The original Hawksmoor opened in London's Shoreditch in 2006 and rapidly built up a fanatical following due to its sublime steaks and eclectic cocktails. This restaurant is the second venture of restaurateurs Will Beckett and Huw Gottby, and opened in late 2010 in the old Combe brewery in the heart of Covent Garden. It continues in the same vein as the original, offering an almost identical menu, but on a larger and slightly more polished scale.
On entering through the heavy double doors, I descended the steps to the underground bar passing a playful "Beef and Liberty" sign on my way – presumably a relic of London's legendary steak club, the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, which was active in the 18th and 19th centuries, and from which Hawksmoor takes inspiration. I'm not a fan of subterranean dining spaces, the lack of windows usually make me feel like I'm in some sort of claustrophobic bunker, and the low-slung ceiling and dim lighting of the bar area here didn't help matters either. However, the main restaurant was cavernous enough, with a vaulted brick ceiling and beautiful parquet flooring adding to its charm.
As I was among the first to arrive, I took a seat at the bar to wait for the others. The bar menu here is quite an extensive affair, listing some classic and fantastically quirky cocktails, with names like 'Alamagoozlum' and 'Johnny-from-London'. I shouldn't have been surprised by the quality of the drinks as the bar is run by 'Shaky' Pete Jeary, one of London's best mixologists, and is definitely worth a visit in its own right. I ordered a 'Tobacco Old Fashioned', which is made with Hawksmoor's own tobacco-infused bitters, and was one of the finest examples I have tasted. My friend's 'Hawksmoor Fizz' was a cooling and zesty mix of gin, lemon, cream, orange flower water, and egg white. Both drinks were made with extreme precision, and we watched in awe as the barman carefully and methodically created our cocktails.
Half a dozen Cumbrae rock oysters, served with their briny juices intact and traditional mignonette sauce on the side.
Roasted bone marrow and slow-cooked onions were smeared over grilled bread and greedily wolfed down. A little went a long way though as the bone marrow was impossibly rich and creamy with a deep beefy taste.
And so, on to the main courses. Although I have heard good things about the burgers at Hawksmoor (it seems no review of Hawksmoor is complete without a mention of their infamous kimchi burger), it was vast quantities of red meat we were craving. Unlike at London rival Goodman, the steaks at Hawksmoor all come from a single breed – grass-fed Longhorn cattle reared in North Yorkshire by The Ginger Pig – and are dry aged for at least 35 days. They are then grilled to perfection on a fiercely hot charcoal grill. Your choice is simply one of cut and weight.
I'm a sucker for Porterhouse steak – with a combination of succulent sirloin and tender fillet, they are a meat lover's dream cut, and we ordered 900g versions of this steak (medium-rare, naturally) to share in pairs. They arrived in cast iron skillets; handily pre-cut to make sharing easier. We also ordered some sauces on the side and managed to select from most of what the restaurant offers: Béarnaise, peppercorn, Stilton hollandaise, and bone marrow gravy. Sides of beef dripping chips, triple cooked chips, roast field mushrooms, and creamed spinach were the token vegetables in this veritable meat feast.
these two, but remember, my friend had already had starters too!
Throughout the meal we drank a truly stunning 2005 Vosne-Romanée. Packed with red fruit, it had a heavenly flavour and a fantastic sense of vitality. With our puddings we couldn't resist the allure of a 1998 Château d'Yquem – the nectar of the gods – which was sipped in near silence. Extraordinary!
After dinner, we gingerly took our meat-laden bellies back to the bar for some more drinks. There, we noticed a gruesome sounding "Zombie" cocktail, containing three different kinds of rum, grenadine, grapefruit, and lime, with a hefty slug of absinthe thrown in for good measure. Somewhat ominously, this drink came with a limit of one per person. Intrigued, we asked the waitress what it was like; "it's a good beginning to the end of the night" came her reply. We ordered two. Five minutes later, a couple of glass goblets the size of melons arrived. After that I don't remember too much to be honest, other than the bill being brought out, which came in just north of a rather sobering £1,600 between the six of us. Oh, and I may or may not have tried to hire a bicycle rickshaw to take me back home to Battersea, a 4 mile trek away.
So, Hawksmoor: Meat. Fire. Wine. What more is there to say? Just go!
Food: 7 / 10
Service: 8 / 10
Ambiance: 8 / 10
Hawksmoor (Seven Dials)
11 Langley Street
London WC2H 9JG
Tel: +44 (0)20 7856 2154