There are times in life when all you need is a very simple yet perfectly cooked steak. When I asked in my newsletter if anyone had any good London restaurant recommendations, one kind reader (who incidentally also has a very good website called Mango Menus) put me in touch with the boys who run Hawksmoor, known for serving the best steaks in London.
Despite my life in Hong Kong being fairly full of steak, I was keen to see how the steaks in London compared, and where better to go than London’s absolute finest. And so, one hungry day after a tiresome morning of shopping on Oxford Street, I rested my weary legs in a comfy booth at Hawksmoor’s Air Street restaurant.
Out of the group’s five outlets, Air Street is the largest, yet, with its wood panelling, green leather chairs and Art Deco touches, it feels much more intimate and cosy than a space of this size normally would. It’s certainly an elegant spot, without feeling in the slightest bit stuffy or pretentious.
Hawksmoor was set up by two school friends, Will and Huw. After travelling the world in search of the best steak, they found that beef from native cattle breeds in Britain was actually far superior to anything they had tried overseas – and that includes Argentinian steak and Japanese Kobe beef. They insist on buying only the best beef, which is naturally grass-fed, from distinguished butchers and farmers The Ginger Pig.
Following the same methodology when it comes to seafood, Hawksmoor teamed up with Mitch Tonks, who is considered by many to be the best seafood chef in the country. Mitch connected them with some excellent fishermen, including one from Brixham Market. The fishermen select the best seafood each morning and send it straight to Hawksmoor – there’s no middleman and no warehouses, resulting in some seriously good, super fresh seafood.
Whilst sipping on a delightful Marmalade cocktail (it’s never too early for cocktails, especially when you’re on holiday), we began our lunch with a lovely little amuse-bouche of bite-sized salmon tartare crisps, before trying the roast scallops with white port and garlic. Although not huge morsels, the scallops were flawless, with the perfect bouncy consistency, whilst the sweetness of the port and garlic was noticeable without masking the flavour of the scallops themselves.
There was nothing fancy about the Brixham crab on toast with mayonnaise, yet there didn’t need to be. The fleshy, soft crabmeat spoke entirely for itselfand paired beautifully with the homemade mayonnaise and thick cut toast.
My favourite of the starters, however, was easily the Tamworth pork belly ribs. The succulent meat barely needed a knife to cut it away from the bone and simply melted in the mouth. Where pork belly can sometimes be unpleasantly fatty, here the fat and meat content blended together perfectly.
I was advised I needed to try three cuts of beef, to which I naturally obliged. Each of the three – sirloin, fillet and rib-eye – had its own unique flavour and texture, but my favourite was definitely the rib-eye, with its delicious, rich, marbled-ness (yes, that’s a word) that required no sauce to enhance its flavour. (Nonetheless, the bone marrow gravy and anchovy hollandaise were both pretty magical).
There’s definitely a reason why Hawksmoor Air Street prides itself on its seafood, it being the first of the group to offer a substantial seafood menu. The monkfish grilled over charcoal was fantastic, easily coming close to rivalling the steaks.
Sides of triple cooked chips, macaroni cheese and spinach with lemon and garlic (no cream in sight) were not just afterthoughts, but actually complemented each of the mains. I was particularly impressed by the macaroni – it’s never usually my go-to dish, but this one, cooked with three cheeses, was heavenly.
There would be no point in ending a seriously indulgent lunch without dessert, so we chose perhaps the most indulgent one on the menu – chocolate and salted caramel tart. I will describe it in one word: wow.
A meal at Hawksmoor is special. Each dish on the menu is very simple, yet seriously well executed and there is little, if anything, that I can fault from my meal there. It’s clear that all the staff are passionate about what they do, which truly helps make the experience even more enjoyable. Expect to leave Hawksmoor a fair bit poorer than when you arrived, since a steak alone will cost you upwards of £30 (almost HKD400), but it will certainly be worth every penny.
5A, Air Street
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7406 3980
Also located at: Guildhall, Spittalfields, Knightsbridge and Seven Dials – see website for details.