Beagle London Bar and Restaurant
Today’s post is about Beagle London, a recent addition to the East London burgeoning dining scene including The Clove Club (see reviews of lunch and dinner) and the upcoming Nanban from Masterchef winner Tim Anderson. I went there on the first week of official opening (they had a soft opening before) and here’s my impressions…
These days, you and I probably get most of our food and new openings news from Twitter or other online sources- as great as that is, it’s still a welcome surprise to actually “discover” something in the non-virtual world, as in literally bumping into it on a street, not in a retweet from some better-informed-than-you blogger. I recently moved to Shoreditch and I do spend lots of time around the Hoxton/Kingsland Rd area- mostly looking for something different from the overrated, lookalike Vietnamese restaurants, burger joints and bars full of people so young I feel maternal instincts towards them. Walking past Hoxton Overground Station, I noticed that three of the brick arches under the railway were been refurbished and was immediately curious – of course, googling was the inevitable next step and so I found out there was already quite a lot of buzz about Beagle London.
Left- pigeon terrine and red cabbage; right: grilled squid and aioli
Beagle has a bar area, serving cocktails and British craft beers, whose main attraction is what the Standard review calls “a secret weapon” (mixologist Myles Davies, formerly at Hix and Viajante) and a restaurant with about 40-50 covers, run by head chef James Ferguson (you may remember him from Rochelle Canteen). The bar doesn’t take bookings and serves bar food, restaurant does. We went to Beagle London on a Friday night and it was packed on both the bar and restaurant area, with a nice vibe, unspoilt by the occasional noise and trembling from the train tracks. I must say, as fleeting the deifnition of “vibe” is, for me Beagle “has it”. It feels buzzing and “now” without trying too hard – no scensters, gimmicks, secret doors, circus freaks + wannabe models staff and the whole Shoreditch shebang. Also, the clientele is as young and trendy as you would expect but slightly more grown up than nearby venues and for me this is a good thing, old bitter lady that I am . We sipped a couple well-crafted cocktails (I am not an expert, but making something “pine-infused” not taste like WC wash takes skills) before heading to our table.
The decor is fairly minimalistic, with dark wood nicely complementing the brick walks and soft warm light helping to mask that Friday night tired-after-a-hard-week look (at least, mine). The kitchen is partially visible under another smaller arch, and and always I tried to get as close to the action as possible. I didn’t see the wood grill, but I certainly tasted it on my steak and possibly on the squid started as well.
The food at Beagle seems to be as quietly brilliant as the settings- I guess the correct label for it is “modern British”, with the required “seasonal” twist (cue wild garlic and other spring greens). The menu is unpretentious, with safe crowd pleasers such as steak and chips and pork chops as mains, and more inventiveness displayed in starters (pigeon terrine and a kohlrabi and radish salad) and desserts. I liked the fact the wine list is reasonably priced and offers a bit more variety than usual, with an Italian wine from my region as well (Pecorino – although not a great label and hard to pair with such hearty food).
Highlights were a perfectly cooked squid – deceptively simple to make, as it toughens up easily when on the grill- with pungent aioli, and the tasty onglet steak with an interesting umami kick from the anchovy sauce. Chips in duck fat were equally satisfying and very crisp- I make it a point of only eating chips when they’re worth the calories and these definitely were.
On the other hand, a pigeon terrine was a bit too gamey, with big chunks of fat which I think not even the craziest venison-lover would have enjoyed, and the lovely, moist braised veal was slightly spoiled by a weak polenta – which was a bit on the watery side. Pistachio ice cream was nice enough if not mind-blowing. But I am being very critical. Overall, the food was tasty, fresh and plentiful and for all starter well under a tenner and mains mostly <£15, very very good value.
Accompanied by friendly and knowledgeable service (a rare breed in Shoreditch – oh and did I mention my pet peeve for uber-hypster “I am cooler than thou” staff? Did I really? Ok sorry) our dinner at Beagle London was thoroughly enjoyable and I can definitely see myself becoming a regular – especially when the so called British summer finally kicks in and the outside area opens. That should also help with the difficulty of actually dining there at the moment- we tried a walk-in on Wednesday night at at 9.30 PM there was not a single free seat. I can definitely see why but I really hope I can be back at Beagle soon.
Have you tried Beagle London? Any other suggestions for place in Shoreditch/Hoxton serving honest, good value food in cool settings? Let me know in the comments