Venetia van Kuffeler reviews Hawksmoor Knightsbridge
Will Beckett and Huw Gott’s first West London restaurant, Hawksmoor Knightsbridge, opened at the start of the summer to a number of mixed reviews. AA Gill wasn’t particularly ecstatic in The Times, yet Tom Parker-Bowles in The Mail on Sunday declared that ‘Britain’s finest steaks’ were to be found in ‘the culinary desert of Knightsbridge.’ We were intrigued…
The fifth Hawksmoor is a subterranean restaurant and bar with a glamorous 1930s interior and a menu revolving around steaks from ethically-reared native breed cattle and sustainable seafood from around the British coast. The original restaurant opened in 2006 in Spitalfields and was an instant hit, rekindling Londoners’ love affair with steak. The pair have since expanded the Hawksmoor offering, opening Seven Dials in Covent Garden in 2010, Hawksmoor Guildhall in the City (Tatler New Restaurant of the Year) in 2011 and Hawksmoor Air Street in November 2012.
The restaurant’s Art Deco interior takes its cue from the 1930s building with grey leather banquettes and chairs and brass lamps mounted on grey marble that runs along the middle of the room. Although traditionally furnished, the restaurant is certainly no dinosaur with a visible wine room and open kitchen that parallels with the design of a deconstructed modern restaurant.
This dichotomy of old and new is a theme that runs throughout the restaurant. The menu is a delightful mix of surf and turf, combining sturdy Knightsbridge classics of lobster, caviar, a hot Fruit de Mer for two to share and endless different types of steak, sauces and sides, with its more modern cousins of raw citrus sea bass with chilli and ginger, Palamos red prawns with garlic and olive oil, and heritage tomato salad with fennel and bottarga.
As tempting as these new world dishes were, we went for the dishes that have made Hawksmoor famous. I started with half a dozen Fine de Claires oysters. Fresh and creamy, these little bundles of joy slipped down like a dream. My husband had the Brixham crab salad with brown shrimps and little gem, which he gobbled down with a particularly good glass of Chablis. My dictionary-thick 300g fillet steak was more than I should have considered eating, but seemed to disappear from the plate in no time.
His 400g rib-eye with a side of grilled bone marrow was declared a triumph. Creamed spinach was dependably delicious and macaroni cheese with lobster was decadent and tasty.
After such a feast we had to decline the offer of pudding, instead having the chef’s take on a childhood favourite, Rolos; perfectly crispy chocolate spheres housing salted caramel, passion fruit, bourbon and pecan. Incredible.
The Hawksmoor wine menu is extensive and tempting, but also a mix of serious and not-so-serious prices. Interestingly, Monday evenings include Bring Your Own (BYO) with corkage at £5 per bottle, adding another modern twist to the restaurant.
The cocktail list evolves around drinks that suit different times of the day. From pre-fox hunt bracers to bedtime dream-enhancers, via pre-prandial sharpeners, after-lunch stomach-settlers and late-night disco drinks. My husband was delighted with his ‘anti-fogmatic,’ recommended for 6am (it was 7.30pm on a Thursday evening) of Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew, consisting of gin, homemade ginger syrup and lemon juice, topped with London Pride all served in a pewter jug.
A delightful mix of traditional and contemporary and certainly not for the fainthearted, Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is a restaurant designed with a man in mind, but which women can certainly enjoy. But it’s clear why the group has been a success: the food is phenomenal.
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