We arrive at Beagle on one of the hottest evenings in July, but their under-railway arch restaurant’s all cool, vaulted ceilings and stripped-back brick. The tables are in communal stretches, in the evening sunlight everything looks entirely calm and ordered.
Not for long. In two hours time, this will be a scene of messy devastation, the area in a metre radius of all the tables – quite a lot – and our table – quite a lot more – littered with a starburst of crab shell pieces and sticky fingerprints. But wind back to the start of the evening and it’s still pristine, little to foreshadow what’s about to unfold.
To tell you about the shadowy loveliness of Beagle on your average night, you can read Tom Bangay’s review from way back in the early days of this Hoxton venue. I won’t waste space waxing lyrical about the food and the restaurant, or the way the cocktails in the connected bar hide a core of brutal force behind a veil of soft candlelight and piano playing.
Tonight’s a different beast, because Beagle are doing one of their supperclub collaborations – not that regular yet, but the frequency’s on the rise, with a wine-matching night recently and rumours of a Bruichladdich whisky-pairing night on the horizon. The one bringing all these mostly-men here this evening is a four-course Five Points Brewery collaboration, the Hackney beers paired up with a Beagle-crafted menu.
In between the courses are short talks from Five Points hosts about why they’ve chosen the beers they have, ways you might notice the flavour of the beer bouncing off the food or the dish amplified by the beer, and now and then a plug for the monthly parties they host on their own site.
In the course of the menu we get through some of the better known Five Points brews – a starter of crispy pig cheek matched with a Five Points Pale Ale, a hoppy, session ale cutting through the meatiness and weight of the pig cheek; a second course of Portland crab cooked in and served with their slightly heavier, bitterer Brickfield Brown. I don’t know if it’s significant that the rise in ABV per beer comes with a rise in the volume of mess created per course. I can tell you that the mess I make isn’t proportionate to the amount of crab I actually eat, and that I abandon mine halfway through to Mark, who finishes both of ours with not much more skill but a lot more focus.
Those courses are both – as beers, and as dishes – great, but to be honest they don’t seem to be changing the shape of each other through some alchemical pairing magic. It’s the third course before that kicks in, the lamb kofta and chili given an enormous punch by the rye bite and richness of the Hook Island Red, an amber ale. A treacle and porter pudding comes with the Railway Porter, both good if really solidly bread-like, and again they both feel like they make more sense for being with each other than they might apart.
I have learned many things tonight, not least of which is to thank Jesus I came with Mark. Our friendship can survive the sight of what we did to those crabs. Also that lamb, chili and amber ale are a holy union, that Beagle is as lovely on these hosted nights as it is the rest of the time, and that it’ll be well worth keeping an ear out for when those rumours of upcoming whisky supperclubs turn into a reality.
Beagle is at 397 – 400 Geffrye Street, E2 8HZ. For more information about upcoming supperclubs call 02076132967 or visit the website.
Five Points Brewery regularly hold parties, dinnerclubs and tastings in collaboration with local bars. For more information about tours of Five Points Brewery and upcoming events visit their website.