For all the dirt, noise, and body odour that London throws at my face, there is an equal amount of opportunity, diversity, and food (mainly food) that allows me to overlook it. It is after all, the only city where languages, nationalities, and cuisines outnumber the bigots who protest against them. Perhaps, it is also the only city where an Australian chef can serve up a contemporary fusion menu without hearing a bloodcurdling cry of “sacrilege”.
Cue Chriskitch Hoxton – the latest solo venture of veteran chef Christian Honor. After spending much of his career being battle-hardened by the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s iron tongue and The Dorchester’s sense of grandeur, Mr. Honor embarked upon a far simpler life, and opened a successful deli – (the original Chriskitch) in Muswell Hill. Now, with his second branch in Hoxton, Mr. Honor is making a spiritual return to the world of high-octane dining that he left behind, and the result really is quite something.
Halal status: The chicken and lamb are certified halal. Halal venison can be pre-ordered in advance, and the team are more than happy to cater to any other dietary requests. (We advise you let them know in advance to ensure no cross-contamination).
Coats were taken, seats were shown, and as we settled in by the cosy open kitchen, our host brought forth a plate of tiny kale rolls. I looked across at my 4ft11 companion, and after ensuring that she wasn’t struggling to lift what was – (relative to her) – a behemoth piece of greenery, I tucked in. A satisfying crunch was accompanied by a sharp, umami bite of dressing, transforming a seemingly unexciting piece of vegetation into a frightfully artistic nibble.
All hail the kale.
To start, we had pre-ordered a plate of BBQ venison, beautifully presented upon a roasted endive and encircled by a graceful flurry of pomegranate seeds, blue cheese, and a sumac dressing. The venison was cooked to a perfect medium, and as such, its succulent centre oozed with inherent juices, whilst the crisp outer bark was a textural delight that I would happily have cut off and eaten alone. Thankfully, the rich, gamey flavour of the venison provided a more dignifying way to satisfy the palate, and paired faultlessly with the hypnotising maturity of the blue cheese, and the sharp, cleansing bursts of pomegranate. From composition to execution, this dish had everything and more.
BBQ Venison, roasted endive, blue cheese and pomegranate. (£8.95) *Must-Eat*
Unwilling to let Bambi have all the glory, Mary’s Little Lamb leapt forth for my affections, and dived into Mr. Honor’s take on the traditional Arabic lamb hot pot – laced with tahini, smoked aubergine, and served with a side of mint and feta salad. Soft, wedged pieces of potato blanketed the meat, instantly invoking a sense of modest comfort. Breaking through, we found an exceptional entanglement of soft pulled lamb, complete with a deep, rich and incredibly complex set of saturated flavours – stewed, sweet, and vibrantly umami. Texturally, the hotpot paired well with the crunchy mint salad, which was given further dimension by the rich feta and the juicy pomegranate seeds that lay embedded within it – although, this feta-pomegranate duo didn’t pair quite as well with the lamb as it did with the venison. Nonetheless, this frivolity-free hotpot delivered a relentless volley of satisfaction with each and every bite.
Baked Arabic lamb hot-pot with a mint and feta salad. (£19.80) *Must-Eat*
The same could not be said however of the flame-grilled chicken breast, which with its “Chriskitch jerk seasoning” and “sweet potato, caramel and cardamom marmalade”, sounded far more impressive on paper than it was in reality. Sweet as the sweet potato may have been, the chicken breast was far too dry to be sufficiently palatable, and the seasoning in which it was covered was dominated almost entirely by ginger. No doubt, this was a one-off hiccup, but it’s enough for us to advise that you steer clear and enjoy the hotpot instead.
Flame-grilled chicken breast (£17.95)
To finish, we opted for a simple and sinful chocolate fondant, which presented with a familiar ooze of rich and gooey chocolate sauce. Like children and chaos, this paired naturally with the cool vanilla ice cream, whilst the sweet and nutty notes of the salted caramel fudge transformed it into a far more exciting dessert altogether. Be sure to hold on to your spoon, because this fondant is well worth fighting for.
Chocolate soft-centre pudding with salted caramel fudge (£7.50)
Value For Money: 3.5/5
By now, you must be wondering which limb you will have to sacrifice to pay for this graceful culinary experience, but before you raise that cleaver or start putting your family members on eBay, know that Chriskitch will not leave you particularly worse off. Starters cost around £8, mains range from £15 to £20, and desserts come in at a reasonable £7.50. Though not a formal “fine-dining” experience in the traditional sense, the creativity and attention invested into the food is certainly of a fine-dining calibre, and when paired with the satiating sense of fulfilment that arises at the end of the meal, it really does seem like a worthy expenditure.
Service is also completely faultless – though it must be said that for some bizarre reason, we were the only pair of customers for the duration of our meal. Steak blamed my devilishly bad looks, whilst I attributed it to the safety hazard of her being a crushable dwarf, but whatever the reason, this meant that we had the undivided attention of our host, who doted on us throughout the evening.
Glancing around the restaurant, it quickly becomes clear that Mr. Honor’s sense of style extends beyond his plating skills. Earthy colours combine with glass, wood, and ethereal lights to create a sense of peace and minimalism, and there’s a certain tranquility that spans the entirety of the dining space. This would certainly have made for a lovely ambience, but, being the only patrons of the evening, there was an excruciating sense of awkwardness that filled the air. Granted, it was a Thursday evening, but that still didn’t explain the empty tables and the twiddling thumbs of our host, both of which seemed wholly undeserved. The restaurant can be found near Old Street, Shoreditch High Street, and Hoxton stations, and public transport is advised.
With bold flavours and creative flair, Chriskitch Hoxton offers a casual fine-dining experience like no other. It is a place where you need not worry about ostentatious grandeur, frugal portion sizes or a scorching black hole in your finances, but rather, one where you can enjoy a very different kind of meal altogether. The fact is, there are many great things about London. That simple lamb hot pot? That elegant BBQ venison? They may just be two of them.
Address: 5 Hoxton Market, London N1 6HG
Telephone: 0207 033 6666