Finding a good restaurant is difficult. You really don’t know until you’ve gone yourself. As far as I’m concerned a good restaurant has a few crucial components: Great food, brilliant service, the right environment and a final bill that doesn’t make you cry a little. A great restaurant, it requires that little bit more that makes you want to run back.
A few weeks ago we had a guest at our house, my mother. So naturally we decided to decamp from Bedford and head into London. One place I enjoy going is Spitalfields, it has all the elements of a market and food, but it is just ever so slightly away from the tube station that it is never as crowded as say Camden or the Borough markets. However, it has the added plus of being near some amazing restaurants. As we wandered around I spied St John’s Bakery (more on this in a bit), but sadly the cheese shop was being moved and wasn’t open. My mother, naturally gravitated towards the arts and crafts, and my partner towards the bakeries and clothing. My job was not to browse, but to find us a place to have a Birthday lunch for my long suffering partner. This was when we collectively discovered Hawksmoor Spitalfields.
Now if Spitalfields is slightly away from the tube station, Hawksmoor Spitalfields is even further. Oh, but it is worth stretching the legs. We arrived just after 12, and based on the queue out the door when we left an hour and a bit later it was bloody good timing.
When you enter the restaurant you find a place that has been very well thought out. Everything fits the mood. From the uniforms, to the chalkboards telling you the cuts of prime beef still available. The mood itself was a bit hipster (it is London after all), but overall was relaxed. It just kinda fits.
-A little aside: the tables had some very nice chairs. I’m not sure why more people don’t noticed the chairs in a restaurant. You certainly noticed if they are uncomfortable, and selecting the right chairs to seat and eat in is a tricky business. In my view anyway, but I digress.
The staff were all friendly, and clearly well trained. My beer (London local Kernal Brewery) arrived in less than 2 min after being ordered, and with a well chilled glass – huzzah!
So they’ve got the service and the atmosphere pretty well near perfect. Now for the food. It was Sunday so we all got the roast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since this is a restaurant built on beef, you could only get roast beef. When it arrived, and it came without much waiting, you got some lovely goose fat potatoes, wilted greens, carrots and a giant Yorkshire pudding (wouldn’t have left without that). Most was cooked perfectly, except the greens could have been trimmed with a bit more care, as there was just a little too much bitter stems. That and the carrots were hidden under the greens and other hot moist elements, meaning that while the carrots were cooked well in the kitchen by the time they reached my mouth they were a bit more on the mushy side. Uniquely the meal also came with a bulb of slow roasted garlic, which while it added a great sweetness to the dish also slightly overpowered the other smells. To be fair, all in all, it was not a bad effort for a Sunday roast. However…as everyone knows, the one place a restaurant can really disappoint with the Sunday lunch is the gravy. I don’t know why but some restaurants feel the need to hold onto the gravy jug for dear life, denying patrons of that little bit more needed to soak their potato in. Not an issue at Hawksmoor, here everyone got their own mini jug. That and the gravy was accented with bone marrow, just divine……..
Sorry, private moment. I’m back now.
The star of the show was the beef. Beef is tricky to cook right. Either it is too rare or too overcooked. A key amateur mistake is to not sear your beef, and just shove it into an oven. Not good. So, it was a surprise to learn that Hawksmoor Spitalfields did not sear their meat in a frying pan, but instead used a charcoal grill to sear the beef. The result was a beautiful cut of beef, with hints of that smoky charcoal flavour.
The food was so good, I’ve now convinced my other half to let me cook roast beef for a future Sunday roast, just so long as I try the whole BBQ idea first.
Surprisingly the food was actually reasonably priced, for London at least. Yes, out of London a roast dinner would normally cost you between £8-12, and yes at £20 it is pricier. Yes, the beer wasn’t exactly at bargain basement prices. When you contrast this with the flavour, the service and the surroundings though it begins to make sense.
The only critical note of Hawksmoors, there are six of them. So while Hawksmoor Spitalfields might be in my good books, with so many restaurants how soon until its authenticity starts to have a chain-type sheen to it (I’m looking at you the once innocent Wahaca).
You can visit Hawksmoor’s website here to book a table for yourself!