Hawksmoor: you either love it or you’ve never been. Any outlet of Huw Gott and Will Beckett’s preternaturally marvellous, meat-centric micro-chain could be pegged as London’s best restaurant on a good day. This City branch is no different.
Fine, it’s not the greatest space, occupying an expansive, low-ceilinged box of a basement room. But aesthetically, it’s much like the rest of ’em: ‘Mad Men’-style low lighting; a forest’s worth of wooden panelling; studded leather in muscular, muted tones.
Eating-wise, everything’s brilliant. There were puffy yorkshires with potted beef, cool with bovine fat and doused in onion-thick gravy. Inevitably lighter was the crab on toast, a mound of delicate white meat ballasted to a slice of good sourdough with a hefty slick of mayo.
The monkfish is grotesque in life but resplendent in death – here evidenced by a whacking slab of full-flavoured tail meat, imbued with the pervasive smokiness that comes from being grilled over charcoal.
We swerved the steaks proper for a rib eye sandwich, the meat’s ferrous hum given a few funky top notes with graceburn (a kind of soft cow’s cheese) and some anchovy hollandaise. For sides, there were fries cooked in beef dripping (tasting eerily, brilliantly, akin to old-school McDonald’s chips) and an iron ramekin of faultless mac ’n’ cheese. Order both.
What with all the hardcore carb and protein loading, Hawksmoor’s puddings are oft overlooked. This is folly: even veggies should make a beeline here for their enormous riff on a Malteser – a fist-sized, malt-flavoured meringue shell filled with chocolate ice cream that was every bit as good as that suggests.
Beckett and Gott have been doing this stuff for nearly a decade now. But however much their restaurants might feel like part of the furniture these days, Hawksmoor remains an ur-text for London eating. Classic stuff.