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Jun 24, 2013 10:11 AM

[London, WC2] Hawksmoor, Seven Dials

Truth be told, this was our fourth choice of restaurant, the other three being closed on a Sunday evening. I rather surprised myself making a reservation here, as I’m not normally a big eater of steak – there always seems to be something more interesting to eat on a menu. However, the nephew who was “guest of honour” loves a big chunk of cooked cow. I also have a bit of a thing about restaurants in cellars – they always seem to be underwhelming. Well, not here. Well, at least not the main courses.

Starters were, indeed, disappointing and I found myself thinking “Ahha. Another bloody cellar meal”. There was shrimps on toast which promised much but were overseasoned with both pepper and lemon so there was none of the delicate flavour of the brown beauties. And “bone marrow with onions” was only OK. It came served in a split bone and was suitably fatty, suitable unctuous. But the toast that came with it was more just burnt bread than toast and was not very nice.

Needless to say, we had a steak each. Rib-eye can have a fair amount of scaggy bits so the 400g portion might sound a lot but actually comes down to just a decent generous portion. D-rump was a new cut for me – not exactly your usual rump but a triangular slab of meat from down that part of the animal. And any bit of beef that’s announced as being 55 days aged is going to find its way onto my plate. And it was bloody lovely. And cheap by comparision with other menu offerings, which can be in second mortgage territory. All accompaniments are extras at Hawksmoor, which can quickly ratchet up prices. But beef dripping fries were top notch. The Béarnaise was also pretty good, although there’s never enough tarragon in them for my taste. And an English lettuce and herb salad was perfect – traditional floppy leaved sweet lettuce, a sprinkling of chopped parsley with a hint of mint.

We passed on desserts but did have coffee which was passable but no more.

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  1. I'm not a steak person as well, so Hawksmoor was never on my list of places-to-visit. But I'd had more than one London colleague who pronounced that they'd had the "best meal ever" at Hawksmoor - which made me quite curious. May pop in for the bone marrow the next time I'm visiting London.

    1 Reply
    1. re: klyeoh

      i'm not a steak eater either but for me a trip to hawksmoor is about their burgers and good cocktails.

    2. Interesting experience John. I loved Hawksmoor when I first went in 2010 but the quality has dipped awfully on my last few visits since their vigorous expansion and at the same time prices have skyrocketed to the point where it just isn't really worth it anymore which is a shame.

      I've had some poor starters/desserts there and it really is all about the steak. Which is very good but there's no room for error and last time I went it came significantly more cooked than I asked for.

      Ultimately if money is no object and someone wants a steak I'd still send them to Hawksmoor but I've stopped recommending it as a general option to anyone.

      12 Replies
      1. re: ManInTransit

        I rarely mention prices when reviewing food but our meal for four was £270, which could prompt a sharp intake of breath. Two courses for everyone, aperitifs, bottle of wine, bottle of water and service.

        There was something of a celebration to the meal, and the nephew certainly enjoyed himself, so I don't begrudge the cost. In different circumstances, I may think I hadnt had value for money.

        1. re: Harters

          I do think it's worth flagging up prices when relevant, particularly where extras can push the price up e.g. the £2 'cover charge' at Moti Mahal.

          I do think Hawksmoor has gone too far, I'd sooner just go to O'Shea's or the Ginger Pig for proper beef and spend money in other restaurants which I can't replicate at home so easily. Then again they did invent salted caramel rolos.

          Glad a good evening was had which ultimately is all that matters.

          1. re: ManInTransit

            I've said before that the cover charge at Moti Mahal is simply taking the piss. It may be the custom in Spain to levy a small charge but it ain't the custom here.

            But, yes, a good trip to London. The nephew got a first class honours for his BA (Photography) and his exhibit at FreeRange was picked as "best in show" by the British Journal of Photography. Such a talented young man - and the first person in my extended family to have attended university. Made the meal worth every penny, and an old man very proud

            1. re: Harters


              Buy his first photograph; perhaps one day you'll be able to sell it and buy meals at the Hawksmoor like sweets at a candyshop.

              I went to Colbert in Sloane Square last night and they charged something like 1.75 cover charge. A pitcher of tap water for the table and some thin baguettes didn't seem to make up the fee (though the ability to eat for 2 under 40 in Sloane Sq almost makes up for it).

              At Moti Mahal I suggested they take off the cover charge which they readily agreed to do.

              1. re: brokentelephone

                I usually just ask them to remove the cover charge or I will reduce the service charge by the same amount. Their call.

                I once went to Moti Mahal with my mum treating me though and she paid and it riled me.

                Is Colbert any good BT?

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  Colbert is OK.

                  I've been 5 times? It's a good option when in the area, but like other Wolseley places, the food isn't as good as the atmosphere and service (bar Zedel, which stinks).

                  I had a very mediocre/poor steak sandwich last week for lunch, but this past visit had an excellent herb omelet (firm edges with many layers of egg and a viscous runny interior), with superb chips (McDonald's-esque). My wife loves the chicken club (served on a great Italian roll -- a rarity in London). Their schnitzel is terrific, but how can you really fuck up deep fried breaded veal? The tartare is good as well, but again, thats hardly an achievement. The deserts I've had have been quite good (esp the lemon cheesecake on my last visit).

                  I wouldn't ever say to go out of your way, but like the Wolseley/Delauny, its a cool place to chill out and enjoy an afternoon.

              2. re: Harters

                Congratulations on having such a talented nephew. My son won awards, too, as a photographer, so I know that feeling of being proud. It's a very tough profession. My son decided to leave it behind and got his MBA. :-) He still takes great photos.

                I'm glad I had my steak at a more sensible price at The Hayloft. I wonder whose ribeye tasted better. But celebrations aren't about the cost, and life is short.

          2. re: ManInTransit

            Have you tried The Cut by Wolfgang Puck? It's a bit expensive, but my steaks there have been the best I've tried in London.

            I've heard people haven't enjoyed it as much as I have, but reviews, eh?

            1. re: brokentelephone

              I haven't been yet no - the reviews were odd in that they were positive but in quite a snotty way. I was a bit put off by the pricing but if it is indeed very good then perhaps I'll have to give it a go.

            2. re: ManInTransit

              Try Maxela's in South Kensington. Deeply flavoured Fassone beef. The fillet was ~£20, which is a better value than the Hawksmoor or Goodman's, considering its tenderness and flavour.

              1. re: limster

                Looks astonishingly good value all round the menu considering where it's located.

                1. re: limster

                  Thanks for the suggestion Limster. I live minutes away and have been meaning to try it. I worry it won't be there long, it never seems to be busy!