Hawksmoor fails to wow…

I realise I am risking treading on revered toes.  Almost every food blogger within Patriot Missile range of London thinks that Hawsksmoor is legend.  Esteemed mainstream critics from Jay Rayner to Giles Coren have extolled its fleshy virtues.  I was recommended, no, TOLD to go there by cheese lover, Ramsay denier and beefy beefcake Chris Pople.

In short I expected great things.  But whenever you set high expectations, it is inevitable that not everything lives up to the dream.  And a few things fell short for me.

Maybe I live in a world of my own, but going out to dine is not just about the food.  Michelin starred cuisine would be of little comfort to an intern of Guantanamo Bay.  Nor is it just about wine.  Château Latour 1982 by any other name would not taste as sweet, and especially if served in a Vodka Shock test tube, or triple filtered though one of Gordon Brown’s socks.

For me, dining out is about the whole experience:  Food, price, value, atmosphere, service, comfort, and a little je ne sais quoi that is a factor of company, situation, chemistry and other such intangibles.

The atmosphere at Hawksmoor is relaxed and just a shade shabby chic, much like The Ivy, although when I rang ahead to book a table for 6pm there were umms and ahhhs and the sort of whistling noise inhaled by a mechanic who has just spotted that your wallet is more inflated than your tyres.  We were asked if we could clear by 8pm.  When we arrived at 6:15pm we were first in and were rewarded with a good table. When we left at 7:59pm the place was still less than half full.

The steaks are far from cheap, but look fair value.  My rump cap was the cheapest cut, I think, at £19.50 plus veg, but for the provenance and quality you should expect to pay a Patriot price.  Other things on the menu were a bit rich.  My scallops on mucky cauliflower (OK, celeriac) purée were an average dish for nigh on £10, the price of a two main courses at Red Chilli in Manchester, or a used 1980’s Exocet launcher.

Call me old fashioned but, at these prices, I would like my waiter to be dressed more like a penguin than a skateboarder.  I would like just a little more reverence to things other than just the meat.

The wine list was good at the top end, and fairly priced.  At the bottom end there was less choice and imagination.  I would like to see a few more bottles in the twenties.  It was hard to find much under forty Euros.  It is entirely possible, even with London rents, to serve good quality, low price wines.  We do not all wear the pin-stripe, £50 note lined trousers of City bankers.

The Malbec we tried (at £37.50) was fine but I had to ask for it to be chilled down from “room” to “just above cellar”.  I do wish more restaurants would join my WART campaign.  In fairness, the Skateboarder was more than helpful and almost understood the importance of wine temperature.  In any case, he happily tolerated my grumbling.

When the steak arrived, though, I understood why people love this place.  I probably should have ordered it French “saignant”, not British “rare”.  Apart from that it was faultless.  I always think the measure of a good steak is how long it takes to digest.  Writing this 24 hours after eating, I can still taste the juices.  I didn’t sleep at all last night.  My body was more concerned with digesting than dreaming.  The only other time that has ever happened was an occasion at the Chancery Lane Gaucho.  Other Gauchos, whilst decent, never quite lived up to that experience and you already know my views on their wine mark-ups.

Our meal for two at Hawksmoor cost north of £170.  That’s about an average case of wine for me, which provides several evenings of joy.  I feel entitled to top quality meat when paying such price.  That doesn’t mean guaranteed, however, as we all know from bitter experience.

Would I return?  You bet.  But I would order wine by the glass and one steak course, maybe one of the special super-size-me ribeyes.  I would arrive early on a quiet night, not bother booking and simply sit there until chucked out.

157 Commercial Street
Whitechapel, London
E1 6BJ
T: +44 (0)207 247 7392
E: info@thehawksmoor.com
W: http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk

12 Responses to “Hawksmoor fails to wow…”

  1. Ben Says:


    I live in London and have seen Steak restaurants come and go with varying success. A favourite was always Buen Ayres on Broadway Market, but the area became a little too trendy for an old fart like me. One of the guys who managed there set up a restaurant near Tower bridge called Constancia ( http://www.constancia.co.uk/ ) which I’ve been to a number of times now and in my view it’s the best of its type. The wine is priced well and always excellent (I often rant about the ridiculous Gaucho mark-up – following your lead), if possibly served a little warm for you (is room temp). Give it a try if you’re looking for bloody flesh in the capital.


  2. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Thanks Ben, I’ll put that one on the list of places to try…

  3. Chris Says:

    Sorry you weren’t completely wowed. I never order the starters, don’t give a shit what the waiting staff wear and always order the same cheap Malbec (after a dry martini at the bar of course) so perhaps it’s just a personal thing. Next time try going on a Monday – it’s £5 corkage 🙂

  4. Alastair Bathgate Says:


    I regret not trying the cocktails whose reputation seems to match the meat. Will do so next time.

  5. Will Says:

    Hi Alastair,

    Thanks for the feedback. Firstly apologies for failing to wow, which definitely falls short of how we want people to leave. There are a couple of things that you and I differ on (in the skateboarder v penguin debate I prefer skateboarders – its pretty common in the States and I think the service style we have is one of the things people really like about us; i also happen to think we’re pretty good value – we certainly aim for a much lower mark up than most restaurants). I definitely agree with you about wine temperature though, and I think everyone else at Hawksmoor does too – we’ve just bought the basement which will give us much more storage at a better temperature and invested a lot of money in wine fridges. I think this should let us store wine at the ideal temperature all the time – I freely admit its been an issue to date.

    Anyway, as Chris says if you’d like you could always come on a Monday for £5 corkage (see http://food.elitistreview.com/PermaLink,guid,a884a0b6-a5b2-4100-a146-1fea505ed9ad.aspx for example). Either way if you’d like to come down and have a glass of wine on me some time I’d be happy to get your thoughts on the new temperature …

    Thanks again for coming, hope to see you there again soon.

  6. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Hi Will
    I will definitely return as I made clear in my post. I will continue to disagree with you on the penguin vs skateboarder debate. If you are comparing yourself to a West Coast meathouse then why claim “British Steak House” at the very top of your menu? At places I’ve eaten at your end of the price range in New York and London I think it’s normal to be able to pick out a waiter amongst the crowd of customers because, for example, they are wearing a Hawksmoor branded polo shirt or similar. It’s about branding, style, and recognition, not smartness. But then many people think I am old fashioned. You don’t need to invest anything in wine fridges to serve wine at the right temperature. If your wines are stored at a sensible and reasonably consistent “room” temperature they should store well. About 10 minutes in an ice bucket will get most reds down to drinking temp. About 20-30 mins for white.
    Look forward to seeing you again soon and trying another of your delicious steaks.

  7. Daniel Says:


    First, congratulations on an interesting blog.

    As Will from Hawksmoor pointed out, the Monday £5 corkage deal is definitely the way to go for us wine lovers, although the wine list seems to be both better as well as better value since I last looked at it.

    I think you are being a touch harsh in your criticism. Hawksmoor is a steakhouse, not a multi-Michelin style fine dining establishment. Relaxed and unpretentious yet professional service is exactly what I would expect. I find the waiters are always enthusiastic about what they serve and they do a lot better at wine service than most comparable places.

    – Starters. The ribs are amazing, the others ok but nothing special. Still miles ahead of your stereotypical steakhouse offering (or Gaucho, spit!). If they could only add sweetbread skewers to the menu, I’d have no complaints.
    – Meat. Brilliant, as you rightly point out. Expensive, but plenty of pleasure for money. Perfectly prepared, and clearly my second of third best beef experience ever (#1 is Pedro of Casa Nicolas in Tolosa http://www.diariovasco.tv/index.html#frontaleID=F_VASCOTV&sectionID=S_VASCOC&videoID=19210)
    – Sides and extras. Eating the bone marrow is a transcendental experience, and the fried eggs are a great addition too. I’d find it difficult to not choose the mac and cheese as a side, although the red onion and tomato salad has been surprisingly satisfying in the past. The chips are perhaps not as great as many seem to think, but still amongst the best in the UK.
    – Desserts. I’ve only had room for dessert once, and am not planning to let it happen again 🙂
    – Service, yes, it’s quite casual as far as dress goes, but they are always friendly and obviously care about what they serve, which is pretty rare, especially in London. All in all, I think the service, ambience and simplicity of the food go very well together.

    Finally, Hawksmoor is one of my favourite places for cocktails in London. The intelligent choice and the quality of execution impresses me more and more every time I visit. The BM (Bloody Mary) was delicious, heroically fiery but with an attractive sweetness from basil. The Zombie can only be described as very tasty, and could kill at a hundred paces. Having one is probably enough for the government to condemn you as a binge-drinker.

    NB. I promise have no involvement with Hawksmoor or anyone who works there, it is just one of my very favourite places in London.

  8. Daniel Says:

    Sorry, the link should be


  9. Alastair Bathgate Says:


    Thanks for the comments. I really feel I missed out on the cocktails and will defo try next time. So rare to find a decent mixologist, even in London.

    As for food, next time I will be taking Chris Pople’s recommendation to just order a decent sized steak as part of a 3 course meal 1. cocktail 2. main course 3. wine.

    I am also happy to be on a tangent to the rest of the world re: the penguin/skateboarder debate.

    On price – Hawksmoor seems very fair value for the steak. Taking the meal as a whole, £170 for two is about what I have paid at many of the fine dining places in London, so the bar has to be set pretty high.

  10. Will Says:

    Hi Daniel,

    Probably too late for this (will you be reading this again?) but would love to hear more about the place in Tolosa. You on Twitter? If so tweet me @HawksmoorLondon.


  11. Confessions of a Wino » Blog Archive » Hawksmoor revisited Says:

    […] Last time I wrote about the London food bloggers’ beefy hero of Shoreditch, I was accused of snobbery.  I was unkind to the waiting staff who I described as ’skateboarders’ lacking coordination and worse, more dishevelled in appearance than most customers. […]

  12. Hawksmoor revisited | Wine Miles Says:

    […] Last time I wrote about the London food bloggers’ beefy hero of Shoreditch, I was accused of snobbery.  I was unkind to the waiting staff who I described as ’skateboarders’ lacking coordination and worse, more dishevelled in appearance than most customers. […]

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