This East London steakhouse and cocktail bar has had bloggers buzzing, posting, and tweeting for years. Hawksmoor has a venerable reputation as one of the few places in the capital that knows how to grill a decent steak, but for some reason it took me 4 years to get myself through the door.
A juicy steak is a rare treat, as I refuse to cook it at home. I like my meat bloody on the inside, charred on the outside, and no domestic grill or oven will do the job. Most professional kitchens in London get it badly wrong, too (the Gaucho all-style-no-content chain for one), but word of mouth made me confident that we were on to a good thing at Hawksmoor. The last great steak I had was over a year ago in NYC: a hanger steak salad at Bourdain's lovely Brasserie Les Halles, so I'd had a long wait.
A simple sparsely-furnished space on Commercial Road, the restaurant clearly focuses all its creative and financial efforts on pleasing punters palates. The brunch menu is a celebration of meat, most notably meat from the traditional and noble Yorkshire longhorn cattle bred by The Ginger Pig. They offer 7 dry-aged steak cuts, the house favourites being Bone-in prime rib, Porterhouse (similar to T-bone), and Chateaubriand. LondonEater, a rather wonderful food blogger, recently posted a 'study' on steak cuts and London's grills, so I'll hand you over to him to elucidate on the nature of each cut.
On cuts, it would have been helpful to see the cuts before choosing them. They bring the slabs of meat out on a board to help you choose at the much-lauded Goodman steakhouse (Mayfair) and Hix's Oyster & Chop House.
Seated and served excellent pale ale, red wine, and a refreshing virgin cocktail (I left the components up to them: suffice to say their creation was as exciting as a non-alcoholic beverage can get) on a rainy Sunday we wasted no time, skipped starters and headed straight for the protein fix. I've been getting a few concerned looks - being 38-weeks pregnant - when ordering meat 'rare', but Hawksmoor staff didn't bat an eyelid, clearly confident in the superior quality of their meat.
I shared an 800g rare Porterhouse with N, while the boys - averse to the concept of sharing food (naturally) - did their own thing, ordering a 600g bone-in sirloin and a hefty 750g Porterhouse. Sides: chips, steamed spinach, piquant tomato salad, a beautiful fluffy-soft bearnaise.
This 750g Porterhouse was immense. My greedy companion topped it off with an order of two fried eggs, and bone marrow, as if setting out on a collision course with his gut, not a pleasurable gustatory experience. I eat my words: he ate and loved every morsel.
My shared Porterhouse was a beautiful sight, the fierce heat having seared the bone as well as the thick, juicy, and intense strips of meat. With bone marrow alongside, it pushed every carnivorous button. I seem to remember the table going quiet for a few minutes, as the pleasure of eating overcame us (this is all beginning to sound a bit erotic, forgive me. It's been a while...).
The triple-cooked chips were light, fluffy, and crispy, as they should be. We ordered two servings to share between four of us, believing that would leave us satisfied, but ended up with four. All sides were £4 each.
Energised by the protein rush, bones chewed, and plates clean, we dived headlong into the dessert menu. Don't expect sorbets, foams, or fruit salads here: they do proper classic puds, and do them well.
Chocolate brownie with salt caramel ice cream. £6.50. I'll leave the picture to do the talking.
Rhubarb trifle, £6. This was devoured by the 750g Porterhouse + marrow + eggs companion, ordering lunch as if this was his last meal on earth.
Scoops of cornflake ice cream (a clever nostalgia hit, made from milk that has had cornflakes soaked in it overnight, apparently) and rich, dark, salted caramel ice cream hit all the right notes, and brought the meal to a suitably decadent conclusion.
The savvy duo behind the restaurant, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, are opening a second branch in Covent Garden in the autumn, bringing to life what is currently a culinary wasteland between Soho and the Thames (save for the exceptional Terroirs and Rules, and serviceable Wahaca).
It wasn't cheap (£239, incl. great service, for 4. Yes, ouch.), but I'd have worried if it was. A small price to pay for a month's protein quota, top quality produce, and a memorable meat-fest. Next on the list is Goodman, currently jostling with Hawksmoor for London's top 'steak' spot.
157 Commercial Street