Review: Homeboy – Essex Road, London

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Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.
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Imagine an Irish pub. Now remove the connotations of tacky, cheap, and somewhere the LGBT community wouldn’t usually be found. Keep the inviting Irish warmth and hospitality, and add a modern bar environment, without any pretence. This equation just about sums up Homeboy, a new bar in London’s Islington that feels open and welcome to all.

Homeboy

Homeboy is Irish in that it is run by Irish duo Aaron and Ciarán (and there’s definitely a handsome bearded ginger barman too). They bring laid-back Irish hospitality, cocktails (their signatures inspired by Irish spirits), and of course some of the best Draught Guinness in the UK – we checked.

Homeboy is designed to feel like as much like a living room as possible, albeit one with a bar within. A mix of exposed brick, painted features and tiles have been utilised to accentuate a cosy ‘at home’ vibe whilst maintaining a sense of contemporary design. A ‘hidden’ pub within a bar will soon open too, behind a secret door will be a small back room pub (an Irish snug) for sports fans, serving primarily draughts and whiskey.

Food and drink

On the drinks menu, bar-goers will find two signature cocktails:

  • Whiskey Smash (£9) – very green with apple and mint, think a green juice, but loaded with Irish Whiskey all the tastier for it.
  • Irish Coffee (£8) – the Homeboy version using The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, Demerara sugar syrup and topped with grated nutmeg.

A remaining couple of pages in the cocktail menu offer Irish-inspired and classic cocktail options. Let’s not forget the lager, and most importantly the Guinness, which tastes almost as good as in Ireland due to the gas percentages they use in Homeboy. Aaron also makes sure every pint poured is proud, with the head just above the top of the glass.

On our visit the kitchen wasn’t open yet, so only the bar snack menu available for food. Imagine you come in after a night out and are need a bit of food to soak up the alcohol, a ham and cheese toastie or a crisp sandwich would be ideal, right? Well this is exactly what’s on offer. There are also meat and cheese platters available from the bar. As an extra touch, when you get your bill, it comes with a couple of teabags (Irish brand, Barry’s , not quite Yorkshire Tea), ready for a brew when home.

When the kitchen completes in February, Homeboy’s food offering will grow to 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.

Overall thoughts

With its relaxed Irish hospitality and welcome from Aaron and Ciarán, Homeboy is an inviting bar to stop for a drink after work for anyone, including those in the LGBT community, in the Islington area of London. Besides the atmosphere, it is where to find some of the best Guinness outside of Ireland. We won’t encourage you to stay out too late, but those boys and their handsome bartender might.

The only downside was the toilet situation, somewhat archaic in comparison – let’s hope they have a renovation planned.

Homeboy is located at 108 Essex Road, London, N1 8LX

For more information, visit homeboybar.com

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