Friday, 16 November 2007

Hawksmoor, Shoreditch

It ought to be a cause of national shame that despite having some of the best small producers and fishing grounds in the world, British and Irish produce is generally ignored by our own restaurants and supermarkets. The finest fresh lobster and langoustine from the south coast, Welsh lamb and Scottish pedigree cattle are sold abroad, earning French and Spanish chefs the reputation for gastronomic excellence off the back of our own home-grown talent. Thankfully in recent years there has been a bit of a fightback, as interest in locally-sourced ingredients has increased and more restaurants and supermarkets (especially Waitrose, who deserve a special mention for their 'Local foods' section) are confident enough in their customers to market British food properly. But we are nowhere near equilibrium, and I still find it shocking that some uniformly beet-red slabs of 2nd-grade beef flown halfway across the world are regarded as the best you can eat in London.

So like a guardian angel sent from heaven to fight for British food on earth (or at least in our nation's capital) comes Hawskmoor on Commercial Road. All their meat is from a company called Ginger Pig, who regular Borough-market goers will recognise from their stall there. The menu is smallish - just a few different cuts of beef, a lamb and pork cut or two, and a scattering of sides. And it's not cheap either, my 600g sirloin coming in at a whopping £26.50. But if there's one thing that's self-evident as you cut through the charred crispy flesh into the rich, moist pink inside, is that it's worth every penny. There is simply nowhere else in the capital - nowhere in Europe I would hazard a guess - that has steaks of such stunning high quality, cooked perfectly. They are huge things too, thick with ribbons of fat that provide flavour and texture, almost a meal in themselves, but you'd be foolish not to try some of Hawskmoor's excellent side dishes, such as the rich garlicky spinach and the creamiest baked sweet potato you will ever have. Unfortunately this lunchtime the chips weren't up to the usual high standard - they tasted a bit dry - but this is not the norm based on numerous previous visits. Also the service can be hit and miss - one time we waited a whole hour before the food started to arrive, which was blamed on the macaroni cheese taking too long to make. Why they didn't have "up to an hour waiting time" stamped next to this item in the menu wasn't clear.

As if Hawksmoor wasn't happy enough with serving superb steaks, they also have a fantastic bar with a list of heritage cocktails that you will find nowhere else. My "Daiquiri No.2" was apparently one of Ernest Hemingway's favourites, although to be fair I've heard this about most cocktails. Boasting that your particular drink was favoured by Cuba's most famous alcoholic is a bit like saying you are attractive enough to sleep with Russell Brand. He wasn't that fussy, believe me.

I am told that even the non-meaty items on the menu such as the scallops and swordfish are worth having, so clearly there is talent in the kitchen beyond timing a 2-inch thick rib-eye to medium-rare. But it is the steaks that keep people coming back here. Knowledgeably sourced, perfectly cooked and honestly presented, there is no doubt that Hawksmoor serves the best steaks this side of the Atlantic.


Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon


Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Pople said...

Yeah the service isn't great, but I'd choose Hawksmoor over the Gaucho any day. Why get your meat from Argentina when there's perfectly good stuff here?

Anonymous said...

I ate here a few months back and here are my comments:

"Foodwise we split 2 starters of Grilled shrimp and Tamworth ribs. They added an extra king prawn to the normal portion of 2 so we could all have one. " Non descript king prawns, possibly not the freshest, grilled with no particular skill thus resulting in overcooked blighters" was the overriding view.

Ribs were dry and tough and the dry rub was slightly heavy on the chinese five spice.

Steakwise prices range from £18.50-£25.50 for the bone in sirloin. I chose this option along with one of my companions whilst the other had the smaller ribeye. We all requested black and blue but I don't think they can get their grill hot enough to pull off this request. Whilst the two sirloins were rare there just wasn't enough crust for me and the ribeye turned out medium at best. Texture wise slightly grainy and more chewy than the Galician beef I had recently experienced. Also whilst it at least tasted like beef it didn't have a particular aged aroma or flavour. I don't like my beef too high but I do like a little so another plus to the Galician stuff.

Chips very good, triple cooked but skinny for a pleasant change. Greens blah, mac and cheese was fine but 6 notes for a small portion on the side? Hmm. Accompanying sauces good enough, decent bernaise, homemade ketchup and a piquant peppercorn.

We split a pud of Cherry Sundae which utilised bought in ice cream.

So, the best steak in London? I haven't a clue though enough people seem to think so. However the cooking or meat quality didn't reach the standards set in places like Luger or even what I had last week in Valencia.

Worth a visit if you're craving a cocktail and steak and can't be arsed to cook one indoors but expensive for the level of execution on offer".

Whilst The Ginger Pig beef is ok I much prefer the beef at Farmer Sharp and Northfield where the beef flavour is more pronounced.

You know how easy it is to get steak of better flavour/texture/quality throughout europe? Obviously not otherwise you wouldn't have made such a sweeping statement. I suggest you do some digging around europe before claiming this is the best on offer;-)

Chris Pople said...

Well obviously I haven't searched every nook and cranny of Europe for steak; all I can say is that the steaks at Hawksmoor are at least as good as Luger's in New York, and certainly better than anything I've tried in France or Spain. Where would you recommend in Paris or Catalonia for steak? And next time I'm over there I'll seek them out.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I know many people including myself that have been to both Luger and Hawksmoor and you are the only one I know to compare Hawksmoor favourably with Luger.

If we consider that Luger is rated by many as one of the top steak houses in the world then you're actually saying Hawksmoor isn't just the best in Europe but one of the best in the world also!?

I'm going to stop now before I fall off my chair with laughter.

I had a better steak experience at Champany Inn earlier this year. If you ever go order the smoked salmon, even better than the beef, truly a class above-one of those times when the bar gets raised with a particular food.

I don't think you can find exceptional steak in Paris anymore.

Chris Pople said...

The meat at Luger's was good alright, but maybe my judgement was clouded by the poor service. I had a better meal at Hawksmoor than Luger's, certainly. And for those in the know, Luger's has apparently lost its edge in the last few years. At least that's what I've heard.

I suppose it makes sense the Champany Inn steaks are good as the cattle are from round there aren't they. But I've never had a really good steak in France or Spain, and you'd think the French would know about sourcing good ingredients and cooking it well.