How quickly things change in Hackney. When I went to review the newly opened Foxlow on Stoke Newington Church Street, I was surprised to find that the second branch of this “neighbourhood restaurant” (also operating in Clerkenwell), had taken over the premises formerly occupied by Italian restaurant and brunch place Homa.
“It is with great sadness and regret that we today announce that Homa will stop trading…” Homa’s website reads in a post from February.
“We started our little venture in 2009 because as longstanding local residents we loved our vibrant Stokey community deeply and could think of no better place to set up our restaurant… We will, of course, continue to be involved as local residents.” I asked Foxlow’s manager if he knew what had happened. “Too bad?” he said with a shrug, pulling back a chair.
And how could he be expected to know? Many long-term residents, however, will remember that before Homa, this was where the threadbare Booth’s pizzeria and bar served up meal deals to sozzled locals playing pool, before they went on to Maggie’s bar. Each change here has wrought a more exclusive successor, with better food.
This is not to say that Foxlow, run by the owners of the hugely successful Hawksmoor chain, isn’t going to be a huge success, or that it doesn’t deserve to be. The ambience is lively, the menu is a fun (and very meaty) take on the American steakhouse, and the prices, while certainly more expensive than Homa, are obviously within grasp of the locals, given that every last table was full.
I started with a pleasing Hawksmoor special cocktail of gin and London Pride recommended by my server, and we nibbled on anchovy and goat’s butter crostini before diving headlong into the indulgent menu: housemade pork and beef rillettes, squid, steak with béarnaise, 10 hour short rib with kimchi, fries covered in deep fried chicken fat, beans with shallots, all rounded off with some indulgent puddings for good measure.
All the food was excellent, with the buttery, tender steak being the highlight. Both the ‘chicken salt’ on the fries and the soft serve for pudding were nods to working class American food, one of the most annoying food trends of recent years, but while the former seemed excessive, the soft serve was divine.
The wine menu was extensive and had a couple of decent options that came in at under £25, but if you, like us, don’t show any restraint when it comes to ordering, a meal for two could easily run up a bill of £150 plus service. For more cautious spenders, the brunch or roast may be a better option, with meals hovering around a tenner and a £14 bottomless Bloody Mary. Considering this, I remembered that I used to only have brunch at Homa for that very reason. Perhaps the one constant in the Hackney restaurant scene is that brunch is the most affordable time to eat out.
71–73 Church Street, N16 0AS