Running a successful cocktail bar isn’t easy; nor is managing a nightclub. Combining both, then, to an outsider at least, seems nothing short of madness. And yet, Gerry Calabrese has seemingly looked at the odds, thought ‘sod it, we’ll try anyway’ and given London it’s very own little pony: The Hoxton Pony. Trendy, yet sophisticated, this club-bar-hybrid sees many a famous face too, with Professor Green, Nat Weller and Henry Holland often stopping by for a spot of Shoreditch glam. Evidently, everyone loves it here so you’re gonna want to check it out too. Don’t wanna be looking foalish now...
The bar, spread over two equally-sized floors, is a stone’s throw (or, if you prefer, a mare’s jump) away from Shoreditch High Street. It’s a relatively neat and compact venue, painted on the outside in an unassuming dark grey with obscured glass windows. Entering from the busy street, you’ll find yourself in the cocktail bar area, a calmer space with wooden floors, bright, soft lighting and several comfortable seating arrangements. Descend the staircase and you’ll reach the dance floor. Expect to say goodbye to glowing spotlights and say hello to neon-pink tube lights slashing their way across the black ceiling, diffusing their beams in the glass bar top, black leather chairs and floor to ceiling mirrors that line the perimeter. Like upstairs, the bar is the room’s focal point, the back of which is decorated with not-very-pony-like taxidermy - seagulls in fact, gallivanting about on a cliff top. Well, they already broke rules about what kind of venue to be... The Hoxton Pony laughs at your restrictive ‘rules’.
Music: House, Soul, Funk, RnB, Hip Hop, Garage, Disco, Commercial
Dress Code: Smart
Train Station: Shoreditch High Street
Address: The Hoxton Pony, 104-108 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3AH
Perhaps the only stable (Get it? No? Nevermind.) thing to say about this place is that you’re not likely to have the same night there twice. 60s, House, Soul, Party anthems and old skool (with a k, obviously) are all on the cards. Pre-set music varies too, with RnB a likely play – Mary J Blige, Usher, a bit of Rihanna. Thursdays are live music nights; on Fridays and Saturday, the DJs take centre stage. There’s usually an offer on somewhere too. Two for one Mojitos and discount bottles are the headliners and entry free discounts (it’s often free) are available if you get there early enough. Bottled beers – Heineken and Birra Moretti – fill the fridges and there’s wine and champagne available too. The spirit range, as you’d expect from a bar that makes up the entirety of the back wall, is extensive, but the venue really finds its feet with cocktails. Gentleman’s Agreement, for example, is a smoky, cinnamon-flavoured cocktail delivered with a generous base Gentleman Jack.
It only takes a couple of groups for this place to get busy so you won’t be alone for long if you arrive early. Fridays and Saturdays are noisy but rather than feeling claustrophobic in the small space, you’ll embrace it, charmed by the fact that the bartenders ask what you like to drink and actually care about your answer. Not surprisingly, it’s packed with the cool and composed types, but rather than feeling like you’re not one of them, keep your head, take another sip of your two for one Mojito and realise you are, only without a beanie because you had the good sense not to wear one inside.
The Hoxton Pony runs the risk of being an utter nightmare (don’t pull the long face, we needed a few more pony puns before signing off). Indeed, venues which promise so much, which, in this case means combining the elegance of a cocktail bar with the jollity of a nightclub, often fail to articulate a clear image or reason for being. This risk never manifests itself here and instead you’re offered a space in which to bat off the stress of the streets outside and bask in a venue designed for fun. Turn’s out it’s not just a pleasant pony, it’s one truly, rocking horse.