Hoi Polloi is a restaurant from the people behind Bistrotheque and Shrimpy’s and is situated inside the recently redeveloped Ace Hotel in Shoreditch (formerly The Crowne Plaza). It’s a bland looking thing from the outside but on the inside the hotel’s a cool looking space. If Habitat were to open a hotel it would look a little bit like this.
You can either access the restaurant via its own entrance (through a flower shop which is rather unusual) or go through the hotel lobby like we did so you can have a good nosey around.
The dining room was large and had a feeling of an upmarket Canteen (the restaurant chain that is). It had a relaxed yet bustling atmosphere. Our proper east London waiter was a real charmer and made the whole experience a very enjoyable one – he was great.
The menu was printed on a newspaper which was an interesting touch. We decided to skip starters and instead ordered some snacks. The puffy scratchings with green sauce (£3.50) were in fact pork scratchings with apple sauce – just call them that! They had been made into giant Quavers but sadly lacked any flavour whatsoever. The apple sauce was good though. The chickpea fritters and tarragon yoghurt (£4) were really tasty but were so delicate they fell apart when dunked into the dip, which was a tad annoying.
The pickled onion rings with salt cod paste (£4) were more a side than a snack. Red onion had been used making them very sweet which was a pleasant contrast against the strong fishy paste.
For main I went for the skirt steak, onion fritter and dripping chips (£16). As it was served on such a large plate it looked a little sparse but the beef was utterly divine. Cooked perfectly medium rare with a real smokey charred exterior. A little onion fritter added extra sweetness and the chips were really salty and crispy. Quite small though – I could have done with a bit of spinach or something.
My gentleman companion went for the pressed lamb, Jerusalem artichoke, radish and Madeira (£18) which was a touch on the cold side. The chunk of lamb was well cooked but it was drenched in a sweet and far too watery sauce – the dish was even served with a spoon. The carrots were undercooked too.
The pork cheeks, spiced apple and pickled carrot (£15.50) was also luke warm. It featured the apple sauce and some of the pork scratchings we’d seen earlier which seemed a little unimaginative. The overall flavour though was simple but very enjoyable.
Our vegetarian friend (I know right, we have a vegetarian friend) went for the wild mushrooms, artichoke and potato dumplings (£13.50). It was quite a small portion and it was also not warm enough – a common feature throughout our meal. It tasted nice though.
Desserts helped finish on a high; the date pudding, marmalade ice cream and treacle sauce (£7) was as good a sponge pudding as you’ll find anywhere, although it could have done with lots more treacle sauce. The slightly bitter marmalade ice cream cut through the rich sugar brilliantly.
The chocolate Cambridgeshire cream (£7) was a rich chocolate mousse and although I don’t think a single human being could finish it on their own, it was great for sharing around the table; a totally indulgent delight.
I wouldn’t come to Hoi Polloi seeking the best meal of your life or an unforgettable experience. But its buzzy atmosphere matched with brilliant service and food that’s pleasantly edible ensures you’ll have a good time. You could do a lot worse than have dinner here…