Friday lunch at Hoxton's latest eatery, the Hoxton Grille in the Hoxton Hotel. In Hoxton, in case you're wondering.
Entrance to the restaurant is via the hotel lobby, giving a clinical, businessy first impression from which it never quite recovers. There's a promising looking bar along one wall, suggesting a desire to attract overflow either from Hoxton Square to the North and The City to the South. Or possibly both: this is a recurring theme - trying to be several things but never quite pulling off any of them. Take the decor. Please. Arty light fittings hang from a predictable exposed ceiling, replete with exposed aircon ducting. It will be all right when it's finished.
The menus are enormous, A2 affairs. Probably a good idea on paper but not, as it turns out in laminated card. Unweildy around the smallish tables. And despite their size not exactly overloaded with imaginative choice. A standard looking breakfast/brunch selection, a series of daily specials (is it really that special to know you'll always be making fish pie on Fridays?), a few starters, a strange section called Salads, Sandwiches and Pasta (presumably designed to make you think burgers are a healthy option), and a selection of meals from the eponymous grill(e). Not a vast selection, to be honest, but priced fairly keenly for the area.
Lunch kicked off with a bloody Mary each. These were made quite quickly but frustratingly left on the bar, tantalisingly visible to everyone except unfortunately our waiter. When we pointed this out he claimed 'she's just bringing them over'. She wasn't. When we sent him off to get them himself they proved good and spicy (as requested) if a little salty. The colour suggested a very heavy hand with the Worcester Sauce.
We shared some excellent potted shrips with lime mayo to start and both had rump to follow, disappointly (and surprisingly) the only steak on the menu. These arrived, not perhaps as rare as they could have been, on a wooden board with decent accompanying bits and pieces: a sprig of roasted cherry toms and a big buttery slab of portobello. A jug of thick, tasty bearnaise and a cup of good crispy chips completed the ensemble. Not sure about the wooden board: it's the sort of thing that makes you glad you went during the opening month, before they get tired, cracked and stained. Putting the chips in a little cup - like so many details borrowed from elsewhere - apparently serves mainly to make them easier to drop. Fortunately neither of the incidents involved our nosh. We were divided on the steaks themselves: I thought it was OK, Fi thought hers tasteless. To accompany, a carafe (hurrah) of perfectly sound Cotes du Ventoux.
There are more tables in the small central courtyard, the only area where smoking is allowed (this will scupper any bar ambitions the hotel may have had). We had our coffees out here and watched as the staff struggled with the heavy doors, suggesting many chip mishaps to come.
So overall, nothing actually that bad, but very little that's actually good. Those passing through on business who only ever eat in their hotel will be rewarded with a better than average meal; those who know the area will be over the road in the Rivington.