My mother, Pam, never orders in a restaurant anything which she might reasonably expect to make at home, believing that it's wasteful to pay someone to do something you can do yourself. I have an excellent local butcher (Moen & Son of Clapham, if you're interested) and a heavy griddle pan, and as such I cook steak - really, really good steak - exactly how I like it, often and well.
As a result, the crop of high-end steakhouses that have exploded onto the London restaurant scene over the last few years have largely passed me by; sure I've heard of the big players - Goodman and Hawksmoor being the Titans of the genre - and had good times at steak specialists 34 and CUT at 45 Park Lane, but as a general rule I've abided by The Pam Principle and enjoyed my sirloin strictly chez moi for no more than about a tenner a time, including service (of course I tip myself - doesn't everyone?)
The answer (for the impatient among you who like to skip to the last page of a book first) is yes, although the main courses dinner date David and I tried were actually the least exciting part of an overall extremely good meal. Char-grilling lent my 'Hawksmoor Cut' turbot - a thick lateral tranche served on the bone - a wonderful subtle smokiness, but the same savour was a little overwhelming on David's slightly-too-chewy 600g bone-in sirloin. Both were good, but only as good as you'd expect at Hawksmoor's prices.
What we really enjoyed were the supporting elements, the accompanying bits and pieces that distinguish Hawksmoor Air Street from its competitors. Cocktails - from a list divided up by suitability to the time of day, and a real joy to read - were ace, from a perfect dry Martini to an after-dinner Buttered Old-Fashioned using bourbon stirred patiently with clarified butter to produce a rich post-prandial soother. Wines were chosen for us from the reasonable-enough selection on offer by the glass, the house Grenache proving particularly fine for £6.
A pre-starters dish of seasonal pickles - which on our visit included mushrooms, carrot and cauliflower as well as an egg, but changes - was sensational, each ingredient pickled in different vinegars and spices creating complex layers of flavour. Sides were unusually good, too; Jansson's Temptation, a Swedish potato gratin with anchovies, worked well with both the steak and the turbot, as did a light, fresh dish of spinach tossed with lemon and garlic in which every component could be discerned. Starters were one hit, one miss; David's roast scallops were terrific, three fat succulent specimens served on the shell with white port and garlic, but my potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires suffered from the puddings being slightly toasted and bitter.
We went a bit salt caramel crazy for dessert; a peanut butter shortbread with salt caramel ice-cream was astonishing (although surely anything which combines peanut butter and salt caramel has got to be A Good Thing), as were three salt caramel 'Rolos', larger than Nestlé's finest and easily ten times as tasty although I'll be interested to see how long the Swiss confectioner's IP lawyers let Hawksmoor keep calling them that for.
|Interior detail of Hawksmoor Air Street |
by Niamh Shields eatlikeagirl.com
Service was good if at times a little disjointed, but it jarred that in these grand surroundings the clothing worn by the staff was mostly the type of jeans-and-check-shirt combo that even local boozers would consider too casual. I found an interview with Will Beckett in which he explains that staff are allowed to wear their own clothes as it makes them happier and therefore able to deliver better service. Well sorry Will, but if I'm handing over forty quid for a bit of turbot I think I'd rather it be served by someone in a nice starched apron, thanks.
Hawksmoor Air Street, 5A Air Street, London W1J 0AD Tel: 020 7406 3980 thehawksmoor.com/airstreet
I was a guest of Hawksmoor Air Street on this occasion
Posted by +Hugh Wright