Dinner in the dock: we put the Judge & Jury restaurant on trial at the Courthouse Hotel on Old Street, East London
It was at the Magistrates’ Court and police station in Shoreditch that Reggie and Ronnie Kray had their first criminal hearing in 1965 for demanding ‘money with menaces’ and returned three years later on preliminary murder charges. The second oldest court in the UK, it was where English playwright Joe Orton was accused of stealing and defacing books from Islington library with his boyfriend – later murderer – Kenneth Halliwell, and where countless other notorious characters were detained, defended and charged.
Today, following a £40million refurbishment in 2016, the Grade II-listed East London stalwart is now home to the second outpost of the Courthouse Hotel, owned by Joginder Sanger. Situated opposite the Clove Club, this upper end of Old Street has transformed into a sophisticated pocket of fine dining, steeped in the storied history of East London.
Behind the hotel’s columned, Italianate façade lies an opulent reception with high ceilings and a grand, central staircase, topped by a statue of a British guard. Retaining the building’s Edwardian grandeur, period features have been restored such as the stained glass atriums and mosaic flooring.
The building’s past flickers in this five-star hotel, from the iron bars in place of partition walls to the line of refurbished cells in the Jailhouse Bar, preserved and transformed into VIP booths with metal doors and hard benches intact. Jailbird touches pepper the hotel but sit on the right side of novelty, from the imposing handcuffed Mona Lisa painting to the pun-heavy cocktail menu of tipples including Ball and Chain and Solitary. Brick walls and metal accents are tempered by velvet furnishings in fitting silver hues, offset by vibrant blue bar stools.
Courtroom wood-panelled walls feature in the recently unveiled Judge & Jury restaurant, which specialises in sophisticated and hearty British cuisine. Amid legal paraphernalia, my guest and I settle in for dinner in the dock. I begin with slow-cooked pork belly, both crisp and tender in perfect proportions and served with a sweet slick of spiced squash puree.
Crispy baked cod follows, on a juicy bed of creamy wild mushrooms and puy lentils, while my guest tucks into a plate of linguine with anchovies, sultanas and nutty gremolata. We swap dessert for a decadently sweet, chocolate liqueur cocktail, shaken and served with expertise and aplomb.
Drinks continue in the Jailhouse Bar, where I am joyfully detained until nightfall, plucking from a vast and carefully curated menu that can also be enjoyed on the rooftop Sky Terrace. Overindulgence? Guilty as charged.