I was always going to love this place – after all I’ve harboured a secret desire to own my own beagle dog for years now. His name will be Double and is something of minor obsession in our house. But you don’t need to know any of that and so sorry, back to this place…
All is present and correct; filament bulbs abound, bare brick walls, dark wood tables and minimal decor. The bespectacled, bearded, check shirted, neophytes, barely look up from their craft beer as we enter. We are in deepest, darkest, Hoxton, under the station, opposite the Geffrye Museum; as such this is hipster ground zero or thereabouts. There is a steady on trend buzz about the room. That said Beagle is more than a sum of current fashions, in fact, there’s a fair bit of substance to this place.
The room is a pair of converted railway arches. In the first, the bar and the second, the main dining room and kitchen with its open pass. You have to give it to them, it’s a great looking space. That said, with all that brick and hard surfaces it’s a loud and lively place – you were warned.
The cocktail list is bang up to date with obscure bitters and rediscovered gems. Their wine list ticks all the right boxes and none of the usual ones. They had a great Italian white from Abruzzo – Pehhcora Pecorino at £13 for a carafe. If you are looking for something a little different Pecorino is a cheese yes, but also a grape variety, so now you know. I could tell you why but then …well …
James Ferguson formerly of Rochelle’s Canteen heads up the kitchen. Good pedigree that and it shows. A short and direct daily changing menu has much going for it . It’s understated and you aren’t bombarded with choice; there are some specials which bump up the options, but there is a clear direction here. Of the 5 starters I’d have happily eaten them all. That is a rare thing to say, but seasonal to the core every dish sounded delicious.
They set down our starters and I thought – generosity. It is of course an admirable trait, and one which many wish for when they eat out. The restaurant business these days is tough and margins are squeezed everywhere and generosity can be an early victim in such straightened times. Some of my friends would go further and claim that it is the elusive beast in a modern restaurant; grumbling, as they will, about small plates. Well for those of that disposition, no such worries here. This is the most generous tranche of Pigeon and prune terrine you could hope or even wish for. What’s more, it’s a serious terrine by anyone’s reckoning; it was very good indeed. A terrine is as good a benchmark for a restaurant as a hazelnut or pistachio gelato is to your average Italian Gelateria. Naturally then, I can rarely resist one. Sadly they often promise more than they can deliver – Not here. (Vegetarians look away now) Porky, pigoeny, rabbity, goodness abounds, it’s good to know the beasts have gone to a better home. On the side a solid home pickled red cabbage to dance around the richness. I’ll overlook the burnt sourdough entirely; I didn’t need it in any case. A cracking terrine, with the right, seasoning, flavour and texture.
Terrine reveries aside, Octopus with tomatoes and corriander , outshone its billing, it was meaty, tender with gutsy flavours and another great start. In fact it stood up well to the beloved octopus dish at Barrafina – against which all things are of course measured (I perhaps even preferred it here).
Its worth mentioning, there are a number of Sunday Lunch options which looked very good and deserve a note for doing something different re the chicken and not overloading the plate of Beef with much more than roast potatoes some horseradish and a spring of watercress.
After that hearty opener it was something of a relief that I’d gone for the slip soles, (basically baby Dover soles). Simply grilled, with a pungent homemade tartare sauce and the smallest jersey royals imaginable. That dish practically screams spring even if the weather has other ideas. Those jersey royals were delicious almost up there with the mythical Hereford road numbers.
Some admirable gnocchi with purple artichokes show there are real pleasures on this menu for the vegetarian converts too. Homemade gnocchi, beautiful artichokes and a good rich tomato broth, carrying the dish.
We skipped on desserts but there’s some good options to tempt from blood orange sorbet to Rhubarb Eton mess.
The attention to detail here is good, thought has gone into every aspect this from the design of the room down to the very solid white napkins. There were no trains on the day we went, to add to the mission of getting there. Those trains maybe a gripe for some and it’s hard to say whether the noise over head would be intrusive. The busy room may dampen such things but you wont come here for a quiet romantic meal in any event.
Service was swift and charming there’s an outside space which surely must be a hit, when and if the sun ever returns. There’s also a perfectly on trend little coffee bar next door – would you expect anything less?
It’s a generous place.
Nice work guys we’ll be back.