When you think of Hawksmoor, images of sizzling steaks, meaty morsels and cheesy sides spring to mind. But what if I told you that carnivore favourite is also home to some of the best cocktails in the world? Hidden below the east London restaurant, Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is a subterranean den shaking up world-class drinks with a moreish menu and slick vibes to match.
Dark tones and hip hop laid the foundation for a slick drinking experience on a rainy Friday night. Passing couples and groups of friends as they schmoozed at the bar, we were led to our table; hidden away in an intimate corner for maximum date night points with the fiancé. Think copper accents, brown hues and splashes of blue - all in tune with the swish restaurant above.
Only a few months ago, the subterranean watering hole was named best restaurant bar in the world by Tales of the Cocktail, one of the most prestigious industry awards out there. Not content with this accolade, Hawksmoor has switched things up - ushering in a new 5-part booze bible that flits between highballs and fizzy numbers, ‘Cocktails & Dreams’, Hawksmoor classics, the ‘Flyby Five’ and non-alcoholic drinks.
First up, a cider brandy and Champagne-tipped Le Crunch 75 (£9.50) for him and a Care/Of Fizz (£14) for me. Both from the first section, but each very distinct. A start contrast to his boozy pick, my sparkling sip was a fluffy blend of gin, rhubarb, lemon, amaro, cream and soda; almost like a grown-up version of nostalgic cream sodas.
As J Dilla and Ice Cube pumped through the room, we made our way through the overhauled food list. Seeing that the Short Rib French dip had been expunged from the new menu was a blow to the stomach – that deliciously saucy number was the reason for my first ever visit – but the show had to go on. An insane beef and bone marrow bun (£9) filled the void, with soft, melt-in-the-mouth meat sitting alongside a huge bowl of zingy sauce for dipping.
Living up to the reputation of the molluscs upstairs, scallops (£5 each) were slathered in white port and packed with a garlicky crunch, while fresh yet meaty bone marrow oysters were lip-smackingly luscious. Light as a feather and paired with an addictive devilled yoghurt sauce, fried chicken (£8) was the ideal match for the rich squid and prawn toast (£8).
Diving into ‘Cocktails & Dreams,’ my dinner date lapped up the gin, passionfruit, Campari and white chocolate-laced Pink Squirrel (£12). Arriving just before a Devon crab sandwich (£10), the creamy concoction perfectly accompanied the dainty sando. As a fan of Swift’s sgroppino, I couldn’t resist the grapefruit version (£9.50) here. Deliciously thick and peppered with a generous lashing of lime, it was literally mouthwatering – definitely earning its place as a ‘Hawksmoor Classic.’
With only enough stomach space for one more dish, we moved onto the Big Matt (£9). A burly bun layered with Red Leicester, special sauce, pickles, lettuce and double beef patties, it had an air of Big Mac about it. Tasty yes, but not quite French Dip territory. Sticking with what we know best, I ended on A Finer Colada (£10.50) while he landed on the Martini (£12). Mine – a grown-up take on tiki – was a coconutty, Champagne-y dream, though his – aged in some sort of ultrasonic contraption – was a lemony miss. You can’t win them all, aye.
The DesignMyNight Digest
There’s a reason why Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is such a staple and it’s not difficult to see why. Sure, you could head upstairs for a top-notch meal but if you’re after something a little more low-key, then the subterranean bar shouldn’t go unnoticed. Recognised not only for their edible offering, but the liquid ones too, the lesser-known hideaway makes the perfect date night spot… every… single… time. I’ll be back – and hopefully my beloved short rib will too.