Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day, but it has to be a proper full on breakfast. When I say that, I’m certainly not talking about some worthy, sawdust dry muesli moistened with a dash of skimmed milk or some flaky continental pastry croissant frippery or even that very Teutonic breakfast of sliced salami and cheese on rye bread affair. No. I’m talking about a real cooked breakfast; full of assorted dead pig with a side order of eggs and other accompanying bits and bobs. I really don’t think anyone does it better than us British.
Which brings me to those fine purveyors of all things meaty and British, Hawksmoor, who have recently opened a third London outpost in the City, specifically Guildhall. Located smack bang in the centre of the financial district and unlike either of their other two previous restaurants it’s open at 7am for breakfast.
Hawksmoor have the old school, chop house, dark wood panelled look down to a fine art now and the Guildhall site is no different. The dining room is gorgeous with its curved leather booths; brass fittings and rich wood finishes. It looks like it’s been there for bloody years and it’s almost impossible to imagine the place performing any other function. So it’s something of a testament to the slick restaurant fit-out to hear that the previous incumbents ran a somewhat different operation, indeed ‘City Titties’ certainly weren’t in the pork sausage game, well, at least not in the conventional sense.
But enough about such tawdry matters. Back to breakfasting like kings. I’d asked my fellow Essex chum and food blogger Food Urchin (Danny) to join me. We placed ourselves in one of the rather swanky curved leather booths and relaxed, surveying the dining room. It’s a fantastic space, grand in scale. It’s easy to imagine the movers and shakers of the City doing multi billion pound deals over breakfast. Inspired, I regaled Danny with some of my own impressive deals errr selling cheese (I’m sometimes an artisan cheesemonger in my day job) He looked impressed, or bored, I’m not sure.
After such heady financial chat, we decided on a restorative coffee followed by an even more restorative and rather superb Bloody Mary. Feeling adventurous we both opted for the ‘Number 7’ consisting of horseradish-infused gin, tomato juice, Hawksmoor spice mix and a splash of Meantime London Stout. Holy Moly – that’ll put hairs on your chest, especially at 9am.
As Danny is a greedy bastardo, I barely raised an eyebrow as he ordered rib-eye steak, fried eggs and hash browns. Not to be outdone, and hopefully emphasising the fact that I’m even more of a greedy bastardo, I ordered devilled veal kidneys on toast with a side order of hash browns and with a final killer flourish, a sausage and egg HkMuffin. (Hawksmoor’s tribute to a classic McDonald’s breakfast item, made with top-notch ingredients).
As you’d expect from Hawksmoor, which has a well-deserved reputation for serving some of the best steaks it’s possible to eat in London, Danny’s rib-eye steak was a thing of beauty. Perfectly charred on the outside and cooked medium-rare. I actually felt slightly jealous of his breakfast choice, until I took a bite of my devilled veal kidneys on toast.
Veal kidneys are not something I’d normally consider ordering for breakfast, but a trusted friend had told me this was a superb dish, and she wasn’t wrong. Absolutely fantastic, the kidney’s smothered in devilled sauce were incredibly rich and piquant, soaking into the sourdough toast, amazingly good. I could have easily eaten a bigger portion, that is, if I still didn’t have an HkMuffin and a side order of hash browns to contend with.
Suddenly feeling a little full and also uncharacteristically generous, I offered half of the muffin to Danny, which I’m pleased to say he accepted. It was really bloody good, and the sausage patty consisting of a rare-breed minced menagerie of Tamworth pork shoulder, Blackface Mutton and Longhorn Beef was especially so. When topped with a fried egg and melted Ogleshield cheese, sublime. But, and I’m going to go out on a limb here, priced at £8.50, if I’m truly honest I have to question if it’s worth it. Which probably says more about me than it does about the food. I’m loathe to admit it, but I still have a real soft spot for the dirt-cheap and disgusting Maccy D original. Even though I rarely partake nowadays, just every now and again treating myself, but then feeling somehow deeply ashamed and smelling strongly of egg afterwards. For the most part, the attraction is the price and although I know they can’t possibly be compared in terms of quality of ingredients or the sheer effort that goes into making them, I can’t help but think that I could get four of the originals to one of the luxurious versions. Forgive me. I am from Essex after all.
The Hawksmoor hash browns are fantastic. Standing completely apart from the normal greasy, triangle of cooked potato that passes for a hash brown, pretty much everywhere. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a proper handmade example anywhere. These were circular, crisp and moist and soft on the inside. Perfect.
If all this wasn’t enough, lets talk about doughnuts. That’s right, Hawksmoor Guildhall do a selection of pastries. The jewel in the crown among these, I had been informed by friends, is the marmalade & custard doughnut. Ordering a plum and a marmalade example each, just for comparison. I’m almost lost for words on how to describe them. The marmalade doughnut crisp and sugared on the outside, full of custard, specked through with vanilla seeds and oozing the intense orange condiment from its innards is pure genius. Truly wonderful. I don’t think the plum example works quite as well, it just doesn’t have that tang to it, but it’s still good.
So, a shirt popping, belly busting, canter through the Hawksmoor Guildhall breakfast menu and it was absolutely superb. If you really want a proper breakfast, a real treat I’d be hard put to think of anywhere that could provide it with such inventiveness, sense of fun and sheer panache, all wrapped up with a nod British culinary history. It really is genuinely superb. Hawksmoor’s previous two restaurants have been London favourites of mine for a long time, and their newest Guildhall restaurant lives up to their considerable reputation admirably. I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t become a city breakfast institution, although even if you don’t work in the city, it’s worth making the trip there just to have breakfast.
*After helping with some recipe testing for their new cookbook, I was invited for breakfast as a guest of Hawksmoor to say thank you.
10 Basinghall Street
Telephone: 0207 3978120