Homeboy: The Islington Irish Bar Bringing Boilermakers Back

Homeboy ★★★★☆

Homeboy: The Islington Irish Bar Bringing Boilermakers Back Homeboy 4

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Homeboy, Islington. Photo by Jason Bailey.

You know how, after a few drinks at the pub with your mates, you start talking about the bar you'd set up together? And you come up with some brainwaves for the drinks and the snacks and the decor, and then go home, eat pizza and do nothing about it.

Welcome to this bar you wish you owned.

Homeboy's what happens when you follow through on the dream; when you have the years of friendship, like Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith, and the industry intel — via years shaking it up at Callooh Callay and London Cocktail Club — to give you a glimmer of a hope of making it work.

Homeboy's all sofas and banquettes and tasselled floor lamps, and a floorplan that lends itself to the low stools being pulled up to cluster together in big groups, and music that first hit the world via a Now double-cassette compilation. It's your mates' house party, if your mates were deeply hospitable and really knew their way around a cocktail shaker.

There are careful but punchy cocktails, and an entire menu section devoted to boilermakers, because they have identified accurately that brandishing a tankard in one hand and a shot glass in another is the correct way to feel like you are the lord of everything.

There's a secret back room behind a big mirror, with a tiny but unmistakeable pub hidden inside it.

And they stick all of that under the expansive label of Modern Irish Hospitality: an updated take on some Ye Olde Irish civil laws which dictated that if asked, an Irish citizen had to provide food, drink, entertainment and a bed to any traveller in need. You can't get a bed at Homeboy — though we reckon after a few of their boilermakers that sofa might see some impromptu disco-napping — but they're nailing the rest of it.

It's not perfect. It doesn't have any outside space, and, at time of writing, the kitchen's closed for a spruce up. They're compensating with swagger, with a short snack menu — Tayto toasties, reminding us that all the best sandwiches have a layer of crisps stuffed inside — but it's going to be improved twenty-fold when they can start serving the promised stews, sourdoughs, poutines, and things to really soak up the amount of drinking we want to do here.

If you can get over your jealousy that Wall and Smith have opened the bar you wanted to open and are busy living your best life, Homeboy makes for a cracking evening. And if you can't get over your jealousy, then, by cruel irony, one of the best places to drown your sorrows is down at Homeboy.   

Homeboy, 108 Essex Road, N1 8LX.

Last Updated 17 June 2019