100 Hoxton, Shoreditch
Hoxton has not lost all its local flavour. Ditch the denizens of Hoxton Square for the northerly reaches of Hoxton Street and the neon lights of yuppie dive bars morph into a dimly lit urban landscape of chicken shops and off-licences. 100 Hoxton, an early symptom of gentrification, embraces its surroundings; full-frontal windows overlook Barry’s Food & Wine, local authority blocks and a shuttered shop named Chartered Certified Accountants. The restaurant’s interior is indigenous to its neighbours’ – concrete, exposed brick, steel – with prettier aesthetics. You can sink cocktails at the large rectangular bar in the middle of the room, perch on bar stools at high circular tables, or sit tête-à-tête on Mondrian-esque red, black, yellow and blue tiled square tables.
The chefs are an Antipodean/Filipino partnership, who have devised a menu that is infinitely more interesting than their Asian Fusion description. It divides into ‘garden’, ‘land’, ‘sea’, ‘bits’ and ‘sweet’ – or veg, meat, fish, carbs and pudding to the literalist accountants opposite. You can choose a plate from each category for £30, all shared. We had burnt aubergine, blended subtly with coconut, tomatoes and apple; then crispy quail with plum chutney; garam masala spiced-octopus, and fried rice with Chinese sausage. The menu’s concept was more exceptional than its execution, but everything was good. Plum clafoutis, paired with the most delectable amaretto and agave infused cream, was the perfect denouement.
If you’re circumspect about dining with someone you barely know, invite them to 100 Hoxton for drinks and, all going well, you can segue to dinner. After some wacky cocktails, such as the signature “100 Hoxton” (chili syrup, lychee liqueur and Prosecco) or the gin, red grapes and all spice dram concoction, you won’t be able to resist the call of the deep fried quail.
If it’s Friday and you’re thirsty for more, the beats at the Dolphin and Birdcage beckon for a postprandial, precoital after party. No one fails to score at the Dolphin.
Tables are tight – woe betide the awkward dater with an audience on either side. Given the location, you can’t take the kind of person who still thinks Brixton is dangerous. They’ll be on edge all evening (though are best avoided in the first place).
4. Shared food + sassy setting = shared saliva.