Hawksmoor, the Covent Garden offshoot of the less showy Spitalfields original, raised the bar (and the price) sky high for steak in London when it opened in 2010. Named after the 17th-century architect rumoured to have codified Satanism into his east London churches, this dark, sexy, deco-gothic-industrial basement is primarily a boys' club: tables of off-duty media-men in their Jermyn Street button-downs gather in the shadows to feast on medium rare porterhouse and rib eye.
Details of whats available, and in what weight, are written on chalkboards dotted around the room: the smallest Chateaubriand (the leanest, but priciest cut at £12/100g) available on ELLEuks visit was 900g, which could have fed three easily, so left our party of two feeling more gourmand than gourmet. And while it was a Visa-grilling £108, it was just such superlative steak. Chargrilled, with a slight and very appealing barbecue crunch on the crust, vibrant red in the centre, the 35 day aged Longhorn is one of the best youre ever likely to come across. It laughs in the general direction of all those neon 70s throwback steakhouses around Leicester Square. Oh, and service is top-notch without being at all glacial.
A starter of Cumbrae Rock Oysters came with mini Hawskmoor Sausages as a chaser and created a wonderful contrast of zesty, salty ocean and farmyard terroir while a single king-sized scallop on Champ was perhaps a carb-heavy mis-order considering what was to come. While far from pedestrian spuds, the two kinds of chips (beef dripping or triple-cooked) at Hawksmoor are not on a par with the steak best to stick with roast field mushrooms or a buttered spinach side. Puddings are ambitiously stodgy, of the sticky toffee pudding variety.
If the main dining room here is for a major splurge or an expense account trip only, then an evening at the bar, working your way through the sophisticated cocktail list of antique classics is a more humanely priced treat. (Top tip: try the 19th-century Fancy Gin Cocktail with curaçao, a pre-cursor of the martini.) And many of those who take these things very seriously indeed rate the house burger as the best around.
The ELLEuk Score
Good for: Quick bite after work; pre-theatre; special occasion; first date; romantic; group; dinner; work lunch/dinner
Style of food: Contemporary British steak house and grill
Prices & Other Details at Hawksmoor
Address: Hawksmoor, 11 Langley Street, London WC2H 9JG
Opening times: Noon-3pm Mon-Sat; noon-4.30pm Sun; 5pm-10.30pm Mon-Sat
Average price per person for a two-course meal without wine: £45
Set menu: 2 courses £20; 3 courses £22.50 (lunchtimes except Sundays; 5.30pm-6.30pm and 10pm to last orders)
Price of a bottle of house wine: £19, Moulin Montarels Syrah 2009
Price of a glass of house wine: £5, Moulin Montarels Syrah 2009
Price of a glass of house champagne: £8.25, Thienot Brut NV
Price of a bottle of house champagne: £42.50, Thienot Brut NV
Private dining? A semi-private dining area seats up to 14.
Garden/al fresco dining? No
Bar? For cocktails and/or dining from the bar menu.
Best tables? Corner tables have less waiter traffic, but every table is pretty good - theres no Siberia area in the main dining room.
Who goes? Carnivorous couples on dates and groups of businessmen. Its reassuringly off the tourist trail, and reservations are largely essential.
Nearest tube: Covent Garden