Gigi’s Hoxton review: Summer cocktails and delicious bites at a versatile new dining, drinking and music venue
Hoxton Square is one of my favourite areas in Shoreditch because it offers what appeals to me about the area (e.g. nightlife), but also avoids the traffic and pollution that venues in Old Street, Great Eastern Street, etc, have to put up with. I’ve been socialising in Hoxton Square since the late ’90s (showing my age here!) and always thought of the area as a little nightlife enclave with great bars and a nice atmosphere.
A new addition to the East End foodie and entertainment scene is Gigi’s Hoxton. The versatile venue is an all-day restaurant, bar and music venue with an alfresco terrace and a basement sister space Hoxton Underbelly hosting comedy, live music, DJs and club nights. Taking over the former Zigfrid von Underbelly, Gigi’s Hoxton is the latest venture from Giovanna Hussain, the woman behind some of East London’s favourite venues, including The Corner Shop and The Grapevine in Shoreditch, and The Rocksteady in Dalston. I went along with a friend last week to check it out.
As a previous customer of Zigfrid (although my last visit was some years ago), I couldn’t believe how different the venue looked. The bar had been moved from its original location and the vibrant murals by Kate Philipson had really brightened up the place. The finished look is a mix of industrial and vintage-esque chic, with colourful chairs, zinc tables, a green stone bar and neon lights.
Upon arrival, we headed straight for the bar and mulled over the cocktail list. Being a balmy day, my natural choice was an Aperol Spritz, while my friend couldn’t resist the Espresso Martini (on tap!). As a seasoned Aperol Spritz fan, I’m pleased to say Gigi’s got it spot on with the right mix of bitter and sweetness. I’ve found quite a few bars/pubs don’t get the balance right, so it’s always good to see a venue getting it right.
The ground floor is essentially a L shape so we headed to the narrower section at the back to grab a table and two leather chairs. Gigi’s menus have been created by Head Chef Antonio Mollo and are influenced by his Italian heritage, as well as classic British dishes. We tried a selection of canapes, derived from the main menu, and were impressed by the creativity and flavour. One particular stand-out was the bruschetta. Although I’ve eaten the dish often over the years, I must praise this one for being so fresh and rich in taste. Other highlights were the crispy polenta, mushroom and taleggio fondue and the tortilla taco with homemade guacamole. I’ve got to mention the pea soup, Grey Goose le citron vodka sour cream shot which was a pretty unique taste for me, but I quite liked it.
Aside from the drinking and food, one of Gigi’s USPs is its music scene. After initially being treated to some soulful house and classic R&B tracks from the DJ, we were entertained with some great live music from the Blue Lion Band.
Overall, I think Gigi’s Hoxton is a great addition to east London’s nightlife. The food and drinks were equally good. The venue had a great ambiance and the DJs and live music really completed the evening. I’ll be back.
- Gigi’s Hoxton, 11 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU. Nearest stations: Hoxton or Old Street. Open Mon–Thu: 12pm–1am, Fri: 12pm–3am, Sat: 10am–3am, Sun: 10am–12am. For more information, visit the Gigi’s Hoxton website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
Shoreditch street art commemorates where the tragic love story was first performed back in the 16th century.
When it comes to checking out street art in Shoreditch, you’ll be spoiled for choice. However, one of the district’s most striking murals has a special historic significance. One particular building on New Inn Broadway features a mural depicting Romeo and Juliet… on the very spot where the play was first performed.
Long before The Globe was built on Bankside, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) used to tread the boards in the East End. In 1572, the Mayor of London cracked down on plays being performed within the City of London in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Plague. As a result, theatre companies started performing just outside the jurisdictions of the City. The Theatre was built in 1576 on the site of the Holywell Priory, which has been demolished following the dissolution of the monasteries a few decades earlier. It was started by actor and theatre manager James Burbage (1530/5-1597) and his brother-in-law John Brayne (1541-1586). At the time, Shoreditch was notoriously rough and was surrounded by brothels, gambling dens and rowdy taverns. The Theatre was built in a polygonal shape, included three galleries and a yard and was said to have cost £700 to build.
The Theatre owner Burbage was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company, with a certain actor and playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon as one of his colleagues. The LCM was formed in 1594, when Shakespeare had already been making waves in the theatre scene for at least two years. The troupe started performing Shakespeare’s plays exclusively. Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet was performed for the first time at The Theatre, estimated to have been written around 1591-1595.
After 22 years of entertaining Londoners, The Theatre came to an end following a dispute between the late Burbage’s son Richard (1567-1619) and the site’s landowner Giles Allen. In a desperate bid to protect their playhouse, Richard and his brother Cuthbert enlisted the help of some associates to dismantle The Theatre in December 1598. The timbers were believed to have been hidden nearby in Bridewell, before being taken over London Bridge to Bankside when the weather improved. Timbers from The Theatre were used to build The Globe in 1599.
For centuries, the site of The Theatre was lost until it was rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 2008. They found remains of brick and stone polygonal footings of the gallery, along with seeds and fruit pips and broken beer vessels from the Elizabethan period. Just north of the Romeo and Juliet mural we see today, a building is being erected to house offices and a permanent exhibition about The Theatre.
Today, a Romeo and Juliet mural adorns a modern three-storey office building on the site of The Theatre. The top of the piece features the heroine Juliet in a blue gown, looking down from her balcony for her Romeo, who gazes up adoringly at her from two storeys down. One of Juliet’s passages from Act 2, Scene 2 of the play is featured: ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea’; ‘My love as deep the more I give to thee’; and ‘The more I have for both are infinite’. Fans of the play will recognise it from Romeo and Juliet’s post-Capulet ball discussion when they make plans to marry after meeting that evening. The mural was commissioned through the Global Street Art Agency in June 2018.
- New Inn Broadway, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PZ. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street.
For more London history and architecture posts, click here.
Find out about Middle Temple Hall, location of the first performance of Twelfth Night.
Returning to East London to brighten up gloomy February is the eclectic London Remixed Festival. Over two days, 25 musical acts and DJs will be taking over four stages at Richmix in Shoreditch. Promising all of the fun and sounds of a festival without the mud and cold, the London Remixed Festival will feature Latin Grooves, Afro beats, Tropical Bass, Vintage-Remix, Desert Remix, Balkan Beats, Urban Roots, Acoustic Soundclash and Brass Band Remix.
Among the fabulous names performing are Sam And The Womp with their soundsystem show of Balkan-influenced heavy dance beats. London Remixed Festival’s very own new UK Garage Orchestra will be performing UK garage classics with the Blue Lion Band and special guests MCs. Meanwhile, The True Stays will be playing vintage rock ‘n’ roll in the Folk Ghetto.
On Friday night, the Brass Off stage curated by Continental Drifts features Deadbeat Brass vs Das Brass. On Saturday, revellers will be spoiled for choice with severals stages to choose from, including Tropicarnival curated by Wormfood + Movimientos; Polka Club curated by Continental Drifts + MARSM; and the Folk Ghetto curated by Fire in the Mountain + Woodburner. There will also be the popular Silent Disco, with music from PantherPanther, DJ Hiphoppapotamus, Ecklectic Mick and Madame Electrifie.
- The London Remixed Festival takes place from 1-2 February 2019. Open: Fri 8pm-1am, Sat 8pm-4am. Tickets: £11.19–£21.79. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For tickets, visit the London Remixed Festival website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in Febuary, click here.
Glitterbox is a huge name in clubbing culture, famous for their flamboyant and hedonistic parties in Ibiza, London and beyond. With a high glamour and inclusive vision, Glitterbox are renowned for bringing the spirit of disco to the 21st century. To mark their fifth year as they gear up for the next season in the Balearics, Glitterbox are celebrating with an exhibition of fabulous moments, music and people.
The Glitterbox experience of DJs, performers, dancers and clubbers have been captured in iconic artwork and photography over the years. Acclaimed artist and ‘Blitz Kid’ Mark Wardel will be showcasing his original work, with limited, signed prints available to purchase. Meanwhile, Glitterbox’s resident photographer Gavin Mills will be revealing never-seen-before images from five years of decadent revelry. The exhibition will also feature archive flyers, posters and graphic prints, as well as new artwork for the 2018 season.
The exhibition will span one week at the contemporary gallery, print publisher and printing studio Jealous in Shoreditch. There will also be special gallery events during the exhibition.
- Glitterbox x Jealous Gallery runs from 13 – 19 February 2018. Open 11am-7pm. Free admission. At Jealous East, 53 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PT. Nearest station: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit GlitterboxIbiza’s website or the Jealous Gallery website.
For a guide to what else is on in February, click here.
Need to shake off those winter blues? Well, you don’t have to wait until spring as the London Remixed Festival is returning to Shoreditch this February. Over two days, over 25 innovative and exciting bands and DJs from a range of genres will perform across four stages. Revellers will be entertained by talented artists playing Latin Grooves, Afro beats, Tropical Bass, Vintage-Remix, Desert Remix Balkan Beats, Urban Roots, Acoustic Soundclash and Brass Band Remix.
Taking over Rich Mix, music fans can soak up the festival spirit without the mud or dodgy toilets. As well as live music and DJ sets, guests can also take part in the free Remix workshops, Silent Disco, the ‘Disco Lift’ or the infamous Remix Speed Dating. Among the headliners include Wara, Holy Moly & The Crackers, The Baghdaddies, John Fairhurst, Siska and Subajah.
On Friday night, the Brass Off stage curated by Continental Drifts features New York Brass Band Vs Temple Funk Collective; DJ Chris Tofu and Count Bassy. On Saturday, revellers will be spoiled for choice with four stages to choose from, including Tropicarnival (Curated by Wormfood, Movimientos and Vibes & Pressure); Polka Club (Curated by Continental Drifts and Arts Canteen); and Folk Ghetto (Curated by Two For Joy and Woodburner).
- The London Remixed Festival takes place from 2-3 February 2018 at Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. Open Fri 2 7pm-1am, Sat 3 8pm-4am. Tickets: £7-£15. For more information and booking, visit the festival’s official website.
The Old Street roundabout has never been one of the more attractive hubs in London. However, increasing regeneration is breathing new life into the area’s buildings and making EC1 a more attractive place to be.
As part of new office and retail quarter The Bower, a new public art installation is lighting up Old Street for the better. Renowned Dutch artists DeMakersVan have created a facetted stainless steel and glass installation inspired by Shoreditch’s industrial past.
The Art Wall is located at the City Road entrance to The Bower and is visible from the Old Street roundabout. The installation is a 21 metre long, 3-dimensional structure lit up with LED panels. The DeMakersVan brothers were inspired by the Crittal windows commonly found in Shoreditch and warped the shape. Mirrors on the interior of the structure reflect the white haze glass windows and rainbow effect glass panels, resulting in an iridescent light display.
Gerald Kaye, CEO of Helical, developer of The Bower, enthused: ‘The Bower is the perfect location for our Art Wall, which we believe encapsulates both the history of the area and the transformation of materials and aesthetics over time. We are proud to have it positioned in such a public and visible space by Old Street tube station, and hope the public enjoy this fantastic piece of art.’
DeMakersVan commented: ‘We are delighted to unveil our first installation in London, and believe the locations aesthetic complements the work and its philosophy perfectly.’
As well as the Art Wall, The Bower is also home to Bone Daddies, The Draft House, Enoteca da Luca, Honest Burger, Maki sushi bar, Good & Proper Tea and Franze & Evans.
- The Bower, Old Street roundabout, Shoreditch, EC1V 9NR. Nearest station: Old Street. For more information about The Bower, visit their website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
This bank holiday weekend, the capital’s largest graffiti and street art festival is returning to London. Taking over the Nomadic Community Gardens in Shoreditch, the Meeting Of Styles festival will feature three days of live street art painting, music, food and drinking.
A garden oasis and the walls leading to it from Brick Lane will be transformed with over 50 artists collaborating. Budding street artists – young and old – will also have the chance to learn some skills at workshops. Meanwhile, there’ll be plenty of music from the likes of Ghosttown & the lyrical genius Dabbla, DJs Maj Duckworth, Sugai & Super Scratch Sunday, Blabbamouf and Trackside Burners.
Providing the refreshments will be a Rockwell House pop-up bar. The in-garden Roving Café will be serving hot food, cakes and fresh coffee, while the Dry Rub Club will be grilling and marinading on the BBQ.
Also on site will be a mini market of stalls selling art and clothing, including Meeting Of Styles merchandise and EndOfTheLine apparel. By Monday, the Nomadic Community Gardens will be hosting their monthly party with the surrounding walls now complete.
- Meeting Of Styles takes place from 27-29 May 2016 at the Nomadic Community Gardens, Brick Lane, 1 Fleet Street Hill, Shoreditch, E2 6EE. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit the Meeting Of Styles website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in May, click here.
With the likes of dating apps like Tinder and Happn, it can feel like the search for romance has become… well, a bit too technological. On the flip side, some speed dating nights can feel a bit daunting.
Shaking up the London dating scene is an original and fun new concept called Game Dating. Having launched in Shoreditch last month, Game Dating is back this month in the hope of making matches in a relaxed and creative environment.
London singletons can leave their nerves at the door for a fun-filled evening of playing specially selected interactive games. It’ll be a battle of wits, wills and team bonding against a backdrop of DJs, music and drinks.
The concept has been created by people with backgrounds in psychology, events and team-building so the games have been developed to reveal more about a potential date than traditional apps and dating sites.
Explaining the concept, Game Dating creator and founder, James Smith said: ‘After being a user of dating apps and websites, I soon found I became bored of swiping left and right and that potential matches were not of a serious nature. Talking to friends who were also single, I began to develop the idea of Game dating. We knew how speed dating nights have been around for many years but realised it was a good time to look at starting a fresh approach to speed dating, rather than it being just a meet and greet, we could make the whole process less daunting and a lot more fun.’
- Game Dating takes place on 15 December 2015 and more dates in January 2016 at BL- NK Space, 25-27 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3LT. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. Tickets: £25 or 2 friends for £45 (inc. free glass of Proseco). For more information, visit Game Dating’s official website. For tickets, visit Design My Night.
For a guide to what’s on in London in January 2016, click here.
Like millions around the world, I was a huge fan of Friends back in the 90s and early 00s. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the show finished, but thanks to the joy of re-runs, there’s always an episode on somewhere. Last month, I heard there was a five-day Friends festival coming to London and knew I had to get tickets somehow. The tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, but I was fortunate enough to check it out at the press launch last night.
Comedy Central’s FriendsFest has set up camp at the Boiler House on Brick Lane, transforming a huge space into a slice of ’90s Manhattan. The shining glory is a meticulous reconstruction of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, which we were able to walk in to and interact with the props. There was the TV where the gang watched the Prom Video, the notepad where Monica used to insist everyone write down phone messages and the clock face biscuit tin on the kitchen counter. The iconic yellow door frame – which fans will remember was the last shot in the series finale in 2004 – was in situ, prompting many a selfie in front of it. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting the very friendly James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk manager Gunther, in Monica’s kitchen!
After walking around Monica and Rachel’s apartment, we visited the photobooth, complete with costumes from iconic episodes, such as Father Christmas, Dr Drake Ramoray’s scrubs, Rachel’s cheerleading outfit and wedding dresses. For those wanting a ’90s style makeover, there was a pop-up hair salon for ladies after a ‘The Rachel’ blow-dry. Around the corner, a small section of Joey and Chandler’s living room had been recreated with black barcaloungers, an entertainment unit and foosball table – which I admittedly lost playing against my friends.
Amidst all the emotional revisits of favourite episodes and photo moments, there was also somewhere to eat and drink in the Central Perk-inspired café, with Monica’s Mac N Cheese and Joey’s favourite pizza on the menu. Taking centre stage was a familiar orange sofa – which featured in Central Perk and the opening credits. While chowing down on the snacks, we checked out the mini museum, featuring actual props from the show, including The Geller Cup and the VHS of ‘Buffay The Vampire Layer’.
What was notable about FriendsFest was how excited everyone was. People from different backgrounds and varying interests shared a common love of Friends with different props or pieces of furniture prompting people to quote lines from their favourite episode – ‘Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!’ Even the celebrities in attendance, such as Alesha Dixon, Michelle Keegan and McBusted’s Tom Fletcher, were free to let their public personas drop and enjoy a ‘fan girl or boy’ moment over a beloved show. For those lucky enough to get tickets, you’re in for a treat.
- FriendsFest is on at the Boiler House in Brick Lane, Shoreditch from 16 – 20 September 2015. All tickets have sold out in advance and will not be available on the door.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
DF/Mexico is the newest venture from the people behind Wahaca. I’ve long been a fan of the Wahaca chain and Mexican food in general and am thrilled there’s finally decent Mexican food in London after years of nothingness. A close friend, who like me has also travelled around Mexico and is quite discerning when it comes to its cuisine, recommend I try it… before the name completely slipped my mind. Then on a Friday afternoon in Shoreditch, I accidentally stumbled upon DF/Mexico and instantly remembered it as my friend’s recommendation. The DF in the name is what Mexicans refer to Mexico City as, aka Distrito Federal. The premise is a modern Mexican diner serving street food. There’s no reservations and an unusual self-service system, so if you’re looking to be treated, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. However, if you’re looking for filling and tasty food and don’t have much time on your hands, this is a good place to stop.
My sister and I visited for a late lunch and were pretty ravenous by the time we arrived. We claimed a table before studying the menus – featuring a mix of burritos, tacos, salad and grilled chicken or meat. Once we were ready to order, we headed to one of the self-service touch screens, where you put your order in. I found it pretty simple and straight-forward, despite the lack of interaction with a human. We both ordered some of the bottomless soft drinks at just £2.30, which was very appealing if you’re particularly thirsty. I’m a fan of Hibiscus – a flavour I don’t find very often – so enjoyed a few glasses of it and it was pretty gorgeous I must admit. In addition to the usual soda, the venue is also licensed and serves Mexican classics such as Frozen Margaritas or Sol and Pacifico Clara beers.
Upon returning to our table, we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. I ordered the MSC Fish Tacos, served helpfully upright in a taco tray. Cooked in Panko crumbs, the cod was filling and tasty – not too oily – and served with red coleslaw and Chipotle mayonnaise, which gave it a bit of a kick. Admittedly, I could have ordered more, but the lateness of the day being caught between lunch and dinner meant I was forced to reel in my appetite. Overall, the venue was light and contemporary and we felt quite comfortable stopping by for our quick eat. The food and drink were really good and the prices were very good value. Definitely a pit stop to refuel at next time I’m in Brick Lane.
- DF/Mexico, Hanbury Street, Shoreditch, E1 6QR. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. for more information, visit the DF/Mexico website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.