When you find a restaurant, bar, or indeed any place you like to visit, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing about it when others do not.
Name: Hawksmoor Guildhall
Best for: Meat-lovers
Worst for: A vegetarian blind date
Nearest Tube: Bank
You are then left in a dilemma. Do you tell, but risk ruining that essence, or simply revel in your excitement alone? I am at that juncture.
Successfully opening a new restaurant in London is tough; even when you have opened two which are already doing well. The third Hawksmoor opened in London recently, and whilst I knew the sister restaurant on Commercial Road well, I could tell straightaway this was to be a very different prospect.
Some of the world’s best steak restaurants tend to have a feeling of 1930s illicitness. Whether it is the heritage of those secretive steak clubs which existed in that era, or the fact they used to be a traditionally male bastion and so after dinner smoking-room chic regularly feature in the designers’ brief, I couldn’t tell you.
In any event, what Commercial Street lacks in this respect, the Guildhall location has in spades. As you enter from an ancient City lane you are greeted by worn leather paneled walls. Efficient staff attend to you, and you are lead downstairs into a bar. Slick enough for a working City drink, but still serving ale on tap, it has been pitched perfectly. With crackle glazed metro tiles on columns that divide the space, dark parquet floors, and art deco fittings, it gives off the perfect vibe for what is next.
When you are ready for food you step through into the restaurant area. The lighting is muted, and candles flicker on each table. The room, whilst large, is encased in reclaimed mahogany panelling. Combined with the candles, lighting and parquet floor, the room shrinks and adds to the Old City ambience which began in the bar.
The menu is a step-up from what you might expect. A generous selection of cleverly conceived starters draw your attention, and that is before you even start to consider the steaks and all their various accompaniments.
I plumped for the Plum Pudding Belly Ribs. After being seasoned with 28 spices and cooked for over four hours, it was really rather incredible. It was also enormous, which filled me with slight fear as I knew an 800g Porterhouse was to follow.
My companion chose the Potted Longhorn Beef and Plum Pudding Bacon for his starter. Whilst not quite so substantial, it was presented in a preserve jar and the flavours were fantastic. Imagination failing him, he too could look no further than the Porterhouse.
The meat served at Hawksmoor is traditionally reared Longhorn, and supplied from North Yorkshire by the award-winning Ginger Pig. It is dry aged and perfectly cooked over charcoal. There are cuts, weights and ages for every taste and day of the week, from a dainty 200g fillet through to an aged Chateaubriand which comes in at well over a kilo. In fact, with 48 hours’ notice, they can supply any cut you like.
Whether you would like beef dripping or goose fat chips is not a choice you often need to make, but you will here. Something a little more sophisticated perhaps? Try half a lobster. Most bases were well and truly covered. It sounds daunting but a well-versed and attentive waitress was on hand to guide us through the maze of cuts, sauces and accompaniments.
By the time we left, doggy bags in hand, we were somewhat slower on our feet than when we had arrived. The post-food contentment was enhanced by the knowledge that we had found something really rather good.
Charlie Winckworth, senior associate, City firm