Hawksmoor doesn't just ace its food offering - its distinctively different bars serve exquisitely balanced cocktails and fantastic bar snacks, too.
The original Hawksmoor, in Spitalfields, was a simple bar and grill with high aspirations. Cocktail supremo Nick Strangeway was hired by Hawksmoor's owners - no slouches in the drinks expertise themselves - to create a distinctively different cocktail bar, which immediately won plaudits for its historically-inspired cocktails and precise service.
Strangeway subsequently left Hawksmoor, but the historical theme has continued both in the original and into this second, far more polished branch. There's no doubt that the main focus of this bar and grill is the dining room, but the bar's a destination in itself (although the licence dictates that drinkers must order food).
The bar tables of this basement bar are recycled chemistry lab tops, the cast-iron pillars an original Victorian feature. It all looks as if it's been like this for a century or more, but in fact it's a clever reconstruction of the low-lit Victorian look with high bar stools and parquet floors.
The cocktail list reads like an almanac of drinks trends of the last two centuries, and the bar staff mix and pour with aplomb. Table service is very chummy, in a good way. Head bartender Pete Jeary and team have drawn heavily on the pre-Prohibition era, with a punch recipe from 1672, through the original Buck's Fizz (which, incredibly, dates from 1921) to that 1970s classic, Pina Colada.
Take note that it's part of the terms of the legal requirements of the licence that this Hawksmoor bar must serve food with drinks. So while it's okay to sup a cocktail before dining, if you're merely popping in for a drink, you'll need to order a dish from the bar menu too.
Also be aware that most of your fellow drinkers will simply be having a tipple be en route to the excellent Hawksmoor dining room next door, which – if you're sensitive to such things – can leave you feeling as if you're in the kitchen during the party.
We are already hearing reports that, at busy times, drinkers are being turned away to ensure enough space in the bar for diners. You have been warned. Best arrive early, before 7pm, perhaps.