Master & Servant, 8-9 Hoxton Square, London
Amol Rajan goes nose-to-tail in the heart of Hoxton
Amol Rajan was appointed editor of The Independent in June 2013. He was previously Editor of Independent Voices, a comment, campaigns and community platform across print and digital. He was earlier Deputy Comment Editor, Sports News Correspondent and News Reporter. He writes a restaurant column for The Independent on Sunday, and has a column in the Evening Standard (Thursdays). He presents ‘Power Lunch’ on London Live TV (Thursdays), a one-to-one interview with the most influential people in the capital. Previously, Amol worked on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, and at the Foreign Office. He is currently a trustee of Prospex, a charity for young people in Islington. He has also written a book called ‘Twirlymen: the Unlikely History of Cricket’s Greatest Spin Bowlers’.
Sunday 02 June 2013
I know what you're thinking, because I'd be thinking the same thing. You've seen from the top of the page that this week's restaurant is in trendy east London, in heady Hoxton of all places, and you're thinking, "Oh hell, here comes another article about the most urgently cool place in London, hip and happening bloody Hoxton, crammed full of artists and graphic designers and fashion slaves, and people who work for Vice magazine."
Well, relax my friends. This page is devoted to gastronomy, not geography (well, at least until my final paragraph). So let's just concentrate on the food, shall we?
Master & Servant is very much in the domain of what I have indelicately called Hendersonism. This is named for Fergus Henderson – he of the pinstriped penguin suits, circular glasses from Cutler and Gross, St John's stardom, and enemy of vegetarians the world over. Happily, Hendersonism contains all the letters, in the right order, of "hedonism". Nose-to-tail eating. All the bits of the beast, boiled and fried and sautéed and what not, to make sure none of it goes to waste.
There are so many places in this mould now, from Hereford Road in west London to Brawn in the east, that you could reasonably ask what on earth is the need for another. My answer: there is no "need" for most restaurants, in that the Earth would continue to orbit the Sun if they didn't exist. But there is a demand, indeed a growing demand, and satiating demand is the need of a growing economy. As it happens there is a lot of demand in trendy Hoxton – oopsy! – and so Master & Servant has its place, and will, no doubt, be successful.
Matt Edwards, who bills himself on the website as "owner and agitator" – and why not? I'd do the same if I'd set up my own business before I was 40 – is a former MasterChef semi-finalist who worked in Henderson's St John Hotel. Luke Cleghorn, head chef, worked in the same establishment, as well as St John Bread & Wine, as well as The Real Greek and Selfridges.
The menu they've come up with changes constantly and is heroically short: six starters, six mains, four sides and four desserts. I go a bit nuts and order six Carlingford rock oysters (£2.50 individually), and these have just the right degree of slurp and saltiness. Then back fat and radishes (£4) looks like it's been borrowed from the set of Ghostbusters, but goes very well together. The jellied ham on sourdough (£5.20) is good, albeit over-toasted; and the half crab with chipotle mayonnaise (£7.50) is fine, if unexciting.
The mains range from £14.80 for baked greens, Ogleshield (an unpasteurised cheese from Jersey cows) and Jersey Royals; to £58 for a Hereford Porterhouse steak for two. In other words, these are your standard London prices, and as such, are too high for most middle-class punters, or anyone saving up for one of their thrice-a-year blow-out meals – the type of punter, incidentally, that I think all the best restaurants delight and surprise.
There is a decent turbot with wild fennel and salt lemon, but it is just way too expensive at £19. The smoked Middle White shoulder with white-cabbage 'slaw for £16.50 is a tale of two halves: the pork is much too dry, but the cabbage is a completely delicious juxtaposition of crunchy vegetable and smooth cream, which does the disappointing pork a big favour.
All of the desserts are excellent: rhubarb posset with spiced biscuit (£4.90); chocolate éclair (£5); pistachio doughnuts and honey syrup (rather Turkish and £6.10); and peanut-butter ice-cream (£4.20). I should add that the wines are reasonable, and there is a fixed-price lunch menu: two courses for £15 and three for £18.
I couldn't say there was a really memorable dish, and the prices are too high, but I have a feeling, for reasons already stated, that Master & Servant will do well. This is not- half-bad Hendersonism in a part of the world where appearances count for more than substance, so if you're under 35, have some dosh going spare and need an excuse to visit Hoxton, this is yet another.
Master & Servant, 8-9 Hoxton Square, London N1, tel: 020 7729 4626. £110 for two, including one bottle of wine
This oasis near City Hall has built its reputation on accomplished (and offal-heavy) British cuisine.
152 Tooley Street, London SE1, magdalenrestaurant.co.uk
Great Queen Street
Quintessentially modern British, offally fare. A good ambience, though it can be extremely noisy.
32 Great Queen Street, London WC2, tel: 020 7242 0622
St John Bread & Wine
Awesome small plates of gutsy British fare – not least the legendary bacon buttie.
94-96 Commercial Street, London E1, stjohnbreadandwine.com
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