Monday, 31 December 2012

Hawksmoor Air Street

Hawksmoor Air Street interior from www.
I love steak. If in the final hours prior to my expiring I retain any capacity to choose and masticate then I am certain to include a great big slab of beef, bleu, in my last meal. But I very rarely order it in restaurants, or go to steakhouses, because of what is known in my family as The Pam Principle™. 

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?) 

A perfect dry Martini at Hawksmoor Air Street Something piqued my interest however about Hawksmoor Air Street, the latest and largest opening from partners Will Beckett and Huw Gott. It's the first of their restaurants to focus on fish as well as flesh, bringing in esteemed seafood specialist Mitch Tonks to curate the crustacea; 2012 has very much been the year of restaurants doing only one thing, well so I was curious to see if Hawksmoor could pull off doing two. 

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
Interior detail of Hawksmoor Air Street
by Niamh Shields
The room  - a 235-seater first-floor behemoth overlooking Regent Street - is attractive, decorated in clubby dark wood, parquet and green leather with some beautiful stained glass and salvaged Art Deco light fittings, but too huge properly to appreciate. It's also very loud; perhaps unsurprisingly the vast majority of tables were taken by all-male groups bellowing at each other over their bone-in prime rib.

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 is a glamorous place serving some pretty good, and at times very good food (I'd go back for a cocktail or two and those pickles alone) but didn't wow this diner enough to question the validity of The Pam Principle. Fortunately for its owners however, not everyone's mother knows best.

Hawksmoor Air Street, 5A Air Street, London W1J 0AD Tel: 020 7406 3980

I was a guest of Hawksmoor Air Street on this occasion

Hawksmoor  on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Posted by +Hugh Wright


  1. Sounds heavenly, and it's the Swedish dish that has me salivating.

  2. Thank you - and yes, the Jansson's Temptation really was quite special!

  3. office catering london12 September 2013 at 14:37

    Thanks for this very interesting article !

  4. I agree with the idea of your mother at the begining of the article. Your text just convinced me to have a visit there ! Another idea for next WE ! Cheers


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