The other three Hawksmoor restaurants – Spitalfields, City, Covent Garden – are London’s best steakhouses. This fourth location, with its entrance on Air Street at the Piccadilly Circus tip of Mayfair, is the company’s first attempt at an upscale seafood restaurant – and it’s got it right first time.
Many things will seem familiar if you’ve been to any of the other Hawksmoors. The interior is wood-panelled and leather-upholstered like a gentleman’s club, with understated art deco details. The entrance bar is a destination in itself, with an outstanding range of well-considered and well-crafted cocktails. The staff are genuinely cheerful, engaging and casually dressed with stylish insouciance. Air Street shares all these characteristics, but has a few added attractions.
No booking is needed for the brilliant first-floor bar with its unusual and historically inspired cocktail list; it’s tempting to stay all night. But there’s no bar food, so move along into the first-floor dining room. Overlooking Regent Street, the room is huge and long – so long you can’t see the far end, almost curve-of-the-earth long. Yet it feels intimate, partitioned up into booths, snugs and corners. And the place seems filled with bon viveurs, because it is. A terrific wine list encourages the party mood.
Good quality meat’s not cheap, and neither is good seafood. A signature dish of ‘Hawksmoor cut’ turbot is, like its finer cuts of beef, priced by weight – in this case £12 per 100g. Therefore, our 300g portion – enough for one main course – cost a fork-dropping £36. But we’ve never had such good turbot: grilled over charcoal and served on the bone, it was succulent and tasted of both the sea and flame. Brixham crab on toast was another good choice, although the carefully pared flesh was all clinically white; some people prefer the tastier brown meat.
The D-rump – a cut of rump popular in Brazil, large, though not Copacabana Beach large – is supplied by Ginger Pig from longhorn cattle in Yorkshire. Once it’s aged 55 days, it acquires great depth of flavour. At £20, this is the cheapest steak. The side dishes are well worth the money: a potato bake of Jansson’s temptation, say, or the best little caesar salad in Mayfair.
There are off-peak meal deals, but most prices reflect the fact that it’s a special occasion sort of place. Save up, then splash out.