Restaurant review: Hoxley and Porter, Islington, N1

The frontage may be familiar....

The frontage may be familiar.... - Credit: Archant

» Hoxley and Porter’s ­impressive facade will be familiar to many as the former Grand Union bar. The curved wood exterior, vaguely reminiscent to of a ship’s hull, has always stood out from the rest of Upper Street.

The main restaurant is designed to look like a railway dining carriage

The main restaurant is designed to look like a railway dining carriage - Credit: Archant

The team behind this new eatery have really made the most of the unusual frontage. You enter via a long corridor, done up to look like Victorian train carriage, and once you get inside a theme of colonial splendour spreads its elegant wings.

Palm fronds

Think of the glory days of the British Raj and the interior design team have done wonders. Palm fronds waft above the table, rhino heads (fake) emerge from the patterned wallpaper, liveried staff romp around bearing decanters and ornate cutlery.

The food, however, is at odds with the colonial theme. It’s certainly not ­Indian and nothing immediately strikes you as particularly archaic.

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Probably the best way to describe is the increasingly hackneyed phrase ‘‘modern British fare’’.

One immediately striking thing is how reasonable the prices are. A new, tastefully appointed restaurant in the heart of Islington offering starters for around a fiver and mains for around £15? Count me in.

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And the bar is a lovely place to hang out whether you’re eating or not. Kept comfortably uncrowded, even on our Friday night visit, it’s well stocked with an enticing cocktail – plenty of gin and rum based creative libations. The chilli infused Chipotle off the Old Block was a taste sensation.

Back to the food – it’s rare that all four first and second courses hit the spot, but Hoxley and Porter delivered

The scallops were big, juicy and mellow tasting, set off by smokey crisps of bacon, spinach and a hint of truffle. The salt and chilli squid was uncomplicated but effective – crispy, flavour some and served with an addictive alioli.

On the mains side, the beef was pre-sliced, deliciously rare and swimming and tangy pepper sauce – accompanied to immensely satisfying effect by a potato and squash gratin. The duck, from the specials board, came out in ­exactly the same fashion – sliced and a tender fleshy pink, with piquant pickled cabbage as perfect, acidic foil to the meat.

Only the dessert was slightly disappointing, although this was more in conception than execution. A creme brulee needs the light vanilla flavour to offset the bitterness topping. To me this chocolate version didn’t quite come off.All that was forgotten amid the peaty whiskey and sweet digestifs consumed amid the agreeable surroundings.

Hoxley and Porter is a great new face in Upper Street’s bloated restaurant scene. The surroundings are slick and intriguing, the bar is packed with funky drinks and the food is straight forward, but interesting, and at a price at odds with the quality on offer.

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