Foxlow, Clerkenwell

Foxlow is the younger sibling to the hugely successful Hawksmoor family of restaurants. Known for their sublime steaks I had high hopes for Clerkenwell’s newest feasting ground. I was taken on a surprise visit to Foxlow a few months ago to sample the superior meats and other indulgences. The eatery has a neighbourhood feel though I’m not sure the local students could afford to eat here, instead it is popular with groups of friends and foodie couples who feel this destination restaurant is worth travelling for.

The interior design is a mix of urban vintage shabbiness with a touch of French bistro, but all smartened up in a cream and black chic colour code with lovely tiling and circular lights. The hip and relaxed staff seemed pleased to be serving here, and were incredibly patient as I debated long and hard about which dishes to pick.

We nibbled on Crispy Five Pepper Squid to whet our appetites, soft fresh fish coated in a salted, crunchy, thick coating and sprinkled in fresh lime, chilli and coriander. All the meat options sounded delicious and there are specials on a board which regularly change alongside the main permanent menu. Iberico pork ‘pluma’ for main was truly exquisite, it was cooked to perfection, a glistening pink centre with a crispy caramelised edge. In fact, it made me ponder why beef is more popular than pork for steak. So that we could compare, we also tried a beef steak which was delicious too, especially dipped in the creamy béarnaise sauce, but the pork definitely trumped. Sides are top notch, skin-on fries with chicken salt, and spring greens with lemon and garlic would be my recommendation.

There are plenty of other temptations – strong cocktail concoctions and homemade sweet soft serve sundaes – but some have complained about the overwhelming indulgences at Foxlow. With this in mind we skipped desserts, though the Elvis Presley sandwich with candied bacon definitely caught my eye. At the final hurdle I managed to resist, which is not an easy thing to do at Foxlow.

More information for Foxlow here: www.foxlow.co.uk

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

Continuing in my quest to find Britain’s best burger I went to visit Hawksmoor’s newest bar in Spitalfields. Located downstairs just below the main restaurant, this new venue serves creative cocktails and a short menu of popular, classic dishes to eat.

It is a cute venue, speakeasy-esque with glittering mirrors on the walls. In theory it is a bar that serves a bit of accompanying food, however after the experience I would say the food is substantial and delicious enough to classify the place as an eatery. The mood is cheerful, groups of friends hang out on bar stools or gather round the small tables chomping sweet smelling burgers and glugging tropical drinks.

The menu is blissfully short and uncomplicated with an appealing list of treats: mains, sides, puddings, cocktails and desert island drinks. It doesn’t take long to choose and once we had ordered with our lovely and very helpful waitress we could sit, soak up the atmosphere and gossip. Our first round of cocktails arrived within minutes: Nuclear Banana Daiquiri (£11) for me and a Marmalade cocktail (£8.50) for my friend. The Marmalade inspired concoction with gin, lemon, Campari & marmalade was divine, thirst quenching, sweet but with a kick from the Campari. The explosive banana cocktail was a little bizarre, expertly mixed and super-thick. It was too heavy for a pre-meal apperitif but would be heavenly as a dessert cocktail or beach drink. I highly recommend the refreshing and fruity Mary Pickford drink, the pretty Green & Red Margarita and the exotic Trinidad Swizzle.

My diligent friend had done her research and recommended ordering the Tamworth Lamb: it was an unexpectedly awesome plate of grub, minced meat, herbs, lettuce and plenty of chilli, a seriously scrumptious snack. Obviously we had to try the burgers too, the perfectly simple Cheeseburger and the more jazzy Kimchi burger. Both were great with highest quality meat, flavoursome, extra juicy and grilled impeccably. My cheeseburger tasted sweet and succulent, I finished the lot without coming up for breath… the burgers are relatively small and cost a reasonable £8.50, ideal as a light dinner with drinks. The triple cooked chips (£4) are devilishly divine as always. Nowadays I am a real chip snob… anything less than triple fried really disappoints me.

Whilst continuing, less sober now, through the innovative cocktails on the list, we indulged in quirky desserts choosing  first the epic Sticky Toffee Sundae (£6.50) which was as calorific and naughty as you could imagine. But the really successful sweet course was the Peanut Butter Shortbread with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. This cake looked simple enough, however inside the nutty casing was a joyfully chocolatey centre – delicious with the cold salty caramel ice.

If you can’t manage a full slap up meal at Hawksmoor,  the new bar at Spitalfields is the ideal place to graze or gobble delicious food accompanied by even better cocktails.

Visit the website for more information and to book here.