I know, Hawksmoor is known in nightlife circles as the King of the steak houses, the fancy know-it-all of the drinking eating capital. You don’t need another review to tell you that. But what everyone has neglected to mention is just how much fun the place is.
Smuggled away from the bright streets of a spring evening, down a staircase into a dark basement room, it felt as if we had sneaked our way into an exclusive club below the ground. A sultry buzz of music, plush leather seats and mirrored walls make for sexy surroundings, no matter how early you intend to start. Minus an ongoing struggle to read the menu by candlelight and a lost wander into the main restaurant upstairs, the evening oozed cool (it’s just a shame that we weren’t quite as smooth as our environs). We stayed nestled in our booth for six hours - testament to a quality hideaway, and you betcha we left our indents in those soft sofa seats.
Food and Drink
These bartenders know their shakers from their sours and aren’t afraid to set you straight on a mission through an alcofrolicking menu. The drinks came in all shapes, sizes and… materials (well of course!) The Desert Island Drinks were an arty experiment, innovations in intoxication – think Tate Modern meets local late night lounge. When I heard the words ‘artistic’, ‘exploration of the senses’, I admit I groaned inwardly a little (can a girl not just get a drink anymore?) But the night was all pleasant surprises, with Café Eau de Vie mixed in with rum and absinthe in chocolate cups, obviously (which finished their journey slathered all over our faces – take note if you’re planning a date night). There were concrete-set wine-based delicacies, tea-infused gins and dynamite offerings on the permanent list such as the Nuclear Banana Daiquiri and peppy gingers – it’s all there, folks, on a menu that covers hella ground in just a page.
And now a confession – poutine has always been an unknown and unexplored alien to me. I know, what kind of critic – nay, what kind of human could be so neglectful? Well, the poutine virginity has been popped and what these guys can do with chips, chicken gravy, cheese curds and crispy chicken strips is really quite something. Oh mamma. I hate to think how good those steaks taste.
So you get it, the food was fab, the drinks were inspired, the venue was great, yada yada yada. But what really made me want to come back? What really kept me there for six hours? It was all in the service. Turns out we all love a bit of attention and these guys dish it out in spades. Don’t just expect a smile, expect a sit down conversation about Chlo, the cocktail artist, expect your water to be constantly refilled (you’ll never reach the bottom of your glass), and always a good laugh as they go. A man who hates cake guided us through an alcoholic minefield with sound advice and tall tales. These guys slaved to discover the ratio of water and ice for the perfect consistency of a frozen margarita, just for us and my goodness did they get it right (so I’ll forgive the cake hatred). It’s these friendly bartenders that give the place its laid back vibes; they welcome you in and immerse you in a whole new world behind the menu.
I’m sure you need no persuasion to hit the Hawksmoor; its reputation precedes it. But don’t limit yourself to the kitchen. Delve into the depths of a basement that rejects the mantel of ‘just another secret bar in Shoreditch’ for a fun new interpretation of how to drink, what to drink, and even who to drink with.