It’s commonplace among U.K. food lovers to claim London as one of the world’s leading cities -- even the No. 1 -- for restaurants.
It’s true, up to a point. The proliferation of talented chefs and exciting new establishments is exciting. The emergence of fine venues outside a few hotspots is much slower.
By comparison with New York, Hoxton and Shoreditch are playing catch-up with Brooklyn and Queens, while Hackney has some way to go to match Harlem. I’m happy to say that one of the hotspots sizzled this month with the opening of Foxlow.
Foxlow is the new neighborhood baby of the team behind Hawksmoor, the steak house that opened in East London in 2006 and was a pioneer in serving great meat in London. Others have followed -- Goodman and Hix, for example. Hawksmoor owners Will Beckett and Hugh Gott and chef Richard Turner remain the Beatles of beef.
The rest are Oasis.
While such quality doesn’t come cheap, now it is at least affordable. Starters at Foxlow, on the site of the old North Road in Clerkenwell, are priced at less than 10 pounds ($16.27); mains start at 10 pounds; at lunch, there is a superb rib sandwich for 12 pounds. These are the kind of prices you might pay at Cote. The comparison ends there.
It’s only when you order steaks that your bill can mount. Still, the Porterhouse, at 9 pounds per 100 grams (in line with Hawksmoor) is superb. It’s some of the finest steak I’ve tasted. If you are on a budget, 10-hour beef shortrib with kimchi is 16 pounds, or 300 gram ribeye is 22.50 pounds.
My favorite starter -- crispy five-pepper squid -- has crunch and bite, while skipping the need for chew. The sides all keep up the standard and I cannot go without ordering kimchi ketchup. The chili & anchovy butter, too. I also order the salted caramel popcorn, but not at the same time.
I’m a person of enthusiasms. I’ve been going back to Foxlow almost as much as to Gymkhana, my favorite new restaurant of the year. One night at Foxlow, a table of eight of us partied while other diners included the chefs Brett Graham and Jun Tanaka.
The downsides? Well, the menu is small so I find I end up ordering the same things. It may change daily, but not that much. I also would like more choice on the wine list, though it’s hard to go far wrong if you start with a couple of bottles of Txakoli from the Basque Country.
While Foxlow isn’t breaking any molds, if they roll this one out, London’s less fashionable suburbs might become dining destinations.
The Bloomberg Questions
How much? About 30 pounds for three courses if on a budget.
Sound level? We were the noisiest table. Without us, an acceptable 75 decibels.
Inside tip? Book early.
Special feature? Luxury ingredients on a budget.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? Yes.
Foxlow, 69-73 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4AN. Information: http://www.foxlow.co.uk/ or +44-20-7014-8070.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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