There was a time when ten percent of the posts on Elitistreview mentioned Hawksmoor. There have been changes and more branches since then, but my trip to Hawksmoor Air Street last Monday showed the Hawksmoor branches remain the must visit dining locations in London.
Hawksmoor’s recipe for success is simple to express – I would define it as ‘Relaxed pleasure performed perfectly’. This idea permeates everything at Hawksmoor, and I have never witnessed them fail to deliver this when I have been dining or drinking there.
Let us start with drinks, as one usually does. The cocktail list is individual, engaging and extremely tempting. After scanning a few pages ones’ mind is a cascade of completing preference for several of the cocktails. The cocktail list is comprehensive, but not so long you cannot quickly find your chosen beverage once it comes to order.
The cocktails themselves are mixed with the skill and style to make almost any choice delicious (make that any choice if gin does not make you projectile vomit, as it does me). From classic martinis to exotic, flaming zombies, everything will be perfectly executed with a combination of carefully chosen ingredients to make you laugh all the way to the wine list.
And what a wine list it is! Hawksmoor is an up-market dining establishment, so there is no rubbish on the list, but mark-ups are perfectly reasonable and, considering it starts at the quality end of the wine shelf, there is a broad range to cover all but the tight-fisted’s wine requirements. The selection of wines is intelligent, unstuffy and food friendly.
The staff are also unstuffy and one of the towering pinnacles of the Hawksmoor dining experience. They are dressed as you should be, smart/casual civvies and this adds to the impression that they will be serving up relaxed pleasure.
If you are happy then the staff are happy, they genuinely want you to enjoy the hilarious experience that is dining at Hawksmoor. Every time I have been there are plenty of smiles and grins at my table and when they see that the staff never fail to smile and grin back.
Naturally, the staff know the menu back to front (except once when one waitress – a person after my own heart – totally understandably did not know what that day’s vegetarian option was; after much laughter it took her less than thirty seconds to find out), but the skill and panache they can guide a neophyte through it is exemplary.
Hawksmoor value their staff and you certainly should too; they will look after you with as much skill, and certainly more honest happiness, as at the very smartest places in town.
This visit was my first to the Air Street branch, so I finally got to try the new string that this branch added to Hawksmoor’s bow: fish. Hawksmoor have always offered lobster, but with Air Street they decided to offer a wider range of fish dishes. All of these are as well presented and cooked with the skill and attention to quality that the food at Hawksmoor has always been prepared with.
My scallops with garlic and white Port were a comfort dish but executed perfectly. The scallops had a pile of toasted garlic and parsley on them, and sat in hot white Port (with plenty of butter), yet remained perfectly cooked, grilled on the outside and quivering translucently on the inside. Pure pleasure.
One of my friends opted for a piece of monkfish. I stuck my fork into it whilst he was not looking and, once again, not a hint of being over-cooked. Over-cooking fish seems to be a thing revelled in by the British (go to any crap fish and chip shop to see this), but not at Hawksmoor – pleasure, performed perfectly.
I am not damaged enough to care about vegetarian food. Let us just assume if that is the kind of thing you like, then it will be the kind of thing you like. So let us move onto greater pleasures.
Hawksmoor is, first and foremost, a temple to meat. Piggy breakfasts, hearty Sunday lunches and steak. Steak. That is what Hawksmoor is dedicated to. It is what they do best. It is why they exist.
Long ago a comparative tasting of steaks from cattle and butchers the length and breadth of the country showed that Hawksmoor sourced the best meat possible for their restaurants. There is, literally, nothing better in the UK. Despite their claims of superiority, I have never had any that is in that strange place known as abroad, either.
If you make some idiotic choice about how you want it cooked, the staff will guide you gently to a more sensible degree of grilling for the cut of meat. However, the customer is king and if you really want your fillet steak well-done they will happily ruin a fine piece of meat for you on their charcoal grill.
That grill is usually employed to more pleasurable ends and employed to great skill. The steak is grilled to perfection, with just the right amount of char on the outside and the correct amount of cooking (or lack thereof) in the centre. Once removed from the grill the steaks are elegantly presented, be it a single steak for one or a large hunk of animal sliced up for several to share.
The steaks melt, they ooze fleshy fluids, they satiate, satisfy and stimulate. You think you do not like steak? Go and have a Hawksmoor steak! You think you have had a good steak? Go and have a Hawksmoor steak!! You think you need a rapturous dinner? Go and have a Hawksmoor steak!!! Nothing touches and tweaks those bits of you that only the pleasure of flesh can gratify like a Hawksmoor steak. Very good, really!
All the sides are executed with the same skill and precision, but all aimed at heightening the joy of meat. Triple-cooked chips, beef dripping fries, macaroni and cheese, Stichelton hollandaise… all brilliantly supportive of the brilliant steak (I would not know about the creamed spinach).
The steaks, the food in general, the staff, the drinks, none of them follow a complex set of rules, it is just relaxed pleasure, performed perfectly. I do occasionally like more complex pleasures, but when I lived in London and could afford (with some financial support) to go to a favourite restaurant once a fortnight, Hawksmoor was always the destination. You should make Hawksmoor your destination.
I apologise for the recent lack of posts on Elitistreview. The causes are:
1: I have been moving home. Elitistreview Court a lovely house with big rooms, hot showers and space for wine.
2: Broadband was only plumbed in yesterday, I have had patchy Internet via my phone.
3: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! My back!