Hawksmoor, Shoreditch

Pretty much most of you reading this blog have probably heard of the small Hawksmoor chain and many will have been as they’ve been very successful. They started in Shoreditch on Commercial Street quite a few years ago, and have now expanded to 3 other sites in premium parts of London.

I’ve been a semi-regular at the Shoreditch one since it opened, and have loved the concept of top quality beer and / or cocktails, excellent and rather large hunks of meat, and rich, fatty, slippery sides like Stilton hollandaise and roast none marrow. That they do starters and deserts is frankly confusing. Why do you need anything else if you’ve had 600g of beef, chips, mushrooms, hollandaise and marrow, washed down with something big and red.

You’ll have gathered I like the place. It’s a simple attractive set of rooms, with enough space between tables for discretion, but close enough to create a real buzz. As I said, the drinks are great, with Kernel and Meantime beers vying with very well made cocktails to start with.

The staff across the group really are outstanding. Trendier than me or my mates, (that’s not hard) but not in any way as snotty as the skinny jeans / directional hair / perfect beard / tattoo combination would suggest. Basically they’re knowledgable, friendly, articulate and attractive and enhance the enjoyment of the occasion. I hope they’re well paid and get proper proportion of the tronc.

The beef really is excellent. I believe it comes from the Ginger Pig group, and is perfectly butchered, cooked to the requested cuisson and has that combination of char and melting buttery texture, in addition to deep beefy flavour that comes from great quality meat, cooked by pros.

Sides add ballast and different flavour, but really they’re in place to provide context to the meat. The wine list is impressive and as one would expect for City Fringes, you can do some damage. Anything that you’d want to be on the list is there: classic old world such as Bordeaux, Rhone or Barolo, new classics such as Argentine / Chilean reds and more American wine than is usual. It’s actually a clever list because whilst there’s not much real grandstanding, but I bet they sell a lot of £60+ as that’s the sort of thing City foodies want to drink with a great steak.

Downstairs there’s a great bar, which is primarily about drinking, although they do keep sneaking more food down there. This is history repeating itself as the ground floor used to have a dedicated bar space that morphed into the restaurant. I hope they maintain it as a drinking place where you can eat, rather than another floor of restaurant. If this happens it would be a tragedy, as it’s where my team has all important ” strategy meetings”.

In all seriousness, it’s a very good bar. Sort of Deco in style, it reminds me a little of Milk and Honey. Of course I drink vodka Martinis there, but they do a great beer and gin cocktail called “shakey Pete” and my colleagues talk very fondly of the mohitos.

I’m going to conclude this rambling review with the proof of my love for this place. Even though I’ve spent a lot time in there professionally over the years, I’ve also spent more of my own money in Hawksmoor than any other restaurant in London, bar perhaps the Wolsey. It’s an awesome place, because it knows what it is, what it does well and continues to dominate the London restaurant scene, because they don’t take their eyes off the ball.

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My worst sporting weekend?

I’ve had some real letdowns in my sporting life. Spurs in 1987; Italia 90 and Euro ’96; a cheating ref denying the Lions in NZ and Martin Johnson’s very good team beaten by a very good Australian side that had to “do” Richard Hill to win. Munster’s numerous heroic losses. Then there’s cricket. The horrible reversal in ’97 after a great start. Surrey losing to Hampshire in a nat west final.

Hours, sometimes years, of hope crushed in a matter of seconds. I remember being certain at some point in all of the above that my team, be it England, Lions, Munster or Spurs was going to win. They’d showed fight, and skill and I supported them, and they were going to win. And then they didn’t. Dewi Morris was offside. Strings couldn’t stop Trevor Leotta (he’d make up for it). Chris Waddle hit the post and Gazza had lost a bit of pace and couldn’t slide in. The Aussies were just better than us at cricket for all of the 90s and much of the 2000s, but even then, we monstered them in ’96, for one game.

Then came this weekend and for the first time in a long time, I feel let down by sportsmen that I’ve followed for years. Spurs was slaughtered by Manchester City, but it wasn’t just the score line, it was the way they lost. The way they looked like they didn’t care if City got 10. They’ve been building up to this, and we’ve all worked for bosses we don’t like or don’t respect, but even then it’s the lack of self respect that annoyed me. Spurs were outplayed, outrun and out thought and they didn’t care.

So to the ashes, and what again looked like a total lack of fight. I know that there’s now a significant lack of fast bowling, and pitches are slower and lower than used to be the case. I understand that the English cricket team are not therefore used to dealing with sustained, hostile, genuinely quick bowling. Again however the disappointing thing was that a lot of the dismissals looked like they were down to a lack of care, or at best a bull headed determination to do what pleased them. Fast bowling is genuinely unpleasant. It is scary, and it hurts. The thing though is that these guys are meant to be able to handle this sort of thing – or at least try to. I’m not sure they all did.

I can handle my teams losing. I support a range of teams that often do lose. It’s the giving up that bothered me. In fact I found it genuinely depressing – hence my worst sporting weekend.

At least Munster won, in Perpgnan. Maybe there are some things I can still count on