Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Foxlow and Craft Beer Co.

Foxlow is the baby sibling of the much loved Hawksmoor, and whilst there has always been a pricking curiosity to try their famed smoked beef ribs and soft serve sundaes, with something as perfect as Hawksmoor already existing it seemed destined to remain the overlooked runt of the litter.

Anyway, they now do brunch and who doesn’t love brunch (while this question may sound rhetorical, I emphatically did not like brunch as a child, not being able to overcome the confusion of missing a meal).  But with a half price soft launch on food through November weekends to test the new menu, it was time to overcome distrust of condensing two meals into one and book a table for Sunday lunch.

First things first though, and after arriving a little early for our table we walked down to Gray's Inn Road to Bottledog, Brewdog's dedicated beer shop, to stock up on a few bevvies.

Wintery stouts and porters were very much the order of the day, with a Mikkeller Cointreau barrel aged stout for the Ewing; the Mikeller brunch Weasel stout; Brewdog/Victory's U-Boat, a smoked porter; and Stone Brewery's Milk Stout being pick of the bunch. There may also be a bottle of the Black Tokyo Horizon underneath one lucky girl's Christmas tree...

I started brunch with a green juice, and also a red juice as our waiter eschewed anything so sensible as a pad and paper and so originally bought the wrong colour. I also had a glass of Prosecco, safe in the knowledge that the celery and apple elixir was stealing a march on my liver and ergo neutralising the brunch cocktails. The Ewing went with the wonderfully camp Miami Dolphin, a neon mashup of rum, lime and strawberry.

While we waited for our mountains of fried food to descend we enjoyed a rather sophisticated - and rather pungent - nibble of anchovies, goat's butter and raw onion on rye crisps. This is one serious, and seriously good snack. They also have a butternut squash version of baba ghanoush topped with sesame brittle. Yes, please.

The Montecristo (ham and cheese stuffed cronut) was sadly off the menu, so we compensated with the fried chicken on a croissant waffle topped with a fried egg and side of sausage gravy. Swap bacon for egg and double the waffle size and you may just have found my perfect brekkie.

I also promised the Ewing the basket of fried chicken, served with habanero vinegar and green slaw, alongside sides of fried tdusted with chicken salt and cavlo nero with lemon, garlic and chilli.

The chicken was everything you dream about when you order a family sized bucket (but usually end up with fowl that is both dry and greasy and pretty foul), crisp, juicy and perfectly pimped by the heat and tang of the vinegar. Fries – or what I saw of them – passed the Ewing’s stringent quality control with flying colours and cavlo nero is surely one of God’s ways of making up for the downsides of winter.

Despite eager over ordering (although far better than a recent trip to Hawksmoor) to skip pud would have been unthinkable, especially with soft serve sundae on the menu. In the end I chose the Elvis sandwich; slices of fried bread stuffed with soft serve, banana and peanut butter before being swamped in crispy bacon and caramel. As outrageous as it sounded, although the too icy ice cream turned out to be the bum note in the dish and, (quelle surprise), it was enormously rich after so much fried food.

The Ewing’s chocolate and hazelnut pot was no less indulgent but, being comprised mostly of her favourite foodstuff, didn’t prove much off a challenge.  Like Nutella on steroids and more acceptable to sit and eat from the jar with a spoon.

Whilst it was always going to be a hard gig to match up to such an eminently cool older brother, Foxlow is a lot of fun. With plenty of salt, smoke and sugar on the menu, a great drinks list - the six quid negroni slushies are certainly worth a punt - and fried chicken that passed the Ewing's stringent tests with flying colours, the young upstart has plenty of its own merits to recommend it.

While any sensible person with work the next day may have decided that this was the perfect adjunct for returning home for Antiques Roadshow and an early night, the eminently less sensible would take the opportunity to drag Stealth out east for a few beverages at the nearby Leather Lane branch of the craft Beer Co.

This branch of the expanding mini chain is very much a city boys’ pub, with the down stairs being set up for the maximum amount of ‘vertical drinking’ – high, narrow  tables and stools running around the side of the room and a long bar to stand at. Thankfully they also have an upstairs lounge area which is much comfier, although you do have to navigate the stairs every time you want a drink, increasing tricky as the evening wears on. Full marks too, to the lovely staff, who bought our drinks up on trays for us and kept us in pints of iced water throughout the hours we managed to while away

A quick glance at the menu – known for its range of rare and interesting brews, although keep an eye on the keg prices as they are quoted in half pints and can get pretty pricey pretty quickly - had me squeaking with delight (literally) when I saw the Beavertown/Napabier ‘Bone King’ DIPA collaboration was available on cask. 

This poured a golden orange, with a thick hazy look about it with an Um Bungo undercurrent; a funky, skunky, gum watering collision of peach and pineapple and passion fruit. The flavour didn’t disappoint, with bitterness from the hops and a tropical note that bellied its 8.5 percent abv.

Tempting as it was to just stick with the Bone King, my liver thanked me for swapping to a half of the Kent Brewery's Altered States, followed by two dark and brutish bruisers – a keg Yin from the Evil Twin and a cask Teleporter from the Summer Wine Brewery and a Calypso from Dugges.

Remaining memories were a little hazy; I know my wife loved the elderflower saison from Kent enough to order it twice and, at some point, Stealth had a scotch egg to go with her pint of Devil's Rest Burning Sky IPA. I also know that the Ewing (happily) acquiesced to partake in a selfie as we stood on the platform at Farringdon waiting for the tube home and, knowing her as I do, you can’t get a more ringing endorsement of fun (or certainly drunkenness) than that.

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