What else is there to do but eat?
Given, this could be the answer to any scenario, but specifically it was the answer to the conundrum of what to do in the face of incoming snow on a Saturday night.
Although I had been to Hawksmoor at their Seven Dials location, I still hadn’t visited their original spot, which happens to be situated a spitting distance from me in (the conveniently named) Spitalfields.
So we wandered to Hawksmoor Spitalfields, which, in contrast to their polished boardroom at Seven Dials, has a darkwood coziness and neighbourhood feel perfect for a night tucked away from the weather and tucking into classic comforts. An ancient map hanging across one wall and chalkboards with the cuts of meat available contributed to the Old School vibe, while the bar situated in the middle of the rooms kept the place buzzing.
The food was predictably great – starters of crab on toast, with light and dark meat separated in a Rothko-esque abstract landscape, and “plum pudding” ribs, coated in a ridiculously moreish sticky-sweet sauce, were a balanced way to start the meal before tucking into the good stuff: steaks. Our porterhouse was charred outside and perfectly pink in the centre and not too large to overwhelm our accompanying sides of a fluffy baked sweet potato, leafy buttered sprouts, and a Flintstones-sized bone sawn in half to reveal the seared marrow. The marrow skewed the whole meal towards indulgence, reminding us that beef, and beef as well-sourced and well-cooked as the Ginger Pig cuts, is a treat to be savoured.
The only mild, and we’re talking soft-breeze-on-a-hot-day-mild, disappointment was the meal’s finish – the most tooth-achingly sweet salted caramel ice cream languorously draped over a hunk of a brownie, unnecessarily studded with walnut chunks. No better way to ruin a good brownie than with walnut.
Considering Hawksmoor’s arguably sole purpose is the shameless worship of beef, cocktails were the surprising highlight of the evening – immediately upon entering, we were greeted with the most genius cocktail menu I have seen, with a "Toddy Timetable" separating the necessary function of drinks by time of day. As I am partial to a ‘knee-jerker’ or two (wretchedly forgotten left from the list), this was one of the best lists I have ever seen. And I love a list. They might notice a suspiciously lighter bar book on my return visit...
Seeing as we were so distracted by the drinking terms and overwhelmed by the sheer encyclopaedic range of drinks offered, we used the few listed on the menu as a guide to the best and brightest offered, and oh, are we happy we did.
Allow me to introduce to you the perfect start to a meal: the Marmalade Cocktail. It takes a lot to make me stop long enough to consider any pre-dinner drink other than a Negroni in the darker months (and a whiskeysomething for afters), but the Hawksmoor signature caught our eye – sweet but sharp, mellow but potent, gin edged with a bitter dash of Campari made for the ultimate aperitif.
photo: The Cocktail Lovers
So we sipped – and all I can say is that I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement for the opening of a proper bar under the Spitalfields space later this month.
And – for the record – there is no better way to enjoy London in the snow then shuffling home, slightly fuzzyheaded and full-to-bursting, with flurries falling from a bruised sky.
Hawksmoor’s Marmalade Cocktail
The Marmalade Cocktail was first published in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, noting that even "should there be no fog, take as preventatives lest there should be fog in the course of the day". I like that. Hawksmoor similarly categorizes this as an “antifogmatic”.
2 ounces Gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce Campari
2 spoons orange marmalade
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Combine ingredients and shake, then strain over a chilled coupe.
Garnish with orange peel.