Home Comforts and Irish Flavour
If you spend more than ten minutes in Homeboy, you’ll soon discover why hospitality is such a core part of Irish culture dating back hundreds of years
Review by Martin Stickley
One of the reasons why pubs and bars are closing at an innumerable rate (particularly outside the major cities) is that people can take advantage of cheap supermarket offers and drink in the comfort of their own home. Whilst this is primarily an economic reason, many people don’t like the atmosphere that comes with a city pub or bar and prefer their creature comforts. Take my mother for example, she’d rather have a glass of red in her living room than pop to the local wine bar. All hail the new kings of relaxed, easy-going drinking – Irish duo Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith, who have brought their first bar Homeboy to London’s Essex Road. The main aim of Homeboy is to bring the best of warm, laid-back Irish hospitality, home comforts paired with delicious drinks and playful sinful food to London and believe me, it doesn’t fail to do so. Aaron and Ciarán have brought all their prior expertise working at venues including Callooh Callay, London Cocktail Club, The Dorchester and Waldorf Astoria NYC to create a fun and relaxed good-time bar with modern Irish hospitality at its heart. Now I know that to most of you this may sound like marketing guff but I was utterly surprised at how, well, at home I felt walking into Homeboy. It was like stepping into the local that I never had. The bar itself is a mix of exposed brick, painted features and tiles which have been used to great effect and serve to accentuate a cosy vibe whilst maintaining an overall sense of classy, contemporary design. The overall impression is how you would imagine if a traditional local Irish boozer was crossed with a trendy East London cocktail bar, minus the pretentiousness. The Home comforts at Homeboy are delivered with a healthy dose of Irish flavour, and the drinks are backed up by some delicious home-cooked food beneath a casual soundtrack of nineties trip-hop, hip-hop and RnB.
With a focus on celebrating Irish producers, Homeboy has a distinctive cocktail although for those with simpler tastes, Irish beers and of course Draught Guinness are also be Available. Homeboy’s cocktail ethos is composed of three pillars: Irish Whiskey, where the drinks showcase the versatility that once saw Irish Whiskey as the top selling spirit in the world; Contemporary, where the Homeboy mixologists utilize modern techniques to create more wild, bespoke drinks; and Classics, which pay homage to some of the modern definitive cocktails of our time – all three come as testament to Ciaran and Aaron’s distinguished bar history. An example this comes in Homeboy’s own take on the classic Whiskey Smash. The Whiskey Smash, was first written in the 1900 edition of Harry Johnsons “New and Improved Bartender’s Manual”. Aaron and Ciarán have played with the original, adding spinach (as it contains Oxalic acid) to provide an apple-like tasting note, a flavour indicative of Irish Whiskey. To accompany the excellent drinks, Homeboy’s simple food offering will include sinful snacks such as loaded fries and poutine as well as comfort food using family recipes. Da’s Irish Stew and Ma’s Brown Bread use the recipes by Ciarán’s Dad and Aaron’s mum respectively.
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Food and drink aside, I’ll return to Homeboy’s USP; if you spend more than ten minutes in there, you’ll soon discover why hospitality is such a core part of Irish culture dating back hundreds of years. There was once a set of civil laws in Ireland that stated if a traveller was in need, an Irish citizen must welcome them into their home and offer food, drink, entertainment and a bed and it’s satisfying to see someone continuing that tradition. Apart from the overnight accommodation (sadly) Homeboy does exactly what that law originally set out to do; I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever felt as welcome and at home in a bar anywhere.
Open Mon -Thurs and Sunday 12:00 – 23:00, Friday and Saturday 12:00 – 01:00
Enquiries: Homeboy Bar, 108 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 8LX / www.homeboybar.com