Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hawksmoor - 7 Dials - London

Last week I was summoned to appear in court as a witness. I’m more than prepared to do my civic duty, being from the less salubrious part of Essex, I am quite obviously a steadfast advocate where it comes to upholding the law…but sadly this call from lady justice proved to be a right royal pain in the arse. Let me explain. Now that I reside in Bristol, rather than Essex – London is now well over two hours away. Getting to Camberwell Green court for 9am, when there’s a tube strike on (not that it mattered much, South London being notoriously ill served by underground services), meant that I (and ‘E’ she’d kindly decided to accompany me for moral support) had to get up at 4am!

Nevertheless, we did it. I burst through the doors and strode into court, on time, with fists clenched and my jaw set in grim determination rehearsing my dramatic “You can’t handle the truth!” line only to be stopped dead in my tracks. The wheels of justice had pretty much fallen off already. The case was being ditched due to a ‘technicality’ and my services were no longer needed.

10am, a gorgeous sunny autumnal day in London.
What to do to salvage something from this disaster?
Stuff our faces and get roaring drunk perhaps?
Yes indeed, that sounds like inspired thinking!

Being a massive fan of the original Hawksmoor in Commercial Street, and an even bigger fan of their
incredible burger, the lure of the newly opened restaurant in Covent Garden was strong.
A few phone calls later, and we were all set for lunch.

Wandering into the reception area and then downstairs, the size of the new restaurant compared to the original is nothing but impressive. The whole place is decked out in wood panelling, there’s a distinct Victorian gentleman’s club vibe to the interior. It’s dark and cosy, and looks like it’s been in existence for decades rather than weeks. A beautifully appointed bar runs one whole length of the room, and then the main restaurant proper was just visible through some doors at one end.

Hawksmoor is renowned for its strong cocktail list, and a reputation for making them well, so the new bar menu is a fascinating read. Incredibly well researched with a potted history of every drink, it’s absorbing to flick through. I was particularly impressed with the section comprised of Edwardian ‘Bridging drinks’ – designed to while away the long hours between lunch and dinner. And If that isn’t a fantastic enough concept for you. How about a drink from the ‘Anti-Fogmatic’ section? I quote: -

Harry Craddock, an American who published the legendary Savoy
Cocktail Book in 1930, was obsessed with creating an effective pickme-
up. He thought it was a “great necessity of the age” to develop some
kind of “anti-fogmatic, eye opener, bracer, corpse reviver or morning
glory.” His recommendation was to drink such drinks “before 11am, or
whenever steam and energy are needed.”

Obviously a visionary, I am often lacking steam and energy before 11am and can obviously appreciate the need for such drinks.

We relaxed and took in the atmosphere. I sipped on a pretty decent ‘Marmalade cocktail’ whilst ‘E’ being something of a sherry fiend knocked back a ‘sherry cobbler’ Until we were joined by our lunch companion
Niamh and ready to wade into the food. Huzzah!

I’ll say it right now; bearing in mind how bloody amazing the original Hawksmoor burger is, there was really only one real choice for me from the menu – the kimchi burger.

Kimchi, in case you’re not aware (I wasn’t) is a Korean dish of fermented cabbage mixed with various spices. We were told one of the Hawksmoor chefs had tried it whilst travelling, and brought the idea back with him. Inspired.

I don’t often write about the wine I drink, but in this case the Moulin Montarels Grenache deserves a mention as it was bloody gorgeous and at £19 a bottle ridiculously cheap, a perfect accompaniment to a long boozy lunch.

It was with mounting excitement that I eyed each plate of food being transported from the kitchen, luckily I had sedated myself heavily with booze and vino otherwise I would have been barely able to contain myself when our food finally arrived.

There we have it in all its glory, the kimchi burger – using the incredible Hawksmoor burger as its base, I admired it from every angle. But what was that smell? A kind of cheesy, funky tangy whiff hung heavily in the air. Looking up, I eyed ‘E’ and
Niamh suspiciously and then slowly I realised. The smell was emanating from my burger. I wrinkled my nose and surmised that kimchi smells a bit like sweaty socks. Not that appetizing, but as I was paying £15 for the privilege, and I’d drank a fair bit of booze It would have to smell a hell of a lot worse than that to stop me from tucking in.

Proving that smell is absolutely no indication of how good something actually tastes. I found happily that the kimchi burger is bloody gorgeous, rich, spicy, and tangy with a bit of a chili whack – it really is an incredibly flavored thing. I liked it so much, after stuffing mine I ate Niamh’s leftovers. Cracking.

Paired with beef dripping chips and béarnaise, I was the proverbial dog with two dicks.

Meanwhile, ‘E’ being the problematic pescetarian that she is was tucking into half a lobster with triple cooked chips and béarnaise and judging by the rapidly growing graveyard of lobster bits and bobs being assembled at the side of the plate, really enjoying it.

We sat, chatted, laughed and ordered more wine, and then more wine and then finally staggered back to the bar to order more cocktails. We’d lost all track of time when ‘E’s good friend
Petra joined us.

Just for the record, we drank…

CORPSE REVIVER NO:4 Cognac stirred with Crème de Menthe & Fernet Branca
Not a big fan of this, it tasted like toothpaste.

Two rounds of
Vodka, Homemade Coffee Liqueur, Square Mile Coffee & a dash of Demarera syrup
These were bloody nice, really good.

Gin with homemade Ginger Syrup & Lemon Juice, topped with London Pride
A recommendation from the barman when asked for a refreshing drink – it certainly was.

Bermudan & Spiced St Lucian Rums blended with Coconut sorbet & Pineapple

Ahhhh a classic – and Hawksmoor’s version is incredible – loved this!!!

Finally Niamh and Petra shared a
Rye, Vermouth, Maraschino, Cane Syrup, Angostura Bitters & a dash of Absinthe
between them, which came up beautifully presented on a silver platter and was as far as I could tell, exemplary.

At this point we realized it was almost 8pm, we’d been in Hawksmoor for over seven hours (Now that’s what I call a lunch) and ‘E’ and I had to run to make our carriage back to Bristol.
Bearing in mind we were both utterly spannered, it’s amazing we made it up the stairs let alone back to Bristol.

Drawing a curtain over this tawdry, alcoholic end to the evening. Lets have a conclusion….
The new Covent Garden Hawksmoor restaurant is fantastic. The cocktail menu and bar is top drawer, really interesting and its a cracking place to while away an afternoon or evening drinking unusual concoctions.
the kimchi burger, despite smelling a bit ripe is bloody incredible, so much so I almost ordered a second one later in the evening. Hawksmoor’s
original burger is in my opinion probably the best you can eat in London – I can’t give higher praise than saying that the kimchi burger is equally as good.

Go, Go, Go!!!

11 Langley St.

Telephone: 020 7856 2154


catty said...

Yay for the kimchi burger! You've now learnt that if you ever buy/make kimchi, store it in an airtight container... cling wrap the thing, put it in another container and repeat 5 times. Then, and only then is it safe in your fridge (and house).

Going With My Gut said...

Two kimchi burgers in one (long) sitting! That might be a record. The ginger brew bears investigation methinks.

I once had a 7 hour lunch at an embarrasingly posh place I can't even bring myself to name. I felt a bit sorry for the client who was paying... but only a bit. Expresso martinis saved my life at the end saved my life. I hear Hawksmoors makes 'em too.


PDH said...

The saying "Dog with two Dicks" is woefully under used these days so Bravo for bringing it back! This sounds like an awesome afternoon I am actually jealous!

Dan said...

Catty - Cracking advice, I can imagine homemade kimchi smells a bit 'special' Was great to run into you again the same day :)

Going with my gut - I didn't manage two, more like 1 and a 1/3 (Niamhs leftovers) but could have happily eaten another later in the evening. 7 hour lunch with the client paying sounds ridiculously good! Hawksmoor does make expresso martinis (Square Mile Martinis) we had two rounds of em near the end of the evening....great minds!!

Pavel - Totally agree mate, it's underused and always make me laugh (I'm the proud owner of a completely juvenile sense of humour). It was an awesome afternoon, the next time we're in London boozing it up, I'll drop you a line - maybe you can pop down and join us?

PDH said...

That sounds like a plan Stan! :^D

Niamh said...

A fab lunch and it was boozy but in a most excellent way. Let's do it again soon :)

Amanda Kendal said...

Sounds a great meal. But "fermented cabbage mixed with various spices"? So spicy sauerkraut? ;-)

Nick Baines said...

Can't wait to try that, I love kimchi. I'm brewing some at the moment actually from the David Chang recipe in last Sundays OFM.

Really, really want to try the Hawksmoor's Kimchi Burger now. Great post my man!

Dan said...

Pavel - Superb. You shall be hearing from me sir.

Niamh - Most definately. We need to do lunch again soon.

Sybarite - Hahaha I compared it to sauerkraut at the time, yep it's similiar but there's got to be more to it than that. Who know's about these things?

Nick - I have David Chang's new book, wonder if the recipe is in there? Thanks very much mate!

Graphic Foodie said...

Ah the kimchi - It seems to be a love it or hate it burger. I saw one that looked a real mess - how was it to eat?

Impressive boozing by the way, didn't think the list was going to end as I scrolled down!!

Dan said...

Graphic Foodie - I haven't actually read what anyone else thought about it, I've been so busy and then realised I was untainted by other views so tried to avoid them. It was fine to eat, superb in fact ;)
Impressive boozing - yes it was! We'll have to come back to Brighton soon and have a similar drinkathon in your neck of the woods.

Graphic Foodie said...

You are on my friend! If not I'm coming to Bristol to the magnificent supperclub and you can cook for me :) I was talking to someone who had been and was RAVING about it.

Food Urchin said...

So you were getting smashed were you? I spend £50 on getting my hair and nails done and you blow me out for a bottle of Manhattan. That's it we're sooooo over.........

(Must get down there soon and try the much vaunted kimchi burger)