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Hunched in my coat, wrestling the commuting crowds, Leicester Square behind me I headed towards Covent Garden and the unique area known as Seven Dials. Excited, exhausted, half way through a long week. I was relishing what awaited me.
I walked brisk in the freezing February air, sheltering momentarily in the warm glow of the chain shops lining my way. Head down, shoulders up, chin buried in the collar of my coat, my eyes transfixed on the blue glow in my hands. My beacon showing me the way.
Passing Pineapple Dance Studios I could see that I was almost there. The entrance to Hawksmoor is grand, with heavy black doors leading into a small reception. You feel as though you are walking into an exclusive Gentlemen’s club of old.
“I’m meeting some friends here, can I wait in the bar?” I asked.
“Absolutely sir,” the receptionist responded. “It’s just down the stairs to the right, can I take your coat?”
I had prepared for a special evening, and as yet had not been disappointed. The rich wooden interiors transporting me back in time, glamorous yet understated. Downstairs the bar was something from the 1920s. Everything about Hawksmoor was screaming quality, the large thick hammered metal bar and the unique atmospheric lighting.
Settling myself I captured the eye of the bartender. Dressed in a crisp white shirt and black waistcoat he towered over me.
“Are you dining with us tonight sir? We can add your drinks on to your table’s bill.”
I swiftly ordered a bottle of Meantime Pale Ale.
Within moments of my first sip my party arrived and it was time to walk through the seductively lit bar to the main event.
Hawksmoor has developed a reputation in London, for a good reason. Enquire about the best steak and it is rare that it is not included in the response. Competing with Goodman’s and Gaucho, it requires something special to really stand out.
When it comes down to the food the focus here is the meat. The steaks stand on their own. Do not be disappointed when all that adorns your plate is the meat. After all that is what you have come to Hawksmoor for.
Experience has taught me to always order off the board. Ordering off the menu will get you a good steak, but the board showcases the best of what is available that evening. When it is gone, that’s it. Supplied by legendary London butchers, the Ginger Pig, the beef is nothing short of exceptional.
Hungry as I was, I went for the bone in prime rib, medium rare, with béarnaise sauce, creamed spinach and beef dripping chips on the side. My plate arrived soon after, crisp white with the meat positioned in the centre. I immediately began adding the accompaniments, a good spoonful of creamed spinach and sauce and a sprinkling of chips. The ingredients, simple and fresh let the beef shine as the main event.
Cooked to a perfect medium-rare and melting in my mouth every bite sent shivers down my spine as the flavours harmonized. All combinations on my plate were delicious on their own and in any combination I tried, a true triumph. In my opinion there was no part of the meal that was found wanting.
You would be forgiven for turning your nose up at the dessert menu as you loosen your belt leaning back in your chair. Greater men have fallen here too. However it is my job as a reviewer to push through this psychological barrier and make space. Peanut butter shortbread and salted caramel ice cream implores your participation. A delicious mix of salty and sweet this is the prefect end to the meal. The peanut taste is delicate yet still decadent, the ice cream is necessary to offer that lightness created by contrasting temperatures.
Is Hawksmoor the best steak in London? I don’t know, I am yet to have all of them, but it is hard to imagine many that could better the combination of food and atmosphere. A dinner at Hawksmoor is so much more than the food, it is a well crafted experience with every detail thought about and agonised over. If you are yet to try it I urge you to. It’s not cheap at around £50 a head for a good meal and wine, but I assure you it is entirely worth it.