Monday, 14 December 2009

Hoxton royalty - The Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch

A friend of mine is fond of saying, "who says Rick Astley is coming back, as far as I'm concerned he's never left!." And the same might be said for seventies and eighties soft rock - one of the more maligned genres of my not so short lifetime, seems not only to be back, but fully embraced by the hip and the beautiful of London town. And few bars are as hip or beautiful at the moment as The Queen of Hoxton located in the heart of Shoreditch. This place used to be Industry up to about 8 months ago - a place that never quite got the balance right between aspirational cool and City boy drinks venue. A case of one plus one not equaling two.
The Queen of Hoxton has gone down the 'too cool for school' path and is all the better for that.
The Northerner and I have been there several times and have been struck by how they have the balance just right in terms of urban self regard, and very friendly service, backed up by an eclectic mix of rock, hip hop, disco and dance. Something to cater for all ages - even mine.
The clientele are check shirted boys with skinny jeans and converse trainers, and girls in party dresses vintage of course - well those who aren't mirroring what they boys are wearing. Drinks are your classic cocktails, fashionable lagers (Mexican, Californian, Argentinean) and new world wines, which combined with the hip young things and edgy / retro music make for a fun and frivolous little bar. Apparently the place is celebrity central for those who are into that Hoxton / Shoreditch cool thing, however there has been noone of note in my recent, and frequent visits. Then again, who exactly am I right?
QOH is a great London bar, and one I plan to return to a lot. A friend of mine has commented recently that the bars I tend to big up on this blog tend to be the antithesis of what I personally am about. By which he meant, hip, fashionable, designer hangouts with an emphasis on youth. If you accept that (slightly insulting) synopsis then its true that QOH is all of the aforementioned. However because its relatively undiscovered as such, and I have enjoyed it every single time that I've been - something which not many of its competitors can claim I'm gone to give it my own little gong for Best Bar of 2009. As my man would say in hushed reverence to the mighty Rick Astley - good things come and go, but when greatness strikes, it should be recognised.
Happy New Year troopers.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

All hail Mexican cool - Boho Mexica, Shoreditch

When you think of Mexican restaurants images of sombreros, tequila shots and fajitas come to mind. And not in a good way. Well you won't find any such paraphernalia at Boho Mexica in Spitalfields, one of the new wave of hip Mexican joints that have appeared in London over the last year.
The Northerner and I were up for a bit of Friday night lights in Shoreditch, so after kicking off at the delightful Queen of Hoxton (to be reviewed later in this blog) headed onto Boho Mexica to sample from what looked a delightful, and surprisingly cheap menu.
Located in an old Chinese restaurant, Boho (on this night anyway) was half dining, half pre-Xmas party. After briefly considering crashing the seasonal bash we took the surprisingly mature option for us and went to our table.
Thank goodness we had booked as the popularity of this place is something else. Helped in part no doubt by the continued support of Time Out magazine, but obviously due to the fact that it is pretty damned good.
And so it proved. The menu consists of appetizers, a tacos bar (the soft corn tortillas), antojitos, tortas and tapas, ranging in price from £3.95 to £6.95. Not only is the food cheap but its delicious - our Carnitos Tacos (slow cooked pork tacos), De Pezcao (sauteed sea bass tacos) and Enchiladas de Mole (chocolate and chilli sauce chicken with rice) being the standouts of the eight or nine platters we sampled. We washed it back with a cracking Argentinian Malbec and yours truly even found space for a dessert (Copa Nevada - cinnamon and vanilla cream with lime yest meringue) and the obligatory margarita to round things off.
This place is one of the loveliest restaurant's I've been to for a while. Great food, warm friendly service, and a very festive atmosphere means it works as both a romantic and 'friends night out' venue. Plus its fashionable and hip. Mexican restaurants being cool. Who would ever have thought that.