Back in August 2010, I joined omnivorous food bloggers, the Critical Couple, for lunch at the original Hawksmoor steakhouse near Spitalfields Market. The Critical Couple were not the first food lovers to have sung the praises of the Hawksmoor, and given how close by my office sits, it seemed silly that I hadn’t yet been there. Unfortunately, as the Critical Couple noted at the time in their blog post, the steaks we ordered (a bone-in prime rib for an eye-watering £61 and bone-in sirloin for £29) were disappointing, as was the Hawksmoor’s signature burger (served only at lunch). The two steaks looked beautiful but tasted a bit tough and lacked char. Definitely not what you’d expect at those prices. And the atmosphere at lunch? A bit too spare and utilitarian. I wasn’t sure I’d ever return. (To the Hawksmoor’s credit, the restaurant contacted the Critical Couple after they blogged their review and offered them a free lunch to redeem itself, which it sounds like the Hawksmoor accomplished).
Fast forward four months, and Jon tells me he’s craving steak for dinner. Unfortunately, I’ve been temporarily swearing off rare meat. And to go to a place like the Hawksmoor and order a well-done steak is synonymous with flushing money down the toilet, yes? A cow will have died in vain, that’s for sure. So Jon asks the Hawksmoor if they’re willing to serve their lunch-only hamburger at dinner to accommodate me, and you know, they were totally lovely about it.
When we showed up for dinner, the room felt completely different from lunchtime. With the lights dimmed and candles burning, the room is warm and inviting. The place is full but not loud, and Jon and I ordered the grilled bone marrow (£6), which arrived silken and smoky with char. The bone marrow’s accompaniment of sweet grilled shallots complemented the acrid char. More toast (also tasting beautifully of char) was no problem when we asked for it, and although we could easily have shared this starter four ways, I’m glad it was just the two of us. I liked this bone marrow even more than I like St. John’s version, which I think is saying a lot. For starters, because the bone is cut lengthwise, Hawksmoor’s version is easier to eat, but mostly, I loved the mix of acrid and sweet flavors.
My cheeseburger was served well-done, and before you raise a hue and cry that I would do such a thing, I will say that if all well-done burgers tasted this tender and flavorful all the time, then I might be willing to order it that way more often. And oh what char! The mayo, cheese, pickles melt into the burger patty, and it’s deliciously messy. So much better than the prim and proper medium-rare burger I recall from my last visit to the Hawksmoor. Jon’s medium-rare rib-eye (£26) was very tasty, so he tells me.
Service at dinner was friendly and attentive. Tap water refills were fast and furious. Overall, I had a really nice experience at the Hawksmoor this time around.
No question that eating at the Hawksmoor is pricey, with our simple dinner costing us £90 for bone marrow, a burger, a rib-eye steak, two glasses of wine and coffee. What a difference welcoming service, glowing decor and beautifully-blended toppings on a burger can make. I’m still wary of returning to Hawksmoor for lunch because I felt so burned the first time around, but when I’m back to eating rare meat, I’ll look forward to dinner there again.
Hawksmoor, 157 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ; 0207 247 7392; closest Tube station: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street Station.