After running the festivals with their corrugated counter, Hot Box landed on Commercial Street, Spitalfields with a proper BBQ cantina. Open only at night, you can expect to find a very crowded place, even in the middle of the week. Hot Box is a loud venue, the smell and the heat from the kitchen blended with the music and the lively chatting from the main dining area, make the restaurant a real animated and attractive scene.
The discrete entrance drives you from the street to a dark lobby, only lit up with a Hot Box neon which gives a night club look to the meet and greet. From there you will have a sneak peak into the restaurant through the glass and chicken wire sandwich windows. A few customers are already sitting along the framework with their craft & meats (as described under the Hot Box logo). Waiting for available seats, we are proposed to enjoy some cocktails at the 46 & Mercy basement bar.
The place looks like a art gallery from the 80’s, with posters and artworks displayed on walls behind white timber structure. The colour scheme is also a reminder of the era with a medium grey ceiling and bright red columns. Even the desk lamps arranged in pendants above the bar match the 80’s inspiration. Concrete floor and large cement tiles on walls and bar front perfect this post modernism atmosphere.
After some refreshing drinks (Rye Me To The Moon and Frankie Says Relax), we are kindly taken upstairs to our table. The restaurant is divided in two spaces, on the right hand side, there is a busy bar facing two short communal tables and a few tables for two.
On the left hand side, the theatrical open kitchen is widely exposed to the main dining area, with two stretched communal tables and the shelf along the lobby window.
Almost everything has been covered in black, as we were literality into a BBQ pit. The ceiling, the extraction pipes, the brick walls, the kitchen front as a freight container wall, the reclaimed wooden floor, the table tops and benches, everything is painted, tainted, dipped into charcoal.
The only other colour present in the space is a vibrant red, as a reminder of the fact that you are here exclusively for meat. Though the bright red columns, some patches of orange brickwork and the reflection of the lobby neon, bring the only contrasting tone.
The menu is classically (for that kind of venue) proposed on a clip board, with a slim sheet for the drinks and two A4 pages, one for the cocktails and an other for the food. The menu is concise and the layout is bold and clear.
A large black border runs all around the sheets and an impactful type font marks HOT BOX at the top with the strapeline Craft and Meats. A homely but still quite elegant touch is brought to the table thanks to the cotton kitchen towel, the usual mismatched cutlery and the classic glass ware, these contrast quite well with the roughly burned boards and enamel plates that serve the food.
The overall space is very casual, shoulder to shoulder, customers are talking loud, the platters are really generous and the staff friendly and attentive. Crowded but with a good service rhythm, I would say that Hot Box is to the ribs what Meat Mission is to the burger.