Hawksmoor is my kind of restaurant. They do steak. They do it brilliantly: carefully sourced from the best supplier in the country, lovingly cooked and simply served with tasty sides. Their wine list is designed to match and their selection of puddings and whiskies is frankly dangerous. It’s a concept that just works.
When I heard they were launching a more casual venue I was very interested, when they announced they were doing a half-price soft launch I set a calendar reminder. At 11am the email duly arrived and I don’t think i’ve ever typed faster. They received thousands of responses within seconds, somehow they managed to decipher my frenzied keyboard smashing and offered me a table.
A short walk from Farringdon station, near Smithfields, they’re in a prime location. From the outside its quiet and restrained, just a large glass window and a discrete door. Inside you can sense the Hawksmoor heritage, there’s a leather banquette and big comfy chairs, but it’s much more relaxed. More importantly, it’s a great relief to see a restaurant opening without the exposed brickwork, silly tables and uncomfortable stools.
The menu plays to their strengths – it’s hunks of top quality meat, carefully cooked. They have a handful of dishes on the menu and a chalkboard of steaks. They serve a Hawksmoor-esque range of cocktails, interesting beer and reasonably priced wine – we went for a decent Bordeaux. The service is keen and friendly, if a little hap-hazard. However, it is a soft-launch so I’ll let that slide!
While we decided on the wine we ordered one of their nibbles – goats butter, anchovies and crispbreads. Very nice, though three pieces between two diners felt a little stingy for what is an incredibly simple dish.
To start we ordered the Brixham crab and the spare ribs. The crab was cut with little bits of chilli and served on lettuce with a buttery hollandaise. The ribs were beautifully cooked: soft, unctuous and with a gentle paprika spice.
For the mains we decided to go all out and had the rib-eye, the deckle and a beef rib. The rib-eye was ordered rare but came medium-well. When we mentioned this it was whisked away and after short wait replaced with a much larger steak, perfectly rare. It was pretty strongly salted, but I rather liked that. They took the steak off the menu and comped us our bottle of wine – no fuss and a generous gesture. Top marks.
The deckle was fab – it’s an unusual cut that comes from the muscle around the rib-eye fillet. It’s richly flavoured with a really nice texture. They cooked it very rare, but so long as it’s not mooing I’m fine with it.
The beef rib was wonderful slow cooked until fork-soft and beautifully sauced. The kimchi is something they’ve borrowed from their Hawksmoor burger. It’s really interesting – spicy and slightly effervescent.
For sides we went with beef dripping potatoes (crisp, fluffy and very good – if not quite up to the Hawksmoor version), skin on chips (which were damn near perfect, far crisper than the usual ‘rustic’ options you find elsewhere) and marvellous buttered broccoli.
For dessert we went with the popcorn ice cream and a cherry pie. The ice cream was a good soft serve, drenched in a caramel sauce and lots of topping. The cherry pie was really well made – delicate crisp pastry and sweet juicy filling. It’s crying out for a little booze, and I did find a couple of stones, but otherwise it’s great.
To finish we felt it was only right to sample the whiskies – two Ardbegs were a very positive addition to a damp Saturday afternoon.
They’re obviously still working out the kinks, but even from this early preview it shows huge promise. It’s a little more upmarket than Flatiron, John Salt or Pitt Cue Co, but without the price tag you’d associate with its big brothers. It’s a fantastic evening out without being an occasion. Grab some carnivorous friends and have a great time.