Sunday, 23 November 2014

Restaurant Review - Hawksmoor, Seven Dials, London

We visited London in September to celebrate our son's second graduation. Part of the plan was lunch at a fancy restaurant. We decided on Hawksmoor, which I'd heard of from its excellent newspaper reviews. The Guardian's Jay Rayner, in particular, is a big fan. There are five or six Hakwsmoor restaurants scattered around London, but to describe it as a chain would give the wrong impression entirely.

We fetched up at the one in Seven Dials, near Covent Garden (11 Langley Street, London WC2H 9JG). If you didn't know it was there, you'd probably miss it. The street frontage is not much more than a pair of dark-coloured doors and with a sign above them. Once inside, you're in a lobby area with a reception desk and a cloakroom. The real action is down the stairs.

The site is part of what used to be the Watney-Combe brewery, and the restaurant and bar are located in a large brick-vaulted cellar with genuine parquet flooring. The chairs are upholstered in dark green leather, and the tables are made of dark wood. It's all very old-school, and the tables are not dressed up with heavy tablecloths and fancy napkins. Everything is warm and welcoming, because this place is really all about the food. Actually, it's all about the steaks, which are constructed from top-quality well-aged beef and come in sizes that include 'bring a friend' and go up to 'as big as your head'.

I apologise for the lack of photos, but I was toting a recently-acquired camera and couldn't get to grips with how to make it take good photos in low light - at least not before the food had gone stone cold.

To start with, I had something I'd want to try for a long time - bone marrow. It's the centre part of a marrowbone sawn lengthways down the middle. The waitress said it was dinosaur bone, but you can't fool me - I know it came from an elephant. It's grilled until the marrow is just on the point of melting, and served with some toasted sourdough bread and a slathering of salsa verde (which I found to be a little bit gritty with salt). Bone marrow is pretty much all buttery fat, and I loved it.

Next up, the main course. A little (250g) rib-eye steak, which came all alone in the middle of the plate. Between us we'd also ordered the triple-cooked chips, beef dripping roasted potatoes and an assortment of home-made sauces - ketchup, stilton hollandaise, bone marrow gravy and a few others. My wife may have ordered a vegetable. Everything was admirable, but that steak was the best I've ever had.

And finally, a decent sticky toffee pudding followed by coffee and salted caramel rolos. The Rolos were amazing. So amazing that when I got back home I had to make them myself - here's my salted caramel rolos recipe.

We didn't drink much - bottle of craft beer to begin with, a glass or two of Tokay with the dessert.

Expect to pay a lot of money for food of this quality. We had the Cheap Person's Lunchtime Express Menu (£24 for two courses), but it still topped out at about £50 per head.

And do you know what? It was worth every penny.

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