I have to say it would be pretty hard to put on a better show than Hawksmoor Air St pulled off last night. Thanks to the gracious Linzi M, I met up with 5 fellow Yelpers to partake in a meat feast of legen-wait for it. And while we’re waiting, a bit more knowledge. As fair warning, this isn’t going to be a short review. I’d suggest pouring yourself a drink, making a snack, and getting comfortable.
HawkAir is located, as one might expect, on Air Street. But be warned, it’s not the bit of Air St that Google Maps will show you, no it turns out Air St continues on across Regent St for a few feet. That being said, I located the place based on the mouth watering smell of seared steak so it’s not that hard to find.
Upon entry, a gracious hostess or two will take your name and yet another lovely lady materialised to lighten the burden of jackets and bags our group had accumulated. As we were 1.5 hours early, we climbed up to the bar to settle in and have a drink. Oh the drinks! I’d been dreaming about some of the new additions to the menu and in particular the full-fat old fashioned. Now the name may need a bit of work but the drink certainly doesn’t. It’s an Old Fashioned built on a butter-infused bourbon that’s blended in house. It smells like fresh buttered popcorn and goes down an absolute treat. It’s so good that you can ignore the image of your arteries clogging up while you enjoy each decadent buttery smooth sip.
My second drink was a Stolen Heart made with two whiskies that have had run ins with the law in the past. Nothing like a bit of jail time to really make a whiskey develop – as they say, it builds character. The Stolen Heart was smooth and spicy with a star anise as a garnish giving it just a hint of liquorice. Served in a martini glass, it looks seductive yet masculine.
While we’re on the subject, let’s tackle the third drink of the night – A bottle of Manhattan. While I’m sure you can order it by the glass, the cocktail menu only has the Manhattan in a bottle for 2 or 4 to share. Luckily, Nava N was agreeable to a Manhattan and our lovely waitress quickly arranged for it. The whole ensemble screams old world glamour with thick crystal glasses, the bottle of Manhattan chilling on ice and made to an 1892 recipe, and an array of garnishes at your disposal. While it is a bit odd to build your own drink (I assumed they would do it tableside) it was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The taste was perfect with a hint of sweetness tempered by the absinthe wash and a rich bourbon to provide the depth.
Finally, an hour and much drunken laughter later, we were ushered down the impossibly long dining room to our table. Our patience (and ability to ward off hunger was wearing thin) but luckily our final dining companion (Peter S) arrived and we could order.
This seems like a good time for intermission. Get up, stretch your legs, use the bathroom, and refresh that drink. Once you’re back, we’ll tackle the food….so much food.
Right, what do you do when you want to try several things on the menu and you’ve shown up with a bunch of foodies. Yep, that’s right, you order it all. And that’s more or less what we did. Six different starters were chosen: Potted Beef & Bacon with Yorkshires, Mussels with Bay & Chilli, Grilled Bone Marrow with caramelised onions, Fried Queenies with tartar sauce, Tamworth Belly Ribs, and a Chicory, Pear, and Blue Cheese Salad. And yes, these are just the starters.
The potted beef & bacon was just that. I’m not 100% sure how one pots a meat but it does match the name with shredded beef and bacon being cured in pot with gelatine – similar to a terrine but a rougher texture. The end result is a concentrated flavour assault on your tongue that can’t help but please. The Yorkshire puddings were a bit dry but helped balance out the potted meat. Excellent dish but only possible in small quantities – I think I would have been overwhelmed with this as a starter on my own.
The mussels were adequate but nowhere near as tasty as I expected. There was a distinct lack of flavour beyond the mussels themselves with the bay barely making an appearance and the chilli non-existent. Still, I love mussels so I eagerly ate them up.
Hawksmoor is known for their bone marrow and this didn’t disappoint with rich creamy marrow in massive quantities served on a split shin bone. The caramelised onions were a nice touch to cut through some of the oiliness and this is another dish best shared.
Queenies, as we found out, are tiny scallops and as Grant mentioned, the frying ruined any of the sweet tender flesh that I associate with scallops. The tartar sauce was tasty but lost in the oil soaked batter of the Queenies. Not a starter I’d go for again given the choice.
The belly ribs were truly excellent with tender falling apart meat and a sticky sauce that I could have lapped up on its own. By far one of my favourite starters and something I could easily see myself eating as a main. I eagerly snapped up the spare portion when Alessandro made the error of offering it up.
Finally, the salad was surpisingly tasty with the sweet pear, sharp blue cheese, and crunchy chicory coming together in each mouthful to give a range of textures and tastes. Top notch, HawkAir, you’ve convinced me to eat something other than meat when I visit you.
We’ve reached the mains (and if you think it took a lot out of you to read this far, imagine eating your way through all that – alright fine, we did get the better end of the deal!). Naturally, we ordered steak. This isn’t to say that the fish isn’t excellent – it could very well be – but we had meat on the brain. Most were reasonable, ordering the 600g bone in sirloin or rib eye or the 300g fillet. Grant inquired about the prime rib but opted out when told the only cuts were the 1kg and 1.1kg options. I had been craving a T-bone as I wouldn’t normally order it due the cost but at 50% of it was right in my budget. The waitress informed me the only one they had was a 900g monster and asked what I would like instead. Now, I’m not sure if I was possessed by the meat spirits or was just a bit drunk, but I decided to go for it. I mean, how big could it really be? (For those of you who need to think in US terms, 900g = 32oz)
For our sides, we selected the Mac’n’Cheese, Jansson’s Temptation, Triple fried chips, a baked sweet potato, buttered greens, and four of us opted for a side of half a Dartmouth lobster with garlic butter. In addition we piled on one of each of the sauces because why choose when you can have it all?
Let’s talk about sides first. The mac’n’cheese was adequate but not memorable. The pasta was tender (but it’s pretty hard to screw up elbow macaroni…kids have been making it out of a box for years) and it was noticeably lacking in cheesiness. Overall, not impressed with your attempt at a comfort food classic, Hawkair.
Jansson’s temptation is best described as potato gratin with a creamy sauce and the odd sardine. Not bad and I actually quite liked the slight fishiness although it was a bit out of place with the rest of our selections. No idea who Jansson was or why he/she was so tempted by this dish however – if you find out, let me know.
The triple fried chips were incredible and up to par with Heston’s perfect chips. Delicate and crunchy on the outside and uber fluffy on the inside, these chips were something I could happily eat to my end. And given they aren’t that oily, it’s likely you could put away a few more portions before the ol’ ticker gives out. Have them plain, dip them in sauce, or put whatever you like on them, you can’t go wrong with these.
The buttered greens were perfectly fine but honestly were ordered as an afterthought to make fool ourselves into thinking there was something healthy about our meal. We actually forgot about them completely until the very end. The baked sweet potato was tasty but nothing special and I could have gone with or without it.
Alright, we probably should talk steak. As I said, for my first visit I opted for the t-bone (hey…it was half off…how could one resist?). The good news is that Hawksmoor knows what it’s doing and the salt and pepper crust along with the tender juicy bits of meat were exceptional.
My T-bone was lightly seasoned with pepper and more heavily with salt to give it that perfect crust. Despite it being over an inch thick and larger than my head around, it was almost uniformly medium rare (the edges were more medium but I’ll forgive them that slight transgression). The flavour of the beef came through in spades and I was glad to have opted for the waitress’s recommendation of medium rare as opposed to my standard rare or blue as it needed that little bit of extra cooking to render some of the fat for flavour.
I dove straight into the steak, pausing only occasionally to snap up a chip (the triple cooked chips rival Heston’s! Get them even if it’s the only side you do!) for a bit of variety. At first I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t’ be able to finish but each succulent bite pushed me a little higher into meat heaven. The juices spilled over my teeth and down my gullet and left me craving even more carnivorous joy. Peter S had graciously offered to help me finish it but after 10 minutes I was chewing the bone clean having powered through almost a kilo of meat. It’s that good.
There are a range of sauces you can get and I won’t go into those in detail, but the anchovy hollandaise is strangely addicting and definitely worth a try.
For dessert (and we tried everything on the menu), the sticky toffee pudding remains one fo the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The peanut butter shortbread is rich and buttery and explodes with the taste of fresh crushed peanuts. Special mention should also be made of the Jaffa Cake which is an intense chocolate cake with an orange gel centre. Uber tasty – thanks for the recommendation Tristan J! The salted caramel rolos were a nice side bit but the 3 tiny pieces don’t really form a dessert and would be better suited in a petit four style with coffee. The champagne jelly was alright but easy to miss and the chocolate fudge sundae, while tasty, wasn’t special enough to warrant getting it over the rest.
Finally, I’d just like to say a special thank you to our waitress who dealt with our many questions and requests with a smile and a bit of banter. No matter what, she was always happy to help and well deserving of a generous tip and our thanks.