My love affair with Hawksmoor has been well documented here before, with write-ups of both visits to their Guildhall and Air Street branches. And, although my most recent visit to their revamped Spitalfields subterranean cocktail bar happened at the beginning of the summer, as Jack White so presciently wrote 'I said it once before, but it bears repeating now....'.
It was a chance colliding of good fortune that saw my Aunti Heidi, the Australian Hippy, and I enjoying a cold pint at the Commercial Tavern, directly opposite Hawksmoor's original East London outpost, on a Friday evening half an hour before they opened their doors. After a mammoth trek from Waterloo Bridge, along the South bank, via Borough Market and the Tower of London and through the City, we were both looking for some fancy liquid refreshment, and with the Ewing en route to Liverpool Street to meet up with us, it seemed like fate was calling to us from across the street.
Continuing to ride our luck we managed, at a few minutes after six o'clock, to nab the last three-top in the place, and with no reservations taken, except for the booths for parties of six or more, we soon heard the waiting hordes behind us being told there was a three hour wait for the next free tables. Add an introductory 50% off their new bar food menu, it felt pretty glorious to sink back into their leather stools, feel the air con blowing a breeze down my sunburned neck and enjoy the first gulp of a frosty cocktail.
The drinks, like everything at Hawksmoor, are taken very seriously, but there's also a healthy dose of humour with offerings like the 'fruit-heavy party starter' Nuclear Banana Daiquiri; a potent and tropical blend of overproof rum, yellow Chartreuse, Falernum & lime blended with ripe banana. Bonkers, brilliant and just the ticket for a hot summer's night
During the evening we made our way around most of the drinks menu, enjoying the classic Marmalade Cocktail with gin, Campari, lemon juice, orange bitters & English marmalade, as well as a couple of specials involving various different anise based liqueurs. Keeping with the classics, Aunty Heidi was rather partial to the Green and Red Margarita; an unflashy blend Tequila, lime, lemon & agave syrup served simply over ice. A simple drink that lets the ingredients do the talking.
First up on the food front was a cone of breaded ox cheek nuggets stuffed with a core of molten Ogelshield cheese to nibble on; an unimpeachable combination and surely up there with the very pinnacle of bar snacks.
To start, the Ewing and I split a fillet 'o' fish with jalepeno tartare sauce and a side of punchy vinegar slaw. The puffy, buttery brioche bun proved the perfect vehicle to get the flaky white fish and poky sauce into our eagerly waiting mouths, while the crisp shredded veg, mined with fresh herbs, felt like it should be doing us some good.
Of course, man cannot live on fish alone and we also divvied up a kinchi burger; a bone marrow augmented patty of sweet, charred beef glazed with Ogelshield cheese and served atop a bed of garlicky Korean pickled vegetables. A brilliant combination, although perhaps not for the faint-hearted, which provided serious smack of umami goodness.
Aunty Heidi made short work of the pulled pork and slaw on a semi sweet brioche bun, while the smacked cucumber and watermelon salad provided a bit of sweet and sour, Asian-inspired, refreshment.
First prize, however, must go to the pigs headtopped poutine, Hawksmoor's even filthier re-imagining of the dirty Canadian favourite of fries topped with fresh cheese curds and gravy. They may as well just replace the word unctuous in the OED with a picture of this; the epitome of sweet, sticky, meaty gloriousness.
The Ewing took this pause in proceedings to contemplate the desert menu over a glass of her favourite, the Full Fat Old Fashioned; a sugar and butter infused bourbon that slips down far more easily than it ought to and is worth every sweet, boozy calorie.
Sprits revived (literally and metaphorically) we hit the sweets. Hawksmoor pudding are of the rib-sticking variety but somehow, no matter how much protein you may have just consumed, there is always just enough room for one.
My rubbly heap of peanut butter shortbread topped with salted caramel ice cream wasn't much of a looker, but remains in a podium place out of of all puddings I have eaten this year. The Ewing went for the chocolate caramel cup, a rival for Hawksmoor's very own hommeade jaffa cake, and filled with layers of caramel and rich ganache. Utterly shameless and completely delicious.
My Aunt chose the sticky toffee sundae, a retro layering of sticky toffee sauce, sticky toffee pudding, clotted cream and ice cream. I'm not sure anyone could mess that combination up, and, despite protests of 'I don't really do puddings', the bottom of the glass was soon being scraped clean.
A fantastic night of great company and impeccable service topped with some of the best food and drink to be had any where in our fair City. Edward Hyde once claimed 'it is not the quantity of the meat, but the cheerfulness of the guests, which makes the feast'. He obviously hadn't eaten at Hawksmoor.