On Monday night we returned, with our excellent friend Ricard, to Hawksmoor Spitalfields in London for the first time in three years. There was a time where nearly 10% of this blog consisted of articles about Hawksmoor or the wines we drank there. Our visit conclusively proved it was worth such heavy coverage – going to Hawksmoor is still a truly magical experience!
Before going to Hawksmoor I kept arguing with The Editor that to have a piece of extremely high quality beef cooked on a charcoal grill (at Hawksmoor) was an incomparable experience to grilling a piece of extremely high quality beef (from Beechcroft Farm) in a cast-iron grill pan at home.
To test this at Hawksmoor I had the last cut of beef that I had from Beechcroft Farm, a tail end of fillet. I still maintain that the experience of tail fillet from Beechcroft grilled at home is a practically incomparable experience to having the same cut of Hawksmoor beef cooked by them on a charcoal grill – but, I assure you dear reader, that Hawksmoor is definitely better!
Not only is the meat better and better cooked than what one can achieve at home, but the whole experience of eating at Hawksmoor is an exercise in pleasurable comfort.
The restaurant may have tables close together, and it is always full, but the calmness, knowledge and efficiency of the staff and the well-judged pace of a meal lull you into thinking you are in a little oasis of relaxation in this busy restaurant.
Of course, it helps if you have some quality drink. On Mondays Hawksmoor only charge a fiver (for any bottle size) corkage so the three of us had a magnum and three bottles to jolly us along. I shall give you some brief notes after I have raved a bit more about Hawksmoor.
When I cut into my tail piece of fillet, and found it to be meltingly tender, then tasted the divine piece of muscle it was truly one of those “Shitting fuck! This is amazing!” moments. Their meat is of obscenely high quality, clearly from very well-treated animals, aged to perfection and cooked with peerless skill (although do not tell The Editor I said that!).
It is true the meat is not cheap, but by arse it is worth every penny. If you want the very best, you sometimes have to be prepared to pay. Luckily money spiders must have been twirling around the heads of Team Elitistreview and so we were happy that we could afford such magisterial pieces of flesh.
I believe the starter of choice is still the Tamworth belly ribs. Alas, you only get two for your eleven quid. However, they have been prepared with such pain-staking skill to infuse them with powerful, complex flavours and render them to a texture that just dissolves on your palate. This means that, once again, they are worth every penny.
The Editor and Ricard shared an 800g Porterhouse steak and, based on the few little tastes I was allowed, I find it hard to express how much better this was than the disgustingly filthy, inexpertly prepared Porterhouse I had at Peter Luger in New York City.
You see, most US beef it utter crap. ‘USDA Grade A corn fed beef’ is a repulsive contrivance and I have no idea how the natives stomach it. They should think themselves pretty god-damned lucky that a branch of Hawksmoor will soon be open In New York and, I am assured, they will be serving quality British grass fed beef. Finally, Americans can have decent steak!
Side orders to get in Hawksmoor remain their amazing macaroni and cheese, brilliantly crispy triple cooked chips and Stilton Hollandaise to dip the chips into. Ricard had béarnaise sauce and pronounced himself well content with it.
So, let me make this abundantly clear, it is virtually impossible to have more fun fully clothed than going to Hawksmoor – especially on a Monday if you have access to high grade wine (Hawksmoor have a good list, but it is cheaper to bring your own and pay a fiver). This is what we drank:
Riesling Auslese Graacher Himmelreich 2006, J. J. Prum
Wonderful poise and balance between an awful lot of acidity and really quite a lot of sugar. A sculpted wonder of such beauty it could bring tears to the eyes. It brought tears to my eyes when the searing acidity hit my fragile stomach.
However, the balance was exquisite, the length incredible, the fruit joyfully playful and it was made with such skill and style that you could drink it all day and never, for even a moment, desire anything else.
Even though our bottle was placed in an ice bucket the other end of the dining room our bottle must have lasted three minutes. Truly a taste of heaven.
I am hoping Ricard will chime in with a comment revealing the producers of these next two wines and I do not know who they are and my eyesight is not up to reading them off the photographs.
A Spanish Verdejo fermented in new French oak. When we first tried this it was rather warm and the oak stuck out in a slightly green, prickly manner. Chilling definitely needed.
Once it was chilled it had a pleasant floral fruitiness and good body. The Editor described it as “like Viognier, but nice” and I can happily agree with that.
It was supposedly wildly boozy but that did not show in the slightest. It really was a jolly nice drink.
Rioja ‘San Vicente’ 2012
A generic Rioja that had been aged for 22 months in new French oak rather than the American stuff they usually use. 100% Tempranillo.
Lovely, fleshy fruit. Really well-titted out as far as red berry fruit goes. Also, alas, screamingly alcoholic and after I had washed a few mouthfuls of beef out of my hiatus hernia with some big gulps of this, I did feel the warm glow of booze needling at my almost total lack of sleep the night before.
Not at all bad, in fact that fruit was a real charmer, but you just have to accept you are going to get pissed.
Hermitage 2007, Domaine du Colombier en magnum
A lovely, big, bold, masculine Hermitage at a very attractive stage of development.
It has great structure with chunky tannins and an edge of acidity, all supporting a lot of fruit. It had a hint of leatheriness to it as well.
Pleasingly, it was only 13.5% so, whilst it was confidently structured and full of delicious fruit, it was not one of the over-extracted, alcohol monsters that the more famous names in Hermitage seem to think people want to drink – the bastards.
Hermitage should be manly, but drinking it should not be a fight. This was a really seriously good, beautiful, charming magnum of Hermitage.
Luger is not the gold standard for steak in the US. That is akin to saying American hamburgers are bad because you had a bad one at Macdonald’s.
USDA is indeed ridiculous and on top of that Lugers douses their “steaks” in butter. There are good steaks in NYC. In numerous places. Lugers is not one of them. It is a tourist trap.
David – glad you had a wonderful time. I am very peeved indeed that I wasn’t able to make it! Manchester was… Mancunian.
Humberto, we were recommended Lugers as the authentic New York steak by a friend who regularly travels there. Since, at that time, I didn’t know anyone in NYC who could make a different recommendation, we had to go with the only information we had. It was really shit. We ordered our steak damned rare and it came with all but the thinnest of layers on the outside at fridge temperature. Not keeping a stack of steaks at room temperature ready to grill is really a total arse’s type of mistake. And the meat was total wank.
Tom, shame you could not make it, it was wild fun! We must arrange to meet in Town at some point soon!
Humberto, I should add that we found ourselves another two times in steakhouses that our guidebook remarked upon as being quality chain restaurants. The steaks were dross in them too. We did go to one place were we had better beef experiences. The name escapes me, but it could have been Bistro Daniel, whatever it may have been we both had a “Twenty dollar burger” and it was really pretty good.