellent wines are sold by the glass, at very modest markups. Rotgipfler might sound more like a fierce breed of dog than an Austrian wine, but this rare, aromatic grape variety is a perfect match for seafood. Small taster samples were offered before pour; all were luscious.
8 Hoxton Square defies the accepted wisdom that Hoxton is somewhere you go to drink, not eat. Byron and Bill’s should either be pleased with this new development, or very nervous, as Emirali and Wilson’s new place is a perfect smart-casual place for a destination meal with a date, with friends or with family.