Food re­view

It’s meat ... and so much more

Sunday Herald Life - - Contents - Joanna Blyth­man

‘HAVE you been to a Hawksmoor be­fore?” The ques­tion that pre­cedes our rather-too-ful­some re­cep­tion at what looks to be Ed­in­burgh’s best steak house. Put it this way, our waiter is the op­po­site of ve­gan. He’s itch­ing to give us chap­ter and verse on cuts, sourc­ing, cook­ing tech­nique, to trans­mit his well-schooled en­thu­si­asm for the Hawksmoor beef man­ual.

Hap­pily he gauges our level of knowl­edge, so we’re not given the whole, though doubt­less in­ter­est­ing, trea­tise – the de­tail of Hawksmoor’s care­ful, thought-out process to serve “eth­i­cal dry-aged beef from na­tive breeds that live a good life eat­ing their nat­u­ral food: grass” – and in­stead re­ceive the ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary.

To be hon­est we’re dis­tracted by the Mus­solini-like mon­u­men­tal­ity of this mar­bled build­ing with its lofty cof­fered ceil­ing, too taken up with the plea­sur­able er­gonomic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the chairs and the ta­ble, a rel­a­tive rar­ity in restau­rants. He puts his foot in it, though, by ad­dress­ing the 29-year-old at our ta­ble as “young lady”, and hov­ers around the fe­male side of the ta­ble too much. But we all agree that he’ll learn be­cause Hawksmoor, although it is a small chain, is a thor­oughly pro­fes­sional out­fit, de­spite the mis­spelt “chataeubriand” (sic) on the black­board.

Hawksmoor isn’t just about meat, no way. If we’d been labour­ing un­der that delu­sion then the sub­lime lan­gous­tine scampi, with its feath­er­weight bat­ter and glo­ri­ous tartare sauce that’s punchy and sharp with of lots of ca­pers, dill, and just enough shal­lot, has dis­abused us. “Tar­bert crab on toast £12.50” un­der­sells the real­ity of this hefty serv­ing of mag­nif­i­cently fresh white crab meat mounded on proper sour­dough toast that’s been spread with or­ange crab roe (or pin­cer meat), be­side a Scan­di­na­vianstyle mar­i­nated cu­cum­ber salad, stip­pled with ca­per and tan­gled up with spritely wa­ter­cress of a fresh­ness rarely seen in Scot­tish restau­rants.

Burg­ers I usu­ally by­pass, but I’ll make an ex­cep­tion at Hawksmoor. The bun is sweet – I don’t get the sweet bread with burg­ers thing – so I more or less ig­nore it, but the con­sis­tency of patty in­stantly lo­cates it in the Ivy League. It seems to be made with chopped steak not mince.

Flavours of beef drip­ping and the char­coal grill fill the mouth, and they aren’t oblit­er­ated by the gar­nish of finely shred­ded kim­chi that I’ve added. This is a dou­ble cheese­burger and once again, sourc­ing shines out: what­ever cheese Hawksmoor is us­ing, it chose well. The fact that we can’t coax the house-made ketchup out of its bot­tle gives us all a laugh.

In my book, our 350g rib-eye (£26), nom­i­nally a one-per­son por­tion, is a twop­er­son job, but then a lit­tle steak goes a long way for me. Its an­chovy Hol­landaise tastes more like Béar­naise to me, and it could do with more an­chovy for my taste, but this is an in­dis­putably great steak, im­pec­ca­bly cooked.

And just how great is our nod to green­ery, the but­ter let­tuce and herb salad? Crisp heart of this un­der­rated let­tuce, heaps of herbs, ev­ery leaf glis­ten­ing be­cause it has been at­ten­tively tossed in ju­di­ciously bal­anced vinai­grette. Triple-cooked chips are fine, not ex­cep­tional, and what hap­pened with the drip­ping chips? I can’t be­lieve ours are Hawksmoor’s finest; they’re too dry, the spuds taste worka­day, dull. There’s work to be done here.

Warm peanut but­ter short­bread is a co­her­ent con­cep­tion, a warm, dark choco­late-hearted chewy cookie with salty, fudge-like ice cream that has a pow­er­ful vanilla sub-taste that re­minds me of French cafe­te­ria crème caramel. White choco­late cheese­cake, not in the con­ven­tional form, but deconstructed, is a real looker. A plump, loosely made quenelle that amal­ga­mates cream and choco­late, chunks of some­thing that tastes a mil­lion times bet­ter than a Hob­nob, shav­ings of white choco­late, a whole squad of rasp­ber­ries and black­ber­ries, and crim­son coulis that tastes of berries and lemon over sugar.

We leave re­plete, con­tent, hav­ing clocked up a tidy bill that we con­sider to be fair, and labour­ing un­der the mis­ap­pre­hen­sion that we won’t feel like eat­ing again for days. Watch out Ed­in­burgh steak­houses, Hawksmoor is in town.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.