For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hawksmoor brand, let me enlighten you.
Hawksmoor is famous for STEAK. This makes me very excited. Anyone who knows me well will understand that I will do (almost) anything for steak, good quality steak that is. In fact, my beef obsession began before I’d even made it out of my mother’s womb. She craved beef whilst pregnant, and I often tell her now, “If you hadn’t had given in, I wouldn’t have this addiction.”
Hawksmoor takes steak seriously, offering all kinds of cuts, from Chateaurbriand to T-Bone, from Bone-in-prime Rib to Porterhouse. Of course, places like this are going to cost money – serious money. Being a student, it’s places like this that I casually suggest to my parents.
In this case, my mother, sister and I were dining early before heading to the theatre. Which meant, happily for us, we got to take advantage of the Hawksmoor express menu: three courses for £25.
I can’t speak for the other branches, but Hawksmoor Air Street has an entrance like a hotel. A polished lobby with a desk. The receptionist – or is that front of house? – asked us for our reservation name. We hadn’t made one, and were left in a disconcerting silence. After a bit of prompting, the woman quickly told us it would be fine.
Which, at 5pm on Thursday, it was. In fact, it was practically deserted, emphasised all the more by the fact it is the LARGEST restaurant I have ever seen. I originally thought it had a mirrored end but I found myself just keeping walking and walking.
Apparently, it can seat 250 covers.
We took our seats and began giggling at the wine prices. A bottle for £6500, anyone? Who needs to drink stuff like that when just the prices can make us laugh?
Ordering was simple, given the limited choice on the express menu.
For starters, my sister and I ordered Potted Beef and Bacon with Yorkshire Puddings.
I guess the name should have told me that it came in a pot, but somehow my brain just didn’t make the connection and I was really surprised to find a glass pot on my plate! Inside was tender meat, not quite paté but softer than terrine. With caramelised onions and Yorkshire puds, it was a stunning combination and a lot of fun to eat. If I had to criticise it, I think the batter needed a tad more salt and I prefer Yorkshires to be slightly less crispy and little more doughy. Also, as you can see from the pic, it’s unreasonably large for a starter, so it’s not for those with small appetites! (Of course, I managed just fine.)
My mother took the shrimps on toast, but these were disappointing. Actually, they tasted so fishy that we thought they might be slightly off and decided not to finish them. So disappointing in comparison to the potted beef and bacon.
Whilst waiting for the mains, the fire alarm went off. And, wow, did it go on and on and on and on and on. The restaurant started to smell and look a bit smoky. We saw people rushing about and fiddling with a box in the corner. Our very friendly waiter came and apologised and said that some cream had fallen onto the griddle in the kitchen and had caused a lot of smoke. Eventually, after over five minutes of wailing, they managed to shut the alarm up.
For mains, we all took 250g Ribeyes. Our waiter recommended that we should have the steaks cooked medium. We were surprised as we’re fans of medium-rare, but he assured us that cooking it slightly more would lead to a better release of flavour.
We should have gone with our instincts. The steaks were overcooked and slightly dry, with charred burnt bits on the outside. As we progressed through our steaks, adding plenty of horseradish sauce to moisten the mouthfuls, we found that some parts had survived: these were more succulent, tasty and highlighted that this was good quality beef. But overall, the chef just didn’t know how to pull it off, which is worrying given Hawksmoor is a famous steak restaurant! As my mother said, “If I were paying full price for this, I would send it back.”
As for the sides, the salad was beautifully presented and had a light, slightly nutty and very fresh dressing. It was simple yet it was salad at its best.
The triple-cooked chips were over-salted but edible. A waiter dropped them en route to our table, so we got a half-portion and then received a full portion for free.
However, the field mushrooms were completely inedible. It was like they had been soaking in seawater for the past few centuries. I couldn’t eat more than one before my tongue curled up in protest and I gulped down some (fresh)water. We were offered a new side for free but we declined as we had more than enough food.
For dessert, we took the peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel icecream. The shortbread was filled with chunks of peanuts and the centre had a hot, chocolate sauce which spilled out over the biscuit and provided a delightful contrast with the cold ice-cream. Eating this was an experience. Full marks for a creative, tantalising and exciting dessert.
As a result of the hiccups, Hawksmoor were very keen to please. Without us asking, they deducted my mother’s red wine at £11 per glass and only charged us for two two-course menus at £22 – that’s the equivalent of getting two free desserts. We weren’t expecting anything but we were appreciative of the gesture.
This is probably standard procedure, but we received three delicious dark chocolate salted caramels. Mmm.
The bill came to £95.06 for one glass of white wine, two soft drinks, one three-course set menu, two two-course set menus, a double espresso, and a 12.5% service charge.
Would we go back to Hawksmoor? Eyeing up some of the full-size steaks, I would have to say yes…but not to Air Street. I’ve had a sniff around on the Internet and it seems that Air Street doesn’t quite cut, but the other branches are highly recommended. Watch this space for an updated review. Anyone want to treat me? 😉
Hawksmoor Air Street – 3/5
5a Air Street, London, W1J 0AD
Food 2.5/5 – So hit-and-miss! The food that was fantastic was fantastic, but other items were inedible.
Value 3/5 – Express menu is reasonable, but beware the full-priced menu.
Service 4.5/5 – Very keen to please. They lose half a point because the lady at the front of house could do with a bit of customer service training.
Ambiance 3/5 – Not exactly bustling, but it did start to fill up. Relaxed and friendly.