Hawksmoor Spitalfield, despite being the first of Huw Gott and Will Becketts locations, has remained the only one that I’ve completely failed to visit, possibly due to it’s East London location, athough perversly it seems to be where I spend more and more of my non working time these days. The restaurant upstairs has become equally well known as a brunch destination as it is for it’s signature steaks, whilst the downstairs, previously a strip club, more recently more of a storage area, is of course where I’m headed on Saturday night as it’s the home of their new and exciting bar. With low ceilings, and space on the claustrophobic side of spacious, it couldn’t be more different to the grand and slightly imposing, testosterone pumped Hawksmoor that I’ve become accustomed to; it’s a far more intimate afair and I’m liking it rather a lot. There is a distinct air of 20′s elegance with it’s low lighting and art deco flourishes. The space is beautifully adorned with a combination of copper sheeting, mirror work and gorgeous white and azure tiling, this all combined with leather, boothed alcoves and small tall tables with high chairs, in a confined basement area lends a slightly prohibition feel to the bar.
In keeping with the decadent surroundings I start as I mean to go on with a cocktail from their succinct list of ten; five classics, and five desert island that will change on a regular basis chosen by the bartenders. My ‘Puritan’; a heady mix of gin, chartreuse, vermouth and orange bitters seems somewhat lacking in body and punch, but not one to be easily deterred I focus on the job in hand; food. We’re here for the soft launch which offers us a generous 50% off food but just a ninety minute session at our table; we order quickly. To be honest, there’s been so much talk of the launch via Twitter that my friend and I have a fairly clear idea of what we fancy with just a glimpse of the menu. Where upstairs has more of a relaxed restaurant feel, there’s no mistaking this is a bar, and the menu reflects this with a list that is short and intensely carb and meat-centric.
You kind of have to order the burger, it’s not my favourite in London but it is good, so we’re quick to add the cheeseburger to our list; I had hoped their current third burger, the umami, would be available but it’s not when I ask, maybe it will be later. Another must have is the quickly becoming iconic short rib french dip, oh, and the poutine….not sick of the sound of these dishes yet? No? Then where the hell have you been?? The trouble with Twitter (or is that a benefit?) is that every new trend is pimped to within an inch of its life; I find myself almost sick of the sight of most restaurants and menus before I’ve even visited. And yet some things go beyond the faddish, this is just dirty food of the greatest kind; is it ever possible to become sick of that late night drunken kebab or greasy burger, naughty doughnut, sinful fridge buffet sandwich or cold breakfast pizza. Here your innermost filthiest food cravings are put on paper, given a price tag and made acceptible, in an underground bar kind of way. Obviously.
Once the food starts turning up I’ve pretty much forgiven the slightly insipid cocktails; this may have been a soft opening but drinks are sure enough full price and not up to the standard I’ve had from Hawksmoor in the past, I put it down to them settling in to the new space. Jalapeno coleslaw arrives first; deliciously refreshing and a near perfect example, I’m only perturbed by a distinct lack of heat, and only as the jalapeno is advertised…Next is quite possibly my favourite dish of the evening; short rib nuggets, innocuous breaded balls filled with scorching (yes, I believe there were a few scalded impatient mouths) unctuous meat, gravy and an unnexpected gooey stilton hit on biting through, these are blissful dipped into the accompanying piquant sauce; I can think of few dishes more umami rich, wonderful!
In quick succesion we’re brought our cheeseburger; medium rare, sturdily sweet brioche bun, satisfying cheese, but sadly tomato (hate tomato in my burger and this is quickly removed), and short rib french dip; a long, dreamily light brioche bun is stuffed with glossy, tender, shredded short rib meat and cheese, oozing with gravy and served with more gravy to dip; bliss, and actually rather more ethereal a dish than the heart attack it sounds. And then the poutine is placed before us; with such an alarming quantity of red meat already consumed and not much mention of the chicken from previous diners, we choose the less artery clogging version (I mean really marginally)over the oxtail and I’m not dissapointed. Triple cooked chips are perfectly executed and then topped with indecent amounts of gooey, stringy cheese, moist shredded chicken, crispy bites of chicken skin and then doused in thick, savoury gravy; oh boy, it’s good, maybe not an honest replica of the Canadian dish but a very welcome interpretation.
I don’t find the dessert section overly appealing; where’s those naughty, glorious doughnuts I had at the Guildhall branch, or the marmalade bread and butter pudding that I still haven’t tried? My friend hasn’t the greatest sweet tooth so I’m left to pick one to share, I choose the chocolate malt tart; what turns up is better than expected, very moreish, and admitedly there’s nothing left on the plate. Yet it’s just not the comforting, playful, and slightly obscene dish I’m after, and no match for the rest of the menu.
I plan to visit again soon to give the cocktails another go, to eat deliciously dirty food that’s as perfect for mopping up a previous nights indulgence, or more likely in my case, as it is to fuel a decadently sinful evening of inebriation.
A HUGE thankyou to the kind and generous @Ozzyldn for donating me his reservation.