Making Haggerston a culinary destination beyond its Vietnamese cafés, the arches of Hoxton station provide a venue for superb back-to-basics British cooking.
Beagle is a smart café, bar and restaurant in the railway arches below Hoxton Overground station. Setting it in such a dissonant location – with trains rattling overhead, and only a view of the Geffrye Museum’s back entrance – is clearly an act of faith for its owners, who have pursued this project with hound-like doggedness.
Smart outdoor seating tells you this isn’t just another car spares depot. Plate-glass windows reveal the beautifully restored arches. The left hand entrance is the tiny coffee takeaway counter, the right hand entrance opens into the capacious bar. Sophisticated cocktails served by engaging, smiling staff and concocted by acclaimed barman Myles Davies set the scene. A rhubarb bellini with vanilla hits the spot.
The beers are carefully chosen too, such as the toothsome amber ale called Hopspur, brewed in Tottenham by the Redemption craft brewery.
Pass from the bar arch to the next room and you move into the dining area with its open kitchen. James Ferguson was head chef at the excellent Rochelle Canteen for four years, and the same back-to-basics British ethos is evident at the Beagle. Grilled cuttlefish – scored and served like oriental squid – is served with new potatoes and a salsa-like coriander pesto, and shows that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
Pork belly is brined, slow-roasted then seared to give tender meat with crisp crackling; a hugely successful method.
While local produce is currently touted as a virtue on many menus, we were pleased to discover that our pigeon terrine didn’t include any of Hackney’s bedraggled birds – these wood pigeons were from Essex.The terrine was expertly made in-house, well textured and with a slightly gamey flavour.
The solitary vegetarian main course option of aubergine was grilled and smoked on the kitchen’s wood grill, served with a tomato and onion mix and topped with a dash of yogurt-like curd. It was a dish that would be the envy of some of Kingsland Road’s many excellent Turkish grill restaurants.
Beagle is a surprise in this part of London, where so many bars are style over substance. It deserves to go the distance for making Haggerston a culinary destination beyond its famous, budget-priced Vietnamese cafés.
By Guy Dimond