Friday, 9 September 2011

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials)

Everyone likes the Hawksmoor. It’s been raved about since its low-key beginnings on Commercial Street and become a force to be reckoned with on the London food scene. They’ve been consistently modern – effortless social media, solid provenance and many ‘meet the producers’ evenings for wine tasting and so forth. The guest burgers and email updates show a decent sense of humour too, without being corny.

bone marrow
So I don’t really need to gush too much in this particular review. It’s all been done before and I don’t mean that in snarky way whatsoever; all the gushing is justified. So this is more some vague thoughts on the place itself rather than the usual step by step review. It’s been covered so beautifully across the blogosphere already.

At Seven Dials, the bar area is fantastic and it’s worth deliberately arriving early. It has that prohibition-era thing going on, which isn’t hugely unique anymore (although I still love it) but also has a transatlantic liner vibe to it too. As a former brewery, the whole space feels cavernous and the dining room has an industrial feel.

The drinks menu is only slightly less descriptive and dense than The Silmarillion, but I’m a geek and am happy to read about Hemingway, bridging drinks and so forth. The cocktails are superb, but nothing is left neglected; they’ve collaborated with Maltby Street brewers du jour Kernel to create some of their own beers and needless to say, the wine list is exemplary.


There is some debate regarding Hawksmoor over what they do best. The drinks are as good as any high-end cocktail bar, but it’s the food people visit and revisit for. The starters are pretty amazing – people go crazy for the bone marrow, or the Tamworth Ribs with secret seasoning (over 20 ingredients when I asked). The steaks, of course, are spot on. In the blogging world, many sing from the rooftops about the burger, and sometimes the kimchi burger too.

tamworth belly ribs

But my underdog vote has to go to the sides.

Obviously I truly come here for the meat, but in these days of obsessive sourcing, Josper grills and savvier consumers, bad steaks are getting rarer (mind the pun) and good steaks aren’t too difficult to find. But there is little worse than getting a decent, 7/10 rib-eye and then being served anaemic thin fries, or limp wedges – or gastro pub ‘hand-cut chips’ which are hotter and bigger than many roast potatoes.

beef dripping chips
Here, things are different. An heirloom tomato salad is generous and not £10 for tasteless tiger-striped nothingness. The macaroni cheese is indulgent and gloopy, but without tasting unhealthy or plastic, and with discernibly quality cheese. Mash and gravy nods to the traditional American steakhouses. Buttered greens are available in abundance including spinach three ways. But none of these compare to the choice of Triple Cooked Chips or Beef Dripping Chips. No choice really - both are ordered, and both are phenomenal. And it is these which raise the steak experience from great meat to great meal, and give it a steak joint the edge.

The atmosphere is brilliant too, if you can ignore a few City types loosening their ties and droning on about ‘meat sweats’. Keep it together, boys. You don’t see the other diners, who are very diverse, histrionically huffing and puffing victoriously as if they’ve slain a dragon. It’s only a steak son.

bone-in prime rib
Service is excellent. It’s frantic in there, but the staff are clued up enough to not have to shove a massive platter of raw steak cuts in your face and they’re calm under pressure in what is a buzzy, boozy environment. And they dealt with my ‘lively’ family without bristling.

So yes I like Goodman too, but it’s a little dull. And yes, I know Hawksmoor are opening a third outlet, which slightly unnerves me (but it might attract the meat sweats brigade away from this one) – so I’m sure the party won’t last forever. As it never does. And with Bistro du Vin riding high, and bills coming (three outlets in Sydney), it might be worth thinking deeper about how we view chains. Does a thoughtful, equally careful and considered second offering of a good concept equate to a nationwide high street roll-out?

Are Polpo/Polpetto/da Poplo exempt because of slightly different menus and vibes? And arbitrarily different nomenclature? Spuntino is quite clearly a different beast.

If Hawsmoor had given Seven Dials a different name, might it be ok? How about Pizza East in Portobello being Pizza West or Electric Pizza? I could go on and on. It's a minefield and some are more tolerant than others...

But for now, Hawksmoor still steals the show, and is run with such care, I can't see it doing a GBK and dumbing down.
the perfect plate?
And until that day, it’s probably my most consistent, exciting dining experience in town. And now all I can think about is those triple cooked chips…

Food – 10/10
Drink – 9/10
Service - 8/10
Value – 8/10
Tap water tales – 6/10 (jug brought on request but no attempts to sell bottled, maternal paranoia preceded an attempt!)  
Staff Hotness – 8/10 (sharp, dapper barmen, hot door and coat girls)
Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon


  1. I still have to make it to the Seven Dials Hawksmoor. Love the original in Shoreditch and as you say, everyone raves about it, so will have to go.

  2. It's an essential one before you leave!