Hawksmoor Guildhall (bar)

Critics' choice
© Toby Keane
Hawksmoor Guildhall

This mini-chain of consistently great steakhouses also gets its historically inclined cocktail offering just right, with fantastic bar snacks to boot.

The three Hawksmoor branches – this, Seven Dials and Spitalfields – are the owners of 15 Time Out stars between them. We don’t dish out such plaudits without consideration, but they’re deserved – each consistently hits the heights with its combination of fine British steaks and historically inclined cocktails.

So here’s another five stars to add to the galaxy: the bar at the latest outpost doesn’t take reservations but is open to non-restaurant diners (unlike in Seven Dials) and is far from a holding pen for the cattle-hungry hordes that pack into this vast venue.

There’s a bar food menu, with luxurious ‘snacks’ like lobster roll with hazelnut butter and the fantastic ‘French dip’, a sandwich of braised beef, cheese and mustard in sweetish brioche, served with a jug of bone marrow gravy for dipping. It’s every bit as good as it sounds and worthy of a dedicated visit even at £12.

Hawksmoor Guildhall opens at 7am for breakfast or, if you’re looking for a warmer morning glow than Ready Brek can provide, cocktails. There are few jobs in the City that aren’t enlivened by the frisson provided by strong drink, but if you’re not a habitual daybreak tippler the menu is helpfully split chronologically – including ‘anti-fogmatics’, ‘pre-prandials’, ‘bridging drinks’ and ‘disco drinks’.

Many are listed with a bit of back story, much of which may be apocryphal but is still great fun: a Silver Bullet (gin, Kummel and lemon) is apparently Prince Philip’s favourite cocktail; Dr Funk, Samoan physician to Robert Louis Stevenson, put his name to the Swizzle, a mix of rum, Falernum syrup, lime, grenadine and absinthe.

Hawksmoor’s Vieux Carré, a twist on the famous Sazerac created in the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, was better than the version I tried there this year. Everything we tried was imaginatively conceived, perfectly made, superbly balanced. It’s surely already one of London’s greatest drinks lists.

Back on earth, the reality is that although Hawksmoor’s owners achieve this level of excellence through commitment to standards, it’s facilitated by the prices.

The salvaged furniture, low lighting, comfy seating and charming staff make it an easy place to settle into; it’s also easy to spend a lot of money.

Of course, many of the post-work drinkers here are bankers with ties stuffed in suit pockets, but for those without bulging wallets it joins the other Hawksmoors as a real special-occasion place that’s ridiculously hard to fault.

 

Venue name: Hawksmoor Guildhall (bar)
Contact:
Address: 10-12 Basinghall St
London
EC2V 5BQ
Opening hours: Open Noon-10.30pm Mon-Fri.
Transport: Tube: Bank tube/DLR or St Paul's tube
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