Underneath the arches of Hoxton station, Beagle is a warmly lit, exposed-bare-brick of a restaurant. Separated off into two sections via archways, we were seated on banquettes facing the open plan kitchen. The menu was mainly meaty, leaning towards the British. We kicked off with some punchy cocktails from their extensive range; my Silver Fox, made up of gin and lillet, was particularly startling for a lunchtime aperitif. Several bloody marys were listed, ranging from the intriguing (chorizo-smoked vodka) to the slightly bizarre; I'm not sure how many hangovers are cured by a bloody mary seasoned with fish and oyster sauce.
A tray of native and rock oysters, plonked rather unceremoniously down by our surely-she's-a-model waitress were plump and briny, brightened by a cucumber mignonette. My Dorset crab and puntarelle salad was a behemoth portion; the tangle of bitter leaves was dressed with fragrant preserved lemon, the creaminess of the emulsified dressing taming the bitterness of the chicory. Sweet nuggets of crab meat was a background note to the greens. I soon made light work of it.
Tenderstem broccoli with Stilton and walnuts was equally impressive and the flavour combinations of the sweet young broccoli married up well with the strong cheese. A slice of duck liver and foie gras parfait with quince jelly was actually bigger than my head and thicker than an inch, served with a toasted slice of brioche that would never be enough. It had an impressively mousse-like texture, though.
A blackboard above our heads advertised the sharing steaks they had on offer, and between three of us we plumped for the 1.2kg prime rib, served with duck fat roasted potatoes. For £85-ish, expectations were high and the steak that was laid out before us certainly had the wow-factor. The fat had a good flavour to it, and the steak cooked appropriately to the requested medium rare, but there was something that was missing that I only really realised about halfway in - it was lacking in any kind of juiciness. There was no puddle, and we remarked that around the edges of each slice of meat looked like it was cured, almost smoked in consistency. A slathering of horseradish cream patched it up.
Duck fat potatoes were crisp hunks, crunchy on the outside and fluffy within and a generous portion at that. Through lack of any sauce, I asked for ketchup and was given a bowl of thin, tomatoey spiced gravy when all I yearned for really was Heinz. Buttered greens were appropriately drenched.
I was too stuffed for dessert, but my companions were ever so brave and they soldiered on. A slice of ginger loaf, drenched in a sticky dark butterscotch sauce was cooed over, while I particularly enjoyed the boozy Armagnac-soaked prune that came surrounded by a tart.
Not your cheapest lunch venue, with starters coming in at around £8 - £10 and mains hitting the £20 mark, which might be why it was only a quarter full on a Thursday lunchtime this close to Christmas. I found the flavour executions on the starter to be far more accomplished than the steak, though one might argue just how far you can go if you order a steak, but for the money (more or less), I'll stick with Hawksmoor. Their brunch menu looks worth returning for though (I'll admit - I am curious about that fish & oyster sauce bloody mary).
397 - 400 Geffrye Street
London E2 8HZ