Taking it’s perennially classic steakhouse menu and leaving diner’s floating on beefy, carb-rich air, Hawksmoor knocks lunch out of the park.
Hawksmoor has always felt enigmatic to me, with it’s sign curling round the corner of the old, grade-II listed courthouse building on Deansgate. It’s heavy wooden doors hide the famously meaty delights I have often dreamt of – whilst drunkenly swaying side to side in the early hours of the morning – in the queue to get into Topkapi, a kebab shop a few doors down.
However, last Monday I found myself fairly sober (because it was midday) and in front of those heavy wooden doors which now held those delights in a restaurant that was actually open, which was exciting. Strolling through the doorway and into the foyer to be instantly ambushed by wafts of Victorian brick and charred beef, then through the bar where I admired it’s short stools, tables and dusty beams of light cascading through a tall window. Stepping past the warm glow and metallic clamour of the open pass and into the sunlight-drenched dining room, it’s white tiles gleaming beneath me, living my inebriated self’s dream.
Seated in front of yet more ceiling-scraping windows, we basked in a thick ingot of yellowy-white light – that even my snapchat camera assured me was in no way flattering – while we had a gander at the menu. The choices are strikingly classic, for example some things are… potted, a service method I hazily recall my Grandad being a fan of, and one seldom seen on other menus. The entire menu has an underpinning feeling of lavish, nap-inducing heartiness; even the Caesar salad is warmly tucked beneath a thick blanket of Doddington cheese – Parmesan’s Lincolnshire-born doppelgänger.
Moments pass and we order crab, ribs, ribeyes and a myriad of sides. Pleased by this, I sip a dry, crisp white wine that’ll pair with the crab (and basically nothing else) and the back of my mouth twinges and fizzes with only minor regret, lovely.
My heart embarrassingly skips a beat as the starters arrive, the crab – a creamy, umami mound of shredded flesh perched atop a thick slice of warm, crisp-on-the-outside toast – is wonderfully light and refreshing, its flavours enriched with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It’s richness is gracefully sliced through by the tangy pickles, cucumbers and watercress by it’s side.
The ribs are the opposite, two slabs of boneless meat, a five-spice-tinged barbecue sauce painted on the thick, peppery bark encasing the melty, sinfully fat-laden interior. You can’t help but eat them as if they’ve just come fresh off of the fire in the middle of a cold forest. Having said that, I doubt you’d also be forking in the odd mouthful of caraway seed-flecked slaw in the forest, with it’s lip-smackingly vinegary zing. You definitely wouldn’t want to waste any of it if you did, unlike me, who tossed the chopped coriander sprinkled on top to some god-forsaken corner of the plate, because ew.
Steak is synonymous with Hawksmoor, it’s their thing, their raison d’etre, a good excuse for me to use italics and I’ve always admired restaurants that pride themselves on one thing and implore everyone to order it. I think it takes guts, unless you serve steaks like those at Hawksmoor, in which case it just takes common sense.
My ribeye was placed before me, the waitress smug, kindly placing it down in a sort of ‘lemme just change your life real quick’ type of way before evaporating out of my peripheral, while I mutely ogled at the glistening, buttery fat that pooled within the crevices etched into the steaks outer crust. Cooked to a precise medium-rare, edge-to-edge pinkness with melty, marbled fat awaiting me within.
The addition of anchovy hollandaise was a stroke of genius, piquant and creamy, it took the beefy flavours to a higher plane. Less can be said for the bone marrow, which I greedily ordered as an afterthought and came to me as a salty, gelatinous punishment for my rapacity, serving no real purpose, whether spooned onto the steak or directly into my grimacing mouth.
However, the marrow dislodged my euphoria only briefly, my side in shining armour came in the form of a little cast iron pot, filled with spoon-bendingly glorious macaroni cheese. I was left so suspended in its velvety embrace I had to pause to let out a gurgled sigh before carrying on.
It is a mac of masterful construction, taking mozzarella (for stringiness), blue cheese (for funkiness) then cheddar and Monterey Jack (because it’s £6.00 for a pot and we deserve it) to create a whimsically tongue-coating cheese sauce that leaves the macaroni with a delectably endearing sheen, before parmesan is generously grated on top and scorched to a bitter-sweet crisp. In the words of the great Greg Wallace, forever-resplendent in his unbound wisdom: ‘I could have eaten a bucket of it’.
Triple-cooked chips were ordered on impulse alone, the words ‘triple-cooked’ seems to awaken a primal instinct in me, you could triple-cook a doorknob and I’d probably order it. Not to mention that they are the rightful, divine partner of steak. Those at Hawksmoor served valiantly, golden, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Lash ’em with vinegar and don’t overthink it, good chips are just good chips.
Of course, an obligatory salad was ordered – grudgingly – with a few miserable looking mushrooms, I fought back an eye roll as they arrived. However, they held their own, torn English lettuce drizzled with a sweet vinaigrette was welcome, mostly because it was nice to eat something that lacked the eerie aftertaste of years being shaved off of my life. The mushrooms, like the chips, served as a battle-hardened underling of the steak, destined to a life in it’s shadow.
Empty plates were cleared, whatever conversation was being held before we forgot how to communicate on any level above just briefly looking up, nodding and grunting, had been abandoned and a new one started. Dessert menus arrived and I leap-frogged the convention of actually reading it as if I hadn’t already analysed it online and ordered instantly. Peanut, butter and shortbread were three words that had seemed to orbit my head ever since I first read them in succession, so I had eyes for no other.
A thick, warming, well-baked lump of salty-sweet, peanut butter-laced shortbread, with a rapidly melting spoonful of salted caramel ice cream smothering its crunchy outer was suddenly in front of me. It’s beautifully blackened corners peaked out from beneath the streams of melted ice cream and chocolate. My spoon broke through its base with a satisfying ‘dink’ as it clashed with the plate beneath, its hard shell giving way to dense, sweet softness, with the occasional peanut making an appearance to provide salty respite. The saltiness of the ice cream was rewardingly apparent, unlike some salted caramel ice creams that haven’t seen a grain of the stuff.
The almond cake, floating on a radiant pool of blood orange sorbet, drowned by two scoops of muscat cream, looked delightful; beautifully constructed, presented and inhaled by my dining partner before I had the chance to try any. No shock, really.