Welcome back to another exciting new instalment of MCRhookup.com’s ‘Chef’s Table’ series. We want to take you behind our favourite brands and put some personality into the plates of deliciousness they’re serving up across Greater Manchester. Here we have our recent visit to Hawksmoor, probably the nation’s best loved steakhouse, to see Jack Davy their General Manager (and former Chef) to talk meats and other treats!
Quick reminder for those at the back, Hawksmoor was founded by Will Beckett and his childhood friend, Huw Gott, in 2006, down in ‘that London’. It was, they say, “built on a childhood memory of how good steak could taste”…not a bad reason to go into business.
Anybody who has been before will understand there are so many solid classics up for grabs on the Menu that we were spoilt for choice. Thankfully, with some help from Jack, we managed to dive in at the deep end and sample a cross section from Starters to Sides, Steaks and even some Specials.
Kicking things off we have a favourite, ‘Brixham Crab On Toast’ – super crunchy bread beautifully contrasting the creamy soft white crab meat – a really superb starter. Coming highly recommended as it did the ‘Kohlrabi Salad’ with celery hearts & Spenwood was also a must, a crispy crunch from the greens and shavings of English cheese to at least rival Pecorino. Delicious!
A new dish, the ‘Spice-roasted Cauliflower’ is quite “un-Hawksmoor” as Jack explained, mainly for its use of spice. Served with charred spring onion, caramelised red onion, IPA raisins, almonds and mint yoghurt to cut through some of that heat. You’ll also find some mango ketchup, a nod to the more familiar mango chutney you would expect to see with this flavour of dish.
Sticking with the unexpected for a second, Hawksmoor maybe well known for meat but fish might not immediately come to mind. As we have already established the crab starter was incredible (we could easily have ordered a couple of them, each) and it is the surf as well as the the turf that you will find throughout their Menu. Each weekend, during the summer months, there’s a Special to promote the latest catch and really show off the quality and the freshness their suppliers are providing. Keep your eyes on Hawksmoor social media for updates!
Back to Brixham. We spied something Special up on the chalkboard; the ‘Whole Dover Sole’. Cooked ‘a la Meuniere’ in style – the fish is pan fried in browned butter with lemon, parsley and capers – one of only a handful fresh in that morning – lovely and light in this warm weather.
Surely it must be time for some famous “dictionary thick cuts of beef”? Yup… incoming! ‘Bone-in Prime Rib’ – a beast if you’re hungry or perfect for two to share. This is a really thick cut of rib eye cooked on the bone. The fat found around this part of the cow is succulent and sweet so it creates an amazing flavour with awesome marbling throughout that helps baste the cut whilst cooking. Seasoned with sea salt, smoked sea salt and cracked black pepper all Hawksmoor steaks are cooked over charcoal and you can tell! The fat dripping onto the coals creates smoke and causes the flames to caramelise the sugars and salt to form a crust on the outside.
“It’s not something you eat everyday, steak is always going to be a special occasion food.”
Richard Turner, Executive Chef
‘Triple Cooked Chips’ are a no brainer buddy for the beef – a lot of time is taken to create the perfect chip – foolproof with Hawksmoor ketchup. Also worth a look are the ‘Beef Dripping Fries’, they’re just as special as they sound.
So as not to rub it in too much and leave something to your imagination, a couple of Sides slipped out of shot – they weren’t shy – just so delicious they were all gone before the lens cap came off. An honourable mention must go to the ‘Short Rib Nuggets’ – slow cooked beef short rib, rolled out and filled with a cheesy Ogleshield interior then double coated in breadcrumbs and served with Korean style spicy kimchi ketchup. If you can find someone who isn’t a fan of Hawksmoor’s short rib nuggets all you will have achieved is wasting time that could otherwise have been spent eating these bad boys.
To lighten the load of lots of carbs and protein there’s a super simple English ‘Heritage Tomato Salad’ available with cucumber, parsley, mint, chives, lemon juice and a splash of white balsamic which definitely does the trick. Another sneaky little favourite was their ‘Creamed Spinach’. Seasoned with a hint of cayenne pepper it’s not only a great way to get your greens but an absolute staple to add that little kick to accompany your steak.
In stark contrast the ‘Grilled Bone Marrow’ is striped back to the bare bones, literally. Very simple, very Hawksmoor.
As we’re gorging away Jack explains more about the ethos of the business and his team, it’s all about staff and service. He champions “hiring personality”, after all those soft skills and the emotional intelligence required for a great customer experience can’t really be taught. Honest staff opinion and sincere recommendations to guests is encouraged – Hawksmoor staff have actually eaten what’s on the plates (previously – they don’t pinch your chips) so will be sure to let you know what they think. Increasingly, it’s these basics which are overlooked, especially in larger chains, staff having very little clue what’s in the dish let alone where the ingredients came from and ultimately whether it’s actually any good or not.
You may be forgiven for thinking Hawksmoor is expensive, sure it’s premium, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good value. A common misconception with luxury is that there must be a huge unnecessary mark up lurking and somebody somewhere must be pulling your pants down – Hawksmoor doesn’t go in for that. There is simply a going rate for good beef and for good staff. The benefits of both here are passed on to you, the customer.
Arriving way back in 2015, Manchester was the brand’s first foray out of London. Interestingly when speaking about the marketplace Jack reckons we Mancunians may well be more discerning than Southerners, stating “you’ve got to be on your game here”. Success in the city has now lead to a brand new restaurant opening in Edinburgh and the unveiling of plans for a site in New York. Over to Will:
“When we open in 2019, Hawksmoor New York will have been 5 years in the making. While that has felt like an incredibly long wait, it has given us the opportunity to get to know New York intimately, meet the people who make the industry tick, eat extensively in its amazing restaurants and find some passionate farmers, fishermen and suppliers.”
Will Beckett, co-founder
It has become a tried and tested recipe now for Hawksmoor, the product sells itself and the service needs to be just so. No gimmicks or unnecessary discounting here. That doesn’t mean the Menu isn’t accommodating; if you’re on a timetable or a budget there’s plenty of ways to get your fix. Get back to beefy basics – their Sunday Roast needs to be experienced! Their burgers are way more thought out than Manchester’s previously dominate ‘dirty burger’ trend. Grab yourself a ‘Big Matt Burger’ in the bar and tell us we’re wrong. Brainchild of Hawksmoor’s very own Michelin man and culinary genius, Matt Brown. Two dry-aged British beef patties with Hawksmoor burger sauce, Red Leicester cheese, shredded iceberg, onions and homemade pickles plus pair it with a glassorkage on Mondays is just £5 on any bottle you wish to bring along. The Express Menu runs 7 days… we could go on.
Whilst British grass-fed beef isn’t at all comparable with anything Japanese or Argentinian it’s interesting to look to ‘rivals’ like Gaucho amid their recent move into administration and question why Hawksmoor continues to grow. Parting words of wisdom from Jack help simplify what they do well, it seems the trick is to get the “best of the best and cook it simply”. Surely Hawksmoor has to be Manchester’s undisputed best steakhouse?! Try it yourself…
Hawksmoor – 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WB