Hoxton’s been harbouring the creative industries for decades, but it's still a place of two halves: the Shoreditch side tends towards the cutting edge (and occasionally the cheesy) — more visited than lived-in — while the northern reaches have fewer bars and a quieter, neighbourhood feel. For the best of Hoxton's food and drink, bounce between both
Note: we're defining Hoxton as the part of the N1 and E2 postcodes reaching from Pitfield Street to the west and to the south side of Hoxton Square, with the eastern border roughly along Kingsland Road and Regent's Canal along the northern edge.
Head to The Barrel Boulangerie on Hoxton Street for freshly-baked French goods from 8am. Despite the overspill from nearby Silicon Roundabout keeping it packed out on weekday mornings, there's enough table space to host a lot of entrepreneurs and their MacBooks without feeling overcrowded.
For everything other than space it's hard to beat the Curious Yellow Kafe on Pitfield Street, a tiny Scandi-influenced coffeeshop serving brunches of rye, eggs and gravlax — or if you arrive at the right time, Nordic cinnamon knots straight from the oven.
For a picnic lunch on Hoxton Square, stock up on food at Hoxton Street Market. At it's biggest on Saturdays, frequent presences include La Crêpe Irrésistibl and 7 Seasons Beer. Or for when the weather's too fresh for al fresco. there's heat on hand via the jerk chicken or Jamaican escoveitch — a spicy fish stew — at the beautifully-named Belly's Taste of Jamaica and the warming, incredibly cheap beef pies at F Cooke Pie and Mash.
On the artisan coffee and smashed avocado end of the spectrum, Friends of Ours is a good bet. The brightly-coloured café smokes their own hake, cures their own salmon and does a lesser-spotted version of your average huevos rancheros, with their arepa-bread and fried plantain huevos motolenos.
Gastropubs, pubs and bars
The Red Lion (41, Hoxton Street, N1 6NH) and The Stag's Head are popular with Hoxtonites for after-work drinks. Both do functional food but have better-than-average outdoor space — with the main draw in summer being drinks on the Lion's roof terrace or in the Stag's beer garden.
Tied for the prize of loveliest pub in Hoxton are Howl at the Moon and The George & Vulture, both with fantastic food. Halfway up Hoxton Street, the Howl is small and cosy with red walls, worn armchairs and a wine list supplied by City Beverage, though the real attraction's one of the best craft beer line-ups in N1. And to soak that up they do a great line in meat-and-carbs; try the buttermilk and cornflake fried chicken burger or the doorstep cheese toastie.
On the corner of Pitfield and Haberdasher Streets, the George & Vulture's a very different beast — a big, high-ceilinged building with as much emphasis on whisky as craft beer. With Sodo Pizza Café operating out of their kitchen their sourdough pizzas are unsurprisingly amazing; at weekends Bacchus Sundays are in charge of the roasts.
Elsewhere in Hoxton you can feel virtuous about being a patron of the arts by patronising the wine list at Courtyard Theatre's iambic Bar. Or warm up with a pre-gig goat curry at Troy Bar before their regular live jazz, soul and open-mic nights.
And for a pre-dinner aperitivo or a post-gig nightcap head to Happiness Forgets, for flamboyant cocktails in their speakeasy basement bar on Hoxton Square.
Wander south on Kingsland Road if you're undecided on the nationality of food you're aiming for. Along with the excellent Vietnamese in that stretch of Hoxton — Green Papaya for BBQ pork belly or lamb loin, Viet Hoa Café & Mess for BYO beer and grill-it-yourself meat — there's the fried chicken and soulfood at Bird, and sourdough pizza at Amici Miei.
Or head east from Hoxton station and you’ll arrive at 100 Hoxton, where Asian influences crop up across the sharing plates menu - Sichuan chili dipping sauce with the roasted chicken, pork belly in miso and ume — with a few early dinner deals to lure in weekday punters.
And a few minutes' north on Hoxton Street, Ginger Pig Café does a great-value Workers' Lunch and an even better dinner menu, with British and Mediterranean gastropub food – calves' liver, lamb rump and seafood stews — and a permanent two for £10 offer on their classic cocktails.
A lot of coffeeshops in Hoxton have more than one string to their bow, the premises doing double or triple service as jazz bars (TroyGanic, at 132, Kingsland Road, E2 8DP), gallery spaces (DreamBags JaguarShoes), event spaces (Embassy East), and social enterprises (the Russell Brand-founded Trew Era Café on Whitmore Road).
At the east edge of Hoxton, Beagle Coffee's selling the best early-morning cortado from their tiny café under one of the Geffreye Street railway arches. Indoor space to sit is limited, but in warmer weather there are tables outside the arch for anybody wanting a more lingering coffee. Translate Café Bar, underneath Dictionary Hostel, serves up decent coffee and stock whatever cronut-type of baked goods are the most on-trend that week. And for a Turkish coffee and honey-heavy filo pastry, the upstairs room at The Bridge (15, Kingsland Road, E2 8AE) offers a bizarrely boudoir-ish setting — gilded mirrors, velvet sofas and candlelight — to go with your baklava.
A lot of Hoxton's food, for all its radiant variety, has this trait in common: it's for eating on the run. This is a food scene of street food and picnics, pre-gig burgers, takeaway jerk, and impromptu pizzas playing support act to a night at the pub.
Not at Beagle. Spread across three railway arches by Hoxton Overground (the smallest is their coffeeshop), two of Beagle's arches house a dark, beautiful cocktail bar and a busy but bookable restaurant. It's formal only in that there's a degree of ceremony, with table service and a more trad three-course menu than the food by the slice, metre and bucket that turns up a lot in Hoxton. Far from eating on the run, dinner at Beagle can stretch late into the night and across their restaurant, bar and outside terrace. Or for a similarly sprawling evening head to the cheerfully-crammed 8 Hoxton Square, where they keep bewitching critics with their mostly Mediterranean menu and views over the Square.
Night animals flock to Hoxton, thanks to a lot of late licences and live music. Electricity Showrooms stays open till 1am on weekends, as does the residency from cocktail-merchants 5cc in their basement — a slightly less frenetic vibe than the street-level bar.
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, where the kitchen half is run by Smokey Tails, is pitched as 'Eats and Beats', and the Eats half of the equation's on offer till 10.30pm at weekends. The Beats — over the years that's ranged from hip hop karaoke to Fleet Foxes or Grimes live sets — carry on into the very much smaller hours.
And though it’s lovely at any hour of the night, White Lyan is best as a place to wrap up the evening. Behind their weather-beaten pub frontage, somewhere in their poetic cocktail list is the perfect nightcap — maybe the Sandman Sour, with its soporific mix of blood orange and sand verbena. Or if you can't bear to end the evening then the Tennessee Nitro Martini, on (nitrogen) tap, should see you through another few hours at The Macbeth or Zigfrid von Underbelly, both open till 3am on weekends.