Posted on Monday, 24th June 2013
Note: Monikers has now closed.
Monikers restaurant and bar recently opened on a corner of Hoxton Square, on a site that was previously occupied by The Hoxton Apprentice, a Training for Life charity restaurant that was set up to train young chefs in the same vein as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The building was once an old schoolhouse and Monikers has cleverly maintained the spirit of its former history with a vintage blackboard that lists the daily specials. The wittiness continues with the upstairs area boasting a façade of an old London bus with trendy retro vinyl seats. It’s all very cool, and the restaurant exudes a sense of Hoxton fun. The bar area is funky as well with its chemistry-style water beakers and science-lab stools, and here you can sample some lovely cocktails such as the Greta Garbo (£8.50) with calvados, rhubarb, agave syrup and champagne, and the French 75 (£7.50) with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne.
The menu breathes modern-British and has been designed for sharing with lots of smallish plates. Head Chef Jimmy Goldstone is a former Mark Hix collaborator and their philosophy has always been a heavy emphasis on the freshest and best British produce cooked simply and deliciously. I was therefore expecting both provenance and quality at Monikers.
And the food didn’t disappoint. A bloody Monikers oyster shot (£3.50 each) was truly fabulous. The oyster was fat and meaty and the combination with the acidity from the spicy bloody Mary shot really worked.
We also loved the black pudding scotch egg (£3.50) as it resonated with flavour. The crumbed coating was crispy, the meat filling was juicy, and the egg was perfectly cooked to a golden yellow to show off some expert timing.
Shetland mussels steamed with cider (£6.50) were fat and juicy. They were served with some wonderfully sea aster that made for an original, fresh accompaniment to the mussels.
A salad of spelt, tomato, cucumber, parsley and mint in a lemony grape seed oil dressing (£5.50) was glorious. Topped with a zingy yoghurt and served with some toasted flat bread, the salad sang with freshness from all the wonderful herbs. This was a fabulous dish for its simplicity and well balanced combination of flavours.
Smoked Fraserburgh mackerel on toast with pickled cucumber (£5.50) was tasty, although the pickling of the cucumber was a touch too acidic against the fish, especially as there was so much of it on the fish. That said, the fresh was beautifully fresh and sweet with a gentle smoky flavour.
To the more substantial plates and a Swainson House farm chicken, leek and tarragon pie (£9.50) came with a fabulously crispy puff pastry crust. The filling was creamy and pleasant but it didn’t really burst forth with a rich chicken stock flavour. The pie consisted of shredded chicken rather than whole pieces and that might have given the dish more texture.
Roast rump of Launceston lamb (£17.50) was beautifully cooked to a medium rare and proved to be extremely tasty. The freshness of the accompanying seashore vegetables of sea purslane, sea aster and sea beet also worked a treat against the meatiness of the lamb. A side of triple cooked chips (£3) should have been crunchier for something that was meant to be triple cooked but were enjoyable nonetheless.
We adored the lusciousness of the beautiful cream in a very well put together raspberry Eton mess (£5). The fruit was also yummy although texturally, the meringue was too hard and lacked for a gooey soft centre. Another seasonal dessert of Oakchurch Farm strawberry jelly with vanilla ice cream (£5.50) worked a treat as well. The jelly was not too sweet and the ice cream was lovely.
There was a decent range of wines by the glass and to go with our starter plates we had a glass of the Picpoul de Pinet 2012, Languedoc, Baron De Badassiere, France (£6.50) which proved fresh and zippy on the palate. To accompany our meat main courses we had the Rosso Piceno “Bacchus” 2011, Ciu Ciu, Italy, which had a delightful nose of strawberry, cherry and liquorice.
This was a pretty fault free meal and the sense of provenance that rang throughout it made for a delightful experience. The choice and pairing of ingredients was original and nicely done, and the flavours of the wonderful produce spoke for themselves. The service was charming and what also proved pleasantly surprising were the prices as they were so reasonable! The menu changes reasonably regularly to reflect what’s in season, which gives you that added incentive to go back again and again to try all their lovely dishes.
Food Summary: 4/5
Price range: About £25 to £35 per head. Excludes drinks and service.