New bar evokes Victorian rail adventures

Whatever Doesnt Kill YouThe operator of some of London’s most stylish and quirky pubs is to launch a new cocktail bar inspired by adventure and classic colonial rail travel.

Hoxley & Porter will officially open next week in the former premises of Grand Union bar in Upper Street, Islington. An inventive cocktail offering is led by Michael Pendergast, formerly at Powder Keg Diplomacy in Battersea, London.

It is the latest venture from Costa Tofan whose other venues are The Betsy Smith in Kilburn, The Lansdowne in Primrose Hill, The Winchester in Islington, The Liquor Station in Wembley, The Lodge Tavern in Ealing and French restaurant Le Cage Imaginaire in Hampstead.

As with the award-winning design of The Betsy Smith, Hoxley & Porter’s interiors have been created by Michaela Reysenn of Kai Design, bringing together the flavours of Victorian gentlemen’s clubs with “colonial Poirot, Egyptian noir and surrealist jungles”.

The bar recalls an opulent late-Victorian train carriage, with a cocoon of warm turquoise and gold, mythological art concealing secret codes, and shadowy foliage. It is inspired by the fictional character of Hoxley, an “intrepid explorer who broke away from his genteel English roots to discover the mysteries of Africa”.

This is reflected in the Dining Carriage area which has floods of natural light through leaded glass, wicker seating and gilt-edged tableware plus a darker undercurrent of roughly textured woods and dark down lighting.

Cocktail Lounge Hoxley & Porter

The cocktail bar takes inspiration from the Porter Rhodes diamond discovered in 1880, which has a chequered history of riches, ruin and royalty. With textures of intricate gold leaf, dark teak and geometric motifs, this space “evokes lost kingdom, the glittering of treasure and the foreboding of curses”.

Bespoke wallpaper by Kai Design and creative agency Arm and Eye creates statement artwork of both “the deadly and the beautiful”: a collage of diamonds, scarab motifs, flora and fauna.

Downstairs is The Crypt, a “flavour laboratory” where the bar team will concoct many of Hoxley & Porter’s own ingredients such as its house ginger ale.

Costa said: “We wanted to bring something unique and fresh to Islington. At Hoxley & Porter you’ll find inspiring drinks, fine food and the space to appreciate great company.

“We have created somewhere you can stay all night and get lost in the story, somewhere you can come back to time and again and discover new elements to your surroundings.”

For the cocktails, Michael is bringing together seasonal and home-crafted ingredients, drawing on his experience at Powder Keg Diplomacy, with nods to ancient cultures and exotic flavours – and presented with a few theatrical flourishes.

Signature cocktails will include Caribbean Inception, described as “the thinking man’s Banana Daiquiri”, with fried plantain fat-washed gold rum, lime juice, a touch of overproof white rum and molasses syrup. The Thyme of Gentility is a refreshing combination of classic gin and rum cocktail ingredients, mixing Martin Miller’s Gin, homemade falernum, lemon and fresh lemon thyme, served long with “a fresh thyme flourish”.

A cocktail called Whatever Doesn’t Kill You (pictured top) is garnished with an absinthe-coated scorpion which changes colour from blue to bright purple.

The food will be modern British, including traditional cuts of meat and fresh seasonal vegetables, served with “flair and charm”.

Dishes are set to include crisp cider-braised pork belly accompanied by glazed baby vegetables, parsnip puree and fondant potatoes, and pot-roasted rabbit with herb-baked butternut squash and crispy bacon.

The Saint Clements pie is Hoxley’s take on the key lime classic: a creamy dessert infused with tangy lemon and sweet oranges.

With 28 covers, daytimes cater for brunches, business lunches and family groups while evenings will evolve from dinner service to late-night private gatherings.

Hoxley & Porter officially opens on Friday September 13. It will be open seven days a week from midday on weekdays to midnight Monday to Wednesday, to 2am Thursdays and to 3am Fridays. At weekends it will open from 10am until 3am on Saturdays and 11pm Sundays.

Hoxley & Porter, 153 Upper Street, London N1 1RA
Tel: 020 7226 1375

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