Regular readers of the Arbuturian – fine bunch of people that you are – may remember that I have designated myself Hawksmoor reviewer-in-chief. It’s not, to be fair, the most onerous task of all time. Since Will and Huw first opened in Spitalfields over a decade ago, they have managed that rare combination of ensuring that the steaks remain as exemplary as the first day that an enquiring carnivore came through their doors, that the wines and cocktails are a oenophile’s dream, and, most importantly, that you would want to spend both time and a considerable amount of money in one of them. Judging by the continued success of the brand, nothing much needs to be done.
And yet, and yet. When the very first Hawksmoor opened, it was a rough and ready steakhouse, which served outstanding meat, chips and cocktails, but it certainly didn’t have the suave assurance that has come to categorise the other entries in the group. And so the time came that the doors were closed, the interior revamped, the menu updated and it was reopened to cater to a hungry and expectant City crowd. But is it any good?
The answer, thank God, is ‘yes’. Not that there weren’t a couple of qualifications along the way. The room is plush, comfortable and stylish; the founders haven’t wasted their time in New York, where a Hawksmoor is to open this year. The opening salvo of cocktails are as excellent as ever; the Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew is never going to disappoint, because it’s one of the best things that you’ll enjoy in London with your trousers on. And for a tenner, it’s just as well that the belt remains firmly fastened.
We note odd signs of slippage. Starters of scallops and bone marrow on sourdough toast are ordered, and are excellent. The white Rioja suggested with them does not appear, because it isn’t chilled enough. Another cocktail appears, which is more than acceptable, but it’s an oddity in somewhere of this calibre that a wine has to be dragged up from the deep recesses of the cellar. And then we order a Chateaubriand, and the associated wine recommended – off the ‘classics’ menu no less – proves to be a very odd cove. We send it back, but our sommelier is unabashed by our rejection. ‘We get to have them to take home.’ Jolly good.
If there was the slightest suggestion that things weren’t quite at the level we expect from the best steak restaurants in London, matters were soon rectified. The Chateaubriand arrived, and was exemplary; 650g between two proved a behemoth of excellence and subtlety. Of course, we ordered the anchovy hollandaise and Bearnaise, and they were delicious. A very good Bordeaux appeared, and we made happy murmuring noises. The room was packed from start to finish; the formula works.
Of course, there were puddings and cocktails. The old fashioned – the sort of thing your GP tells you will shorten your lifespan by an impressive amount – was the stuff of happy fantasies. Rhubarb tart is what you would like from a tart called rhubarb. The cheese is Stilton, and very fine Stilton it is too. Owen, who is our waiter, couldn’t have been more charming and cuts quite a dash; my friend and I decide that he’s either an actor or ought to be. But the most important thing is that we have fun, and a lovely night. Just like every other Hawksmoor, then. And chances are that you will, too.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields, 157a Commercial Street, London E1. For more information, including menus and details of other venues, visit www.thehawksmoor.com.