At the first sign of sunshine, the first thing we Brits do is sit outside. Our weather is so uniformly unpredictable that we simply can’t afford to miss the opportunity for an al fresco lunch or a relaxed barbecue. Of course we overdo it and Monday morning scorched foreheads and glowing arms are a sure sign that the weekend was blessed with sun.
Saturday was one of those days that started out with the promise of a beautiful day: but azure skies turned to cloud and it even felt cool with it. But the clouds scudded on and clear skies followed so we headed for 8 Hoxton Square to see if we could bag an outdoor table on their small but perfectly proportioned terrace. Our luck was in so we settled down to enjoy the company of our friends from the North, the sun and of course the food.
8 Hoxton Square is right on the square in Hoxton as they name suggests and on a summer afternoon, there is no nicer place for lunch in North London. Hoxton Square is right in the heartland of cool, packed with buzzing bars and bustling restaurants all full of the right kind of people. 8 Hoxton Square is a beautifully informal place, whitewashed brick interiors, communal table, laid back staff and a menu to set it apart from its neighbours—proper food and by that I mean not just burgers, ribs, chicken wings and pizza (of which there is plenty of in Hoxton), but the real deal.
We’d been a couple of times before and had a plate or two of padron peppers and a bottle of well-priced rose but this was our first time for lunch. The menu offers plenty and especially for our non dairy vegetarian diner who eats fish, it offered lots of choice. The food is interestingly eclectic, a bit English, a bit Italian, some French thrown in and a bit of Spanish for good measure. But it hangs together and you know you’re on to a winner if the choices just seem too difficult.
We wolfed down some of the padrons which were probably the best I’ve had outside Spain and the boys opted for the sea bass, baby leeks, brown shrimp and capers whilst the girls went for the welsh beef and cockles and mussels. We added a couple of bowls of fries to the order too. Service was on the slow side if I was being critical, but we were sat outside, the sun was shining and the wine was flowing so we didn’t mind too much.
The food was well worth the wait— clean, crisp flavours, wonderful silky, crispy textures and a joy to behold. The fish was spanking fresh and light as air, the chips devastatingly good, mussels delicious sat in a deeply fishy broth. The Welsh beef was a huge rib eye, perfectly cooked. We caved in to desserts on this occasion with surprisingly light rhubarb bread and butter pudding and a zingy lemon curd meringue with strawberries shared among the four of us.
House wines come in at a very agreeable £15 a bottle (you’d be hard pressed to find wine of this quality for this price in Leeds) but we had Le Poussin Rose, brittle and crisp for just £18, followed by the oakily chewy Allende Rioja which we splashed out on at £28. A very sensibly priced wine list.
All in all, a wonderful lunch in great company and as we sauntered back to our flat (a ten minute walk) we knew we’d had one of those meals that would set the bar for subsequent outings.