© Rob Greig
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Wed Nov 9 2011
Hawksmoor Seven Dials, in Covent Garden, recently won the ‘Best New Restaurant’ category of the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2011. The decision of our judges was unanimous: it’s a steakhouse that’s smart, fun, reliable, good looking and caters for your carnal instincts. If it was a person, you’d want to put a big smacker on its lips, possibly even marry it.
Replicating the same formula in the City of London, although a logical place for a pricey steakhouse, isn’t as easy as you might think. Seven Dials is attractively ruffled around the edges, suggestively risqué. But in the City, most of the people spending £70 per head on dinner think ‘casual’ means chinos on a Friday.
This latest Hawksmoor, third in what is now a chain, manages to pull it off. The resemblance to the award-winning Seven Dials branch is striking, even the way that the vintage-looking stairwell leads down to the subterranean bar. Guildhall looks like it’s been here forever.
Yet the decor’s a clever deception, the Aubin & Wills of restaurant interiors. ‘It used to look like an underground car park,’ our friendly bartender told us, while mixing a top-notch sharpener. The exterior is, we’re told, Grade-II listed, but the interior is a new build that makes clever use of salvaged materials: glazed bricks from the Underground, wooden panelling from a Bond Street store, art deco light fittings ‘modelled on the ones in the Titanic’.
Through the swing doors to the large dining room, the liner-like feel is reinforced by porthole lighting, a relatively low ceiling and luxurious leather-upholstered seating. The only people wearing suits are the customers; you can spot the staff because they’re the ones sporting checked shirts and jeans.
We can recommend everything. The steaks are among the best you’ll find anywhere, but be warned, the portion sizes are huge; even the steaks ‘for two to share’ can actually feed three. Our ‘D-Rump’ – the innermost muscles of the rump, aged for 55 days in this case – was cooked medium, just enough to make the fat melt, with the meat tender and beautifully flavoured.
The triple-cooked chips are blanched, then fried twice in vegetable oil to give an appealing crunch to the surface, but maintain a yielding texture within. The side dishes and starters are just as good. The grilled bone marrow is huge, the lengthways-cut revealing disturbingly visceral pink marrow inside – but it melts in the mouth. Potted beef, served in a tiny clip-top jar, comes with an excellent own-made piccalilli. Even that most maligned of vegetables, brussels sprouts, is firm and not overcooked, served with chestnuts, which are the perfect seasonal flavour complement.
On our visit, the service was slick but relaxed, hitting that fine line between efficient and overly chummy. There are good – though not cheap – wines by the glass to go with the meal, though on Mondays you can BYO for a mere £5 per bottle. And of course, Hawksmoor’s cocktails are exemplary.
We were so impressed, we went back for breakfast (not the next day, we hasten to add – a Hawksmoor meal is very filling). Whether you’re a pre-lunch powerbroker or just want a refined spot for a decadent morning meal, this is a perfect spot. The breakfast menu remains meaty, of course – our bracingly salty bacon chop had a fine balance of crispy fat and flavoursome flesh, and came with two hash browns and fried eggs.
Steak and eggs looked appetising, and what looks like a whole butcher’s shop-worth of meat in a Hawksmoor breakfast for two to share. There’s also pancakes, mushrooms on toast and plum doughnuts. Coffee is especially sophisticated – the filter varieties come from Climpson & Sons and are served in Chemex glass flasks. The restaurant went straight on to our London's Best Breakfasts feature.
This new Hawksmoor builds handsomely on the success of its predecessors. So if the temptations of the flesh are overwhelming, head to the heart of the City and ignore the guilt.
Hawksmoor Guildhall 10-12 Basinghall Street
- Venue phone:
020 7397 8120
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Open 7-10am, noon-3pm, 6-10.30pm, Mon-Fri
Tube: St Paul's tube, Bank tube/DLR, Moorgate tube/rail or Liverpool Street tube/rail
Meal for two with wine and service: around £130
- 10-12 Basinghall Street
- 020 7397 8120
- 10-12 Basinghall Street
- Hawksmoor Guildhall