Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hawksmoor / Spitalfields

Who are they?

Hawksmoor are a small chain of restaurants famous for their choice cuts of beef and describe themselves as a "British steakhouse and cocktail bar". With several restaurants across London, they have very much been on my "to do" list for a while after hearing quite so many rave reviews and on my birthday we went to the closest venue to me on Commercial Road in the fashionable East End of town.


Strangely enough I must have cycled past Hawksmoor at least six times every week on my cycle ride to work and not noticed it at all, so it's nice to find these little gems right on your doorstep. First and foremost: book a table in advance - I cannot stress this enough. One of the perks of being so popular is that you are never in need of customers and this is especially so on a Saturday night. Secondly, they have both a restaurant area to cater for steaks and larger meals and a downstairs bar area for cocktails and burgers, so it's important to note when making your booking.

The bar area is a cosy affair, a mixture of copper doors, mirrors and leather diner-style seats. It's a great place to eat, full of corner seats, dark furniture and sparse lighting. It's certainly not your average eatery and is full of other nice touches - a good example was our waitress, who handed our menus alongside glasses of tap water and continued to top us up unannounced throughout the evening. Why do other places expect you to ask for this? It meant that we could enjoy our meal and wash it down without spoiling the taste by reaching for the cocktails we had ordered.

I'm going to talk about the burger in a moment, but I would like to start with the sides first as they deserve a really good mention. The chips are triple fried, making them crispy and delicious and slightly smokey as well, whilst the chicken wings are on par with those found at Meat Liquor - a sort of slick, sweet taste that curls off into slightly spicy as you bite into it. Definitely the star of the show as far as the side plates are concerned were the short rib nuggets - bread crumbed balls of shredded short rib beef with a small bit of mature cheese in the middle that literally melted in the mouth. Add to this the accompanying kimchee sauce on each bite and I can safely say that the only problem that I have with this side is that there are not enough of them in a serving if you are sharing with two people.

As I had chosen the Hawksmoor signature cheeseburger with the additional short rib, the nuggets provided an excellent entrance into the experience of the burger - a solid-looking patty with a thin layer of mature cheddar separating it from the slightly smaller patty of short rib meat. Add on a well-sized lettuce, tomato slice and serving of relish on top and a couple of thinly sliced gherkins on the bottom and ensconced in a bun, the burger is complete. What looks small and weedy from afar is actually quite large when presented in front of you and is either served bloody (read: medium) or well cooked, so I opted for the former.

And what a burger to behold; the perfect thing for a birthday treat.

The beef is gorgeous and crumbles nicely when you eat it, with a taste that belies Hawksmoor's care and attention to all things beef. The cheese is light enough to taste with each bite without then overpowering the meat itself, with the slightly sweeter texture of the short rib mixing in as well for good measure. But bringing up the rear is a layer of coleman's mustard that lingers as you finish your mouthful - this is most definitely a very British burger and kindles memories of a fine roast dinner but with enough variation to remind you that this is indeed a burger. Whereas other burgers (I'm looking at you, Burger and Lobster!) fill their burgers with salad to beef up the size, Hawksmoor understand that the star of the show is and should be the beef, giving it priority in terms of proportions of the burger and in the taste.

In writing this I was truly struggling to come up with anything negative to say about the burger, be it the size, shape, flavours and so on. An excellent burger with well thought-out accompaniments at a price that matches its rivals, Hawksmoor have delivered on every aspect. I think it says something when I noticed that all the patrons we ate with in the bar area without exception ordered the same burger.


A superb burger and certainly a change from the US-style ones that other establishments are doing. I think this is one of those places where you go every so often (or whenever you can plan sufficiently ahead to book a table) so that multiple trips do not dull the experience. I can quite honestly say that Hawksmoor is the Rolls Royce of hamburgers and well worth your time to visit.



Where can I find them?
Four restaurants dotted around the City and East London