Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hawksmoor, City, London

The challenge is over. I've found the best breakfast in Britain, and I found it here. Hawksmoor is a steakhouse with a particular devotion to high quality meat and also to high quality drinks. The Guildhall branch, in the City, is the third to open following on from Spitalfields and Seven Dials close to Covent Garden. It's the first branch to offer breakfast service throughout the week, the target market obviously local workers with deep pockets.

I've known about Hawksmoor for a few years now, and always expected I'd like the place. They buy their beef from the Ginger Pig, probably my favourite butcher, whose beef is always excellent and whose sausage rolls are the stuff of legend. (As an aside my only criticism of the Ginger Pig is their lack of retail presence in the North. They have three farms, all in North Yorkshire, and five shops, all in London. This is very unfair.)

The restaurant interior

So I expected to be a fan of Hawksmoor, and so it proved. Firstly I don't often comment on restaurant interiors as I'm often ambivalent and have nothing much to say on the subject, so prefer to focus on the food. Hawksmoor Guildhall is different, I genuinely loved the place. The restaurant only opened recently, but has a wonderful air of permanence. Tiles, tables, wood panelling and floors were all salvaged from various sources (the tiles from a tube station our waitress informed us) and fit into place alongside new leather banquette seating. It smells beautifully of wood and leather, is bright and airy despite being below ground and sort of feels like a superior caff with breakfast sauces on the tables. Enough, back to the food.

In pride of place on the breakfast menu is the Hawksmoor breakfast for two to share. I'll quote the description directly from the menu: 'Smoked Bacon Chop, Sausages (made with Pork, Beef & Mutton), Black Pudding, Short-Rib Bubble & Squeak, Grilled Bone Marrow, Trotter Baked Beans, Fried Eggs, Grilled Mushrooms, Roast Tomatoes, Unlimited Toast, HP gravy.' It had to be done.

Should a breakfast containing a fortnight's meat allowance need a little assistance there is also an intriguing list of 'Anti-Fogmatics', cocktails designed to revive the corpse. On another occasion I'd like to try 'Shaky Pete's Ginger Brew', described as a 'turbo shandy for the discerning drinker' and consisting of 'gin, homemade ginger syrup and lemon juice, topped with London Pride'. Interesting stuff.

The main event: bone, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs

After a short wait the monster arrived. Everything was present and correct, and there were also two bonus rashers of bacon. A little gift from the Chef just in case there wasn't already enough meat involved I suppose. The execution of all the basics was faultless. Rich, oaty black pudding; perfectly fried eggs; tasty mushrooms and tomatoes; and thick, salty, piggy bacon.

Bone marrow and bubble

The more unusual items were a revelation. Bubble and squeak with added beef is clearly a fine idea, shreds of slow cooked meat working brilliantly with the crusty potatoes and in this case spinach rather than cabbage. Prior to eating them I wasn't convinced about having beef and mutton in my breakfast sausage, but they were just fine, well-seasoned with a very subtle gamier taste from the mutton.

Toast, round number one

Other than sucking the bones from a carcass or joint I'd never actually eaten bone marrow in any quantity before. I'll be ordering it again if the opportunity presents itself. Scooped out onto toast, it's fatty, wobbly and tastes a little like meatier butter. Mmmmm meatbutter.

Trotter baked beans

Finally, the lubricants. The trotter baked beans were soft, sweet, very slightly smokey and cut through with tiny shreds of meat. I think perhaps some sort of molasses contributed to the smoky/sweet flavour, and found these went particularly well with the mushrooms.

The HP gravy was fantastic, and melded the whole meal together as would HP sauce on a regular fry-up. Think of how each mouthful of bacon, egg and beans is offset by the fruity, tangy sauce and imagine the same thing with the added savour of a good onion gravy. Amazing.

Coffee is served in these attractive flasks

The toast and butter were of course excellent quality as was the coffee we drank, an Ethiopian filter variety. All told, this was the best breakfast I have ever eaten.

Service throughout was excellent. We were served by several different people of whom all were chatty, friendly and not in the least bit fazed that from about 15 minutes after our arrival we were the only people in there (half ten on a Monday morning obviously isn't prime time for banker breakfasts). There was no attitude and no sense of being rushed whatsoever.

At this stage I should probably get on to the prices. Hawksmoor is not cheap. The breakfast for two costs £35. When good breakfasts can still be had for under a fiver that might seem exorbitant on the face of it, but it's not. Just read what goes into the thing. Every aspect has been carefully thought out, carefully sourced and carefully cooked. A lot of work has gone into those beans, that gravy and the bubble & squeak. When compared with many other plates of food costing £17.50, particularly in London, it's actually rather good value.

But here's the thing. We didn't pay for any of it. The sound of drilling from overhead was a constant throughout our meal, caused by building work in another premises above. It was mildly irritating, nothing more. All of the staff serving us were very apologetic, and we were offered and accepted some doughnuts and pastries by way of apology. Then on requesting the bill we were told that there would be no bill, it was on the house due to the noise. Outstanding service, and way beyond what most places would consider necessary. Needless to say we left a generous tip.

Had we paid the bill would have come to just short of £44 including service, and it would have been worth every penny.

The champion doughnut and a very good pastry

A final word on the goodies we took away. The pastry was good but the doughnut was on a whole other level. Mine was stuffed to bursting with marmalade and custard. Proper marmalade, bittersweet with strands of rind, and proper custard, smooth and rich with vanilla. This was the best doughnut I have ever eaten in my life. They cost two pounds each and should you visit Hawksmoor you have to get one. In the likely event you're on the verge of a meat digestion coma get one to go. Do not miss out.

I couldn't recommend this more highly, the best meal I've eaten this year. Next time there's a suitably special occasion I intend to return for a colossal steak.


Hawksmoor Guildhall
10 Basinghall Street


Hawksmoor (Guildhall) on Urbanspoon


Pavel said...

Jealous! I'm yet to have the breakfast, the steaks are amazing so definitely go back soon.

Dave said...

Definitely planning a return visit for an unfeasibly large steak. When you go make sure you've room for a doughnut, or take one away for later.

mahesh said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Restaurant Equipment

Molly Savage said...

This is very interesting post. best breakfast in london i am impressed Thank you...

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