Now, really I’m supposed to be writing up the fun that was Chocolate Week, but as much as I love the sweet stuff, after the last seven days of extreme overindulgence I was craving a savoury reprieve something rotten. When Steven told me he had a spare seat on his reservation for the much hyped soft opening of the third Hawksmoor restaurant in London Guildhall, I didn’t need much convincing to take the morning off work and rearrange my day around the anticipation of a heart stoppingly decadent feast. And yes, yes, I know you’re not supposed to review a soft opening (Hawksmoor doesn’t officially open it’s doors to the public until next Monday) but….well I can’t resist. I don’t do many restaurant reviews so these are merely my thoughts on this particular visit.
Past visits to Hawksmoor Seven dials have left me feeling ever so slightly intimidated by the testosterone pumped vault like space; groups of suits braying loudly over high priced hunks of hide and even more highly priced innebriation, and I was expecting something similar from somewhere so enbedded in the City. I wasn’t wrong. Although we were there for breakfast, and there only appeared to be two or three other covers for this, apparently first service, the restaurant was bizarrely empty. You could envisage how the impressive wood panelled space would become bristling with hormones in no time; the perfect spot for business meetings throughout the day. As it was I was the only girl dining, and the entrance has that same gentlemans club feeling that is so inherent at Seven Dials.
I walk down the staircase into the bar area and take a seat perched on a stool while I wait for my friend to arrive, relishing the opportunity to quiz the on duty barista. All coffee beans are supplied by East London based Climpson & Sons and in addition to the standard espresso based coffees on offer, there are a trio of single estates brewed using a chemex, the coffee is also used to make their own coffee liqueur made fresh each morning. The espresso I start with is pretty good and the filters, sold rather pretentiously as ‘Science Lab Filters’, will be on offer once the restaurant is fully open. The filter coffee option questionably fulfilling a pretty paraphenalia quota as an extension of the cocktail bar it feels, on a par perhaps with the desire to provide a varied coffee selection.
I choose a marmalade martini next, despite it only being 9am, it feels necessary when dining at this splendid bar and offers a breakfasty name if not ingredients of gin, campari and homemade bitters. It’s delicious and sipping it quickly brightens my spirit and makes me long to sit there all day doing little else. There is however food to eat, lots of, and once my companion arrives, we shuffle through into the grand dining room and having our pick of the almost empty room, settle into a comfortable looking leather seated booth.
The grandiose breakfast for two looms from the top of the menu but I don’t like being told what to order and my little heart sings for the grubby sounding sausage and egg muffin, pimped from it’s Mc roots into a thing of head achingly salty beauty. The pork, mutton and beef ‘sausage’ is beautifully seasoned, perfectly cooked egg and quite unnecesary but lavish layer of Ogleshield cheese ooze filthily from the the light as air toasted mufin. I’m glad we were canny enough to share as I think a whole one of these might have finished me off, not necessarily due to size but in sheer salty richness. The other sandwich we try is entitled just bacon, and is pared back simplicity; toasted sourdough bread stuffed with merrily christened Plum Pudding Pig bacon, nothing else required. I have a confession here, knowing full well I wouldn’t enjoy this with all the other dishes coming out, I accept our delightful waitresses kind offer to take my half back to the kitchen where it’s wrapped up for me to take home like a grown up lunch pack (I also sneak in a couple of the grilled mushrooms….What?!)
In addition to our breakfast sandwiches, we order a selection of acompaniaments; grilled mushrooms are deceptively undersold as they are monstrously meaty morsels, marinated in worcestershire sauce, thyme and garlic, offering an intense umaminess. Trotter beans; the name is irresistable and the sweet smoky pulses flecked with meat are addictive. Hash browns are beautifully crisp and plump, dripping toast is saturated and satisfying, and the HP gravy is like the cheese, quite unnecessary, but how a table fails to benefit from the savorury liquid studded with, I believe, globules of bone marrow I don’t know. The real revelation is a short rib bubble and squeak that turns up draped in two glorious eggs; crispy smashed nuggets of potato sit amongst sprightly cabbage and deliciously toothsome shards of beef, all drenched in more of that unctuous HP gravy. I’d happily go back for this alone with some bread and marmalade cocktials….I can’t resist ordering a cornflake milkshake to share just so I can steal a sip, clearly I’d have chosen the slug of bourbon on offer but as my companion wasn’t drinking and would probably have to drink most of it, I didn’t like to insist….this tastes cleverly, as you can imagine, just like the dregs from a bowl of cornflakes. But in a good way.
Feeling ready to burst at this stage, we (I) order a second cocktail; an espresso martini this time. Made with vodka, the aforementioned homemade coffee liqueur and espresso, it’s restorative and intense in both alcohol and caffeine and helps me enable my sweet, second stomach. I’ve had my magpie eyes on a glimpse of marmalade french toast nestled towards the bottom of the menu ever since I spotted it whilst sitting at the bar when I first arrived, so am momentarily mortified to be told that the kitchen has THROWN IT OUT to make way for the lunch service. Admittedly it’s well past eleven now, and we’ve been eating for the best part of two hours, so we’re mollified by a complementary plate of pastries and order another of doughnuts.
The doughnut options are plain, plum or custard and then our waitress lets slip that we could perhaps combine the two fillings, of course this is what we do, I also order one to take away which they happily oblige. The doughnuts turn up about three times the size I was expecting, nothing apologetic about them, they’re also not the trendy grown up style I’ve become accustomed to recently but old school proper. One lick of the jam oozing lasciviously from the plump orbs has me declaring ‘rhubard and custard’ with childlike delight, these are fantastic nostalgic buns, not fancy, not poncy, but fun. There’s not enough of the vanilla flecked custard for my liking, but still, what’s not to love? We cut the plate of three pastries in half so as to have a restrained nibble but before I know it I’ve managed to wholf my portion in a most unladylike fashion. My only excuse being their light and crisp texture and relatively dainty size, my first instinct is to declare the sticky pecan my favourite owing to the crisp caramelised crust but the chocolate is equally addictive with a dangerously light crumb, stuffed with bittersweet chocolate chips, the almond stick slipped down, I swear, without my consent.
And there finishes the most epic breakfast of my life thus far. Despite the ostentatious surroundings, this is casual dining amongst it’s best, if only my body and bank balance allowed me to do it every day. A magnificently decadent feast indeed.
Can happily face chocolate again now.