Review of Hawksmoor
My previous reviews of Hawksmoor will betray that I’m a big fan of theirs. My ‘first Hawksmoor’ was back in 2013 at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields branch. The experience was, back then, the pinnacle of my steak eating life. And like with a first love, I’ll always be a little irrational and obsessed with Hawksmoor. No matter how much things change.
Hawksmoor is arguably London’s top Steakhouse chain, indeed Hawksmoor itself claims the honour of “the best steakhouse in the UK”. From opening its first restaurant in Shoreditch, Hawksmoor has branched out with six restaurants in London, another in Manchester, a recent opening in Edinburgh and another set to eventually open in New York in 2019.
Having opened their first branch in 2006, the Hawksmoor Spitalfields branch had been closed for a new lick of paint (probably the right way to describe the brighter and fresher restaurant; the layout and decor looks great but will be comfortably familiar to any Hawksmoor regular). The restaurant had only just reopened (on the 8th of February) and I fortuitously pounced on a 50% off offer on food (exclusively on offer at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields branch).
After being led to the table I immediately noticed the 1kg bone-in prime rib steak on the blackboard. It was the largest steak on offer, so I secured it before it was wasted on anyone else. The waitress warned us that this would take 30-40 minutes for cooking and resting. The order included a couple of full fat old Fashioneds, mushrooms, triple cooked chips and steak and bone marrow sausages.
While the waitress was there I asked about the origin of the piece of meat that would soon be served. The waitress then launched into a monologue about how they get their beef from a variety of farms and breeds. In other words, Hawksmoor could not tell me the breed of cow that they were going to feed me. I immediately had jarring thoughts of my experience at Kyloe restaurant in Edinburgh where I was given a similar monologue and a rather unsavoury steak.
It’s worth observing that this is a departure from Hawksmoor’s previous sourcing stance, outlined in their book “Hawksmoor at Home”, where they cite the importance of “sourcing the best possible beef and flavour from the British Longhorn” (English rare breed). It’s also a bit disappointing; a restaurant that claims to be the best steak restaurant in the UK should be able to tell its customers (who are spending a lot of money) exactly what it is feeding them.
The steak did take almost 40 minutes to arrive, as warned. It was was cooked rare, sliced and presented in a cast iron tray with the bone sliced and placed across the length.
I picked out one of the thick middle pieces and started eating it. The heavily seasoned charred crust of the steak delivered a sensational hit of taste. The steak was expertly cooked. The meat was quite fatty, which is not something I fault in a steak especially one from the rib section. However, beyond the seasoned crust, the steak itself lacked flavour; it just didn’t have that depth of taste I’m used to in a Hawksmoor steak. It wasn’t particularly tender either.
I had also ordered some steak and bone marrow sausages. In contrast to the steak, these were tasty. The difference was profound. Perhaps it isn’t right to compare a sausage with a prime rib steak, but the difference in flavour was intense.
I am irrationally attached to Hawksmoor. But something has changed. While Hawksmoor’s service, cocktails and sides remain outstanding, I can only really attribute the lack of flavour to the meat itself.
Perhaps it’s Hawksmoor’s expansion, perhaps it’s a change in meat suppliers, but the steak at Hawksmoor Spitalfields just isn’t as good as it used to be.