Emily Rookwood heads East to try out the Clancy brothers’ new venture, Beagle, while Steve King heads to the feline-friendly Kaspar’s at the Savoy
It isn’t just the spring flowers that have been opening up over the past few weeks. Restaurants have been at it too, popping up like tulips and filling us —hopefully — with a similar feeling of joy. In keeping with the jolly spring feeling, Bird of Smithfield (see, what I did there?) is opening up next week too, so keep your eyes peeled for more news on that.
This week we’re having a little look at a few of these new places: I popped along to Beagle, in my favourite eastern neck of the woods, and Steve King tried the Savoy’s latest offering, Kaspar’s.
Beagle is the latest venture from the Clancy Brothers, tucked under the railway arches directly below Hoxton station. Behind the pots and pans you’ll find James Ferguson, who was previously head chef at the very well regarded Rochelle Canteen just off Arnold Circus. It offers a restaurant, cocktail bar, coffee shop and a big outside seating area — perfect for these few days of sunshine. The room is airy and modern, making the most of the architectural features, and the huge floor to ceiling windows make for wonderful people watching.
The dining room at Beagle
The food is seasonal and British and the menu is short but it changes regularly. There are also a few specials written up on the board every day, many of which gain a big chalky strike through mid-way through the evening. Lesson: if you want them, go early. When we went the place was packed with a lovely bunch of people all contributing to an enjoyably bustling atmosphere.
The food was, on the whole, very enjoyable: nothing gob-smackingly good but then I’m not sure you’d expect that here. The beetroot salad (obligatory on all menus at the moment it would seem) with bitter leaves and soft-boiled egg was well dressed, visually pretty and the egg appropriately unctuous. The squid with aioli was tender, with a good char-grilled flavour, though there was quite a lot of unnecessary oily dressing on the plate.
Beagle's Beetroot Salad
Mains were generous: the gently blushing slab of roast pork loin sported a lovely hat of thick, golden crackling, but the accompanying borlotti beans with fennel could have done with a little more salt, just as the onglet steak could have done with a little less horseradish. All minor criticisms though, and nothing that detracted from a fun meal.
Overall, the food was plentiful, simple and tasty. I hear the cocktails aren’t bad either. I’d certainly go back and with the forecast looking so good, tonight might not be a bad option.
Silly, superstitious humans have given cats a needlessly hard time for thousands of years. In 1926, however, the Savoy hotel, to its great credit, bucked the trend by offering to set a place for a cat at any table of 13 humans, to round the number up and soothe the nerves of odd-number worrywarts.
The dining room at Kaspar's
The cat in question was called Kaspar. He was three feet tall and made of wood — not even a Saki super-cat would sit still through an entire Savoy-length supper. If required, he was seated at table with a crisp linen napkin tied neatly around his comely neck and served every course. Churchill loved him. When some RAF wags abducted Kaspar to Singapore during the war, the unimpressed PM sternly ordered the cat’s immediate return.
Now Kaspar has his very own restaurant, which opened this week. (A cat in charge of a seafood restaurant? Is there is no end to the Savoy’s enlightened pro-feline policies?) And a very fine restaurant it is too. Swishy but unfussy, de-lovely Deco design, Thames views, a crack kitchen and service team, immaculate seafood and a superb wine list — including, brilliantly, 1995 Lafite by the glass or the carafe, for the solo diner (or her cat).
Best of all, though, is the magical new sculpture of Kaspar – loitering with a glint of mischief in his eyes, off to the right as you enter the room.
Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill at the Savoy, Strand, London WC2. For reservations, ring 020 7420 2111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org