I've always been a fan of the Hawksmoor group of restaurants, from way back when it was just the original site on Commercial Street. The cocktails are always excellent and well researched; the food is generally superb and for me strikes just the right balance between fun and serious eating. I still fondly rate their burger as one the best in London, I love the breakfast at the Guildhall site and for steaks, right across the board, in a now fairly crowded and competitive market, they’re still pretty much unbeatable. So when a few months back I heard that owners, Will Beckett and Huw Gott were opening something a bit different, a ‘neighbourhood restaurant’ called Foxlow, which ‘allows us to do many of the things we've wanted to do over the last few years, but which we couldn't really squeeze onto a Hawksmoor menu’ I was intrigued.
The new restaurant opened in November, on St John Street in my old much missed stomping ground of Clerkenwell and last week, as I was in the area and purely on the off chance I stumbled in, après boozing and managed to score an impromptu table.
The restaurant interior itself is instantly recognisable as being part of the Hawksmoor group. There is something of the same cool, architectural salvaged feel to the fixtures and fittings although there isn't quite the same Victorian gentleman’s club vibe. On the night I visited, it was dark, heaving and business was brisk.
The menu itself is interesting, there’s no overriding theme or grounding in any one cuisine or place, it roams freely around the globe, partnering beef short rib with kimchi, which sits on the menu alongside imam bayildi and Iberico pork ‘pluma’. There’s also a salad bar section, which instantly evoked fond, teenage memories of taking the absolute piss in Pizza Hut’s display of bacon bits, iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cold pasta. Foxlow, perhaps sharing the exact same memories don’t allow the customers to help themselves. So no three foot high, precariously balanced salad bowls here then. Bastards.
Starting off proceedings in a delicate, slightly sophisticated way, as is the natural way of things for me, I ate some anchovy and goats butter crisps from the snack section of the menu. As you’d expect, they were umami packed but not overpoweringly so and cracking to eat with a cheeky cocktail. Of course, I don’t need any excuse and my accompanying Pickle Buck (a riff on the now infamous bourbon shot followed by pickle juice chaser) was pretty damn fine.
From this point onwards, something changed and delicate and sophisticated f*cked right off, sharpish as I descended into appalling excess and gluttonous gout inducing trough wallowing.
The ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi was absolutely delicious. The rich, sticky meat, gelatinously balanced on the bone with the accompanying pungent kick of the kimchi was glorious.
A donkey choking slab of eight hour bacon rib with maple and chilli was equally rich and sat by itself on the plate, unadorned by any accompanying garnish or frippery. An almost Spartan challenge to greedy bastardos. Hello.
This was a friend’s choice, but she could hardly make a dent in it and offered it to me. I ate and I ate and I ate and then I ate some more. It was superb but seemingly never ending, not in a bad way but in an almost mocking way. I pride myself on being able to eat, but this was ridiculous.
Maybe matters weren't helped along by my side order of beef dripping potatoes with Gubbeen and capers (as lovely as it sounds) or perhaps it was the addition of the slightly liverish tasting, meaty delight of the sausage stuffed onion, which I found faintly obscene to look at, like some kind of delicious wizened bollock.
At this point, I was struggling. There was still a lump of bacon rib left big enough to feed a family of four (for a month) and I couldn't even meet its gaze, averting my eyes shamefully. But I had to be thorough; I wanted to sample a dessert…
The Bannoffee split is a whopping, dessert, tooth crumbling sweet but ridiculously good. It was the worst possible choice for someone in my advanced state of stuffed silly. The portion size is enough for two, maybe even three. I shouldn't have, but I just couldn't leave it alone. One more spoonful, groan. Just one more, groan. I almost finished it before floundering and pushing it away, disgusted with myself.
Settling up and waddling off into the night, I felt uncomfortably full, bloated and just a tiny bit sick…but in a good way. I enjoyed it a lot, in fact…as I was finding out, too much.
Foxlow is exactly as you’d expect from the seasoned owners of Hawksmoor, slick service, excellent cocktails, an interesting menu with nice eclectic touches and generally a lot of fun.
Some of the portion sizes are impressive and some of the food pretty damn rich. Don’t follow my example, order carefully and wisely and you wont have to be practically shoehorned out of the door in a coma. It’s my own fault of course. I'm drawn to the ‘big ticket’ filthy rich menu items like a moth to a flame. Mesmerised I forget about balance or restraint and generally get stuck in.
Basically I enjoyed it so much, I made myself sick. Go and don’t do the same.
69-73 St John Street
Telephone: 020 7014 8070