Hawksmoor Sunday Lunch

The last time I came to Hawksmoor Air Street I found it was all a bit corporate. Yes it’s slick and it oozes style with it’s art-deco interior. But it’s just too big. Too impersonal. For me Hawksmoor is about sitting in a meat dungeon and sinking my teeth into a good old hunk of cow, and being allowed to enjoy that luxury. This place turns over 700 covers on a Saturday. I’ve never heard of so many covers. The only way they can hit these numbers by turning over tables quickly. But I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Sunday roast here, so I decided to give it another try.

In the light of day it loses a bit of its charm. The decor felt like it is deliberately trying to evoke a certain feel, which of course it is. But at night the dim lighting means you are wrapped in its seductive spell, almost like you’re on a Mad Men set. But on the first warm Sunday of the year, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d rather be somewhere a little lighter and airier. As always is the case we were given one of the only naff tables in the place. It must be my face. I’ve got past the stage of asking to be moved. Today we were right by the till, meaning we always had a couple of waiters standing right by our sides as we chatted. They were very pleasant waiters though, as always is the case in Hawksmoor. Just the right side of hipster.

Right at the bottom of the menu sits the Sunday roast with all the trimmings for £19.50. This is good value given that a main here will easily set you back the best part of £35. I do feel there’s room for a Sunday menu though. Maybe a three course special. Because once you order a starter and a drink you’re looking at over £40 a head.

We started with the Tamworth belly ribs (£10.50) which were once again spot on. Perfectly tender with a good smokiness. It’s the quality of the meat that does the talking.

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As for the main event, the roast really didn’t disappoint. I was expecting the meat to be top notch, but it still managed to surprise me with just how tender it could be. Maybe I’ve just grown accustomed to overcooked Sunday lunches that I’ve forgotten just how good a slab of beef served up medium-rare can taste. The Yorkshire pudding was a little on the soft side for my liking, and the bone marrow and onion gravy was good, but not as rich as I was hoping. It’s the little touches like the good fiery horseradish and the roasted head of garlic that set this above the rest.

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We shared a Banoffee Sundae (£6) and this somehow managed to be even better than a banoffee pie. It the perfect end to a belt slackening winner of a meal.

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So overall I left a bloated and happy punter. But for as much as I once again loved the food that Hawksmoor serves up, I still didn’t particularly fall for the Air Street venture. Even with a more laid back Sunday vibe it’s just too big. This isn’t the Hawksmoor that I grew to love. It started off as two young guys with a vision to open up a great British steak restaurant on a loan they scraped together. This is a corporate beast. This is what happens when your name is firmly established and the bank is bulging. It’s a footballer deciding to end his career in Russia or Abu Dhabi. And so it just doesn’t have that Sunday lunch essence. You don’t come here and relax and chat idly over a lovingly cooked roast. Whilst there’s no knocking the quality of the food, I want more from my Sunday lunch. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the trip, I’d just save it for coming back on a Saturday night when a steak and a good cocktail is top of your list.

Food: 9/10

Service: 8.5/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value: 6/10

Overall: 7.5/10

5a Air St, London W1J 0AD

Hawksmoor Air Street on Urbanspoon

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Goodman

Where better to take three women for dinner than a place that proudly serves pretty much nothing else but steak. This was my first experience of Goodman, having remained a loyal fan of Hawksmoor for the last few years. What tempted me to jump ship was Hawksmoor’s Air Street venture which felt too impersonal and big, almost like they’d buckled under the commercial pressure and finally taken that step from independent British steakhouse to a huge corporate beast. Given Goodman’s Mayfair location I was expecting it to be a real stuffy affair, but walking into the confidently masculine dining room, I was surprised by how laid back it felt. It was filled with post-work suits, but had anything but a corporate atmosphere, and even in the back private dining room where we were seated it had a constant warm buzz.

Things got off to a solid start with Beef Carpaccio (£8) which wasn’t doused in a dressing,  allowing the flavour of the beef to come through.

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The Tiger Prawn Tempura, with Avocado, Mango and Cajun Mayonaise (£12) was a solid starter, but a little on the safe side. The batter was light and crispy but they could have been braver with the cajun spice, as more of a hit of heat would have worked perfectly with the cool freshness of the mango and avocado.

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I had the Buratta with grilled sourdough and olives (£13), although I don’t remember the olives. This was the first time I’d the this soft Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream and I wasn’t expecting the flavour to be so subtle. The only complaint was that it was all a little too mushy, and would have benefited from the sourdough being crisp rather than soggy. It just needed some bite to compliment the smoothness of the cheese.

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The Pan Fried Foie Gras, Roasted Fig, Oyster Mushroom and Truffle Honey (£15) sounded incredibly indulgent, but sadly there just wasn’t much of it. There were a lot of figs which were delicious covered in the truffle honey, but only a tiny amount of the Foie Gras, and not enough to justify the price tag.

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The Goodman 400g Ribeye (£34) was a stunning caramel brown and had my meat juices flowing as soon as I saw it. It was as tender as they come and absolutely packed with flavour. Was it as good as the Hawksmoor ribeye? Not quite. There’s no way to explain this other than that the British beef at Hawksmoor just has a deeper flavour to it. The Béarnaise sauce was great, but the real star was the Stilton sauce. This had an incredible depth of flavour almost like a meaty stock that had been reduced down for hours.

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The 250g Fillet (£34) was slightly overdone in both cases. Fortunately this didn’t have any impact of the taste and it was still a juicy steak. As tends to be the case though, it was some way off the tastier ribeye cut. Also it seemed a little heavy on the price even for a fillet.

IMG_1917For sides the Truffle Chips (£5.50) and Beef Dripping Chips (£5.50) were perfectly crunchy. The Mac and Cheese, Truffle Sauce and Parmesan (£5) wasn’t sticky and cheesy enough for me. The Creamed Spinach with Gruyere Cheese (£4.50) was the pick of the bunch, basically because there really wasn’t any way you could kid yourself that you were having a healthy portion of spinach. The only disappointment was the Carrots with Honey and Ginger Glaze (£3.50) which were overcooked and too sweet.

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We shared the New York Cheese Cake and Berry Compote (£7) which was about as heavy as a cheesecake can get. This wouldn’t usually be a complaint, but after putting away two bottles of red and a 400g steak I’d have preferred something a little lighter. Of course I cleaned the plate though.

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Just as heavy was the Cookie Sundae (£7) which was easily enough for two. Plenty of cookies, caramel and cream. This was a real a belt loosener.

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Overall the food was solid, but didn’t quite live up to the £70 per head price tag. What made me forgive this though, was the service, which was flawless throughout. Our waitress really was as good as they get. I find Hawksmoor can be a little bit like a conveyor belt where the staff are all just part of that steak churning machine. Here the waitress was incredibly relaxed and gave us plenty of much-needed time to let the kilo of food settle. There’s a lot to love about Goodman and I’ll definitely come back, but if like me, you can only convince your partner to go to a steakhouse on a rare occasion, then I’d sooner return to Hawksmoor.

Food: 7/10

Service: 9.5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

24-26 Maddox Street, Mayfair, W1S 1QH

Goodman on Urbanspoon

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Hawksmoor Air Street

Hawksmoor Air Street is the fourth in the group of excellent British steak restaurants that us Londoners are lucky enough to have. Unlike Gaucho, which tends to be filled with posers who look like they’ve never eaten a steak, at Hawksmoor there is no messing around. You’re there for the quality of the meat, and the no-nonsense bare-brick walls, low lighting and chunky furnishings reflect what is soon sitting on your plate in front of you.

So when I heard that the Air Street venture was also specialising in fish I was shocked. At Hawksmoor? Really? It’s like when McDonald’s put salads and deli sandwiches on their menu. It just broke tradition and didn’t fit. It’s a STEAK restaurant, that’s where you forged your name, I don’t want to turn up and hear what the catch of the day is.

Just off Regent Street, this Hawksmoor spans across a huge corridor-like space. It’s less dungeon-like than the others are, and a lot more Mayfair. Art deco takes precedence here with racing green leather booths, dark wood tables and mirror panelling. But thankfully it remains very firmly masculine, and looking at the crowd it was mostly groups of after-work men sloshing back red  wine and wolfing huge portions of meat.

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Settled into a booth we started on the cocktails. After questioning the inclusion of fish on the menu, I had to begin to question myself when I ordered an Aperol Spritz. I deserved a slap, and thankfully when it arrived and was far too bitter, it served as a reminder that I wasn’t a lady sitting in a summer garden, but was a bloke ready to tuck into a bloody meal. After regaining my composure I quickly made up for it with two bottles of strong Kernel IPA (£5).

The last time I went to Hawksmoor I filled myself on half a lobster to start and ended up leaving some of my 400g ribeye, so I was tempted to pass on the starters in exchange for a bigger cut. Maybe smoked salmon or crab on toast would be a lighter option. The waiter would have none of it. Not in Hawksmoor. It didn’t take much to sway us.

The Tamworth belly ribs (£10) are possibly the best ribs I’ve had. So refreshingly masculine. They are slow cooked so that the juicy meat is flaking off the bone and served with a good slab of red cabbage. They’d be perfect as a meal on their own.

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Just as good was the potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires and onion gravy (£8). It was the best parts of a Sunday lunch brought together into one dish, and we all enjoyed stuffing the two huge perfectly crispy Yorkshires with the meaty caramel  goo and stuffing it in our mouths.

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Still good but some way off the other two was the potted smoked mackerel with toast and cucumbers (£7.50). It wasn’t smokey enough for my liking, and there was hardly enough toast to scoop it all up- not to worry though, the Yorkshires came to the rescue.

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For main I shared a 900g T-bone (£8 per 100g). It came in an iron dish, already sliced up for us. I’m not a fan of this, even though most restaurants do it when you’re sharing a steak. It takes away the joy of being presented with a huge slab of meat and having to do the work yourself. Although £72 (between two) without any sides is a hefty price tag, this is really as good as a steak gets.

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The same can’t be said of the Hawksmoor cut of turbot (£13 per 100g). The 250g (as recommended by the waiter) was tiny when it came, almost like it was just the spine of the fish and the rest of the meat had been left behind. There’s no denying that it tasted good, but there wasn’t much too it other than the quality of the ingredient.

Now the sides. We chose the beef dripping chips (£4.50) over the triple cooked. Who really cares how many times their chips are cooked? I’m sick of seeing that on the menu. What does it even mean? Just make sure they taste good. These chips were excellent- crispy and full of fatty flavour. The other sides were spinach, lemon and garlic (£5) which was fine and Doddington Caesar Salad (£4) that was great because of the way the parmesan had been so finely grated so that it clung to the dressing.

Then came the main event- Anchovy Hollandaise (£3). Who would have thought a condiment could steal the show? But oh this one did. Never has there been anything better. Thick and velvety; the perfect accompaniment first for the fish and steak, then the chips, and finally our fingers. It’s the only time I have ever seriously considered ordering seconds of what isn’t even a dish in it’s own right. That alone would have left me a happy punter.

So after a huge meal, two bottles of excellent Potugese, Quinta de la Rosa (£42.50), we definitely didn’t have room for a pudding each and so decided to share one- the sticky toffee pudding (£7). It was never going to be a light panna cotta to end a meal like this, and so when the toffee pudding came in a sundae cup with thick caramel sauce dripping over huge nuggets of caramel and nuts, it was a fittingly over-indulgent way to end the meal.

The food was excellent, but I have two complaints which annoyed me a great deal. The first was when the waiter came and took the dish with the yet-to-be-cleaned T-bone still in there. I was close to tears. If I’d been a real man I’d have fought him for that bone. Not only do I hate it when a waiter takes a plate away when you are clearly still eating (an obvious nudge that they want you to stick to that 2 hour turnover time) but taking a bone away from any man is cruel to say the least. Big chunks of flesh and fat were clinging to that bone. Thankfully he didn’t take away the anchovy hollandaise, allowing me to mop it up until the pot was glistening clean.

The other thing that really annoys me is this whole 2 hour turnover that they made a point of telling me over the phone. What the hell is it about? What are they going to do, throw me out before I’ve paid the bill. I’m paying close to £100 a head for this meal, if it takes me longer than 2 hours to eat, then tough luck. I hate it when they are trying to keep you on that tight conveyor belt.

I feel that this Hawksmoor has crossed the boundary and become a little too big and formal. I want to lean back and let the red wine and bloody meat slosh around in my gut. I don’t want to hear comments on the splendour of the art deco setting, or be told told that I have to be out the door before that sticky toffee sundae settles.

Overall it was a great meal, and apart from these two complaints I loved every part of it. Apart from the fish which I didn’t bother to glance at (although I’ll admit was still very tasty) every dish was as good as it can get. At close to £100 a head it is expensive for what is essentially grilled meat, but you’ll struggle to find a better steak anywhere in London.

Food: 9/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 7.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

5a Air Street, London, W1J 0AD

Hawksmoor Air Street on Urbanspoon

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