Ah, Hawksmoor. What’s to say? You’re either already familiar with this chain of city-best steakhouses – all muscular, wood-lined, leather-flecked interiors and prices as robust as one of Nicky H’s church towers – or you’re not. And if you’re not, you really should be.
The opening of Hawksmoor Borough – located in a former hops and fruit warehouse just off the market – is reason enough for meaty virgins (matron!) to make an inaugural pilgrimage. The menu includes a smattering of Hawksmoor classics, as well as the de rigeur list of beefy cuts struck off a chalkboard as the night progresses, and a typically ace cocktail list. There’s also a few changing market dishes, the chefs pottering off through the hordes of gastro-tourists to pick up what’s good each day.
Steak, therefore, was eschewed – the things we do for journalism, eh? – to explore more interesting morsels. A special of heritage toms on sourdough, laid with silky shavings of spenwood cheese, was a fine mound of quality ingredients; a plate of fat asparagus spears slathered with quivering hollandaise a sexy, simple classic.
For mains, a skillet of salt marsh lamb chops with Poole clams, flecked with parsley and thyme, was a meticulous melding of earthy, buttery flesh – on the bone and perfect pink, the thick ribbons of fat just crisping – and subtle seaside tang. A thick wedge of monkfish was better still, the densely meaty flesh smoky from the charcoal grill, dribbled with butter and given a fragrant kick with the subtle inclusion of dried fennel, oregano and thyme. It was the best bit of fish I’ve snaffled this far from the coast.
Being a worn-in bit of London’s foodie furniture, Hawksmoor might not elicit the gasping thrills it once did. But for near-faultless, wallet-emptying British cooking it’s still top of the pile. Onwards and ever, ever upwards.