Hawksmoor, a stylish steak restaurant that sits on Air Street, just off Regent Street is an insouciant, welcoming place to dine. Dark wood panelling, art-deco style mirrors, a low ceiling and mood lighting all work to create a feeling of familiarity. Metaphorically speaking, we've been here before. The interior conjures images of 1920s Chicago restaurants, or the grand ocean liners of the early twentieth century. We're reminded of gangster films, awash with glamorous (albeit shady) characters and the suited city slickers of programmes like Mad Men.
The setting is swish, but staff are friendly and relaxed. Welcomed to our table, we're invited to take our time with the wine list before moving on to the menu, at which point a help in the decision making process is at hand. Servers here are not pushy, they let customers take their time and offer helpful advice when it is needed. Of course, with such an inviting list of dishes on offer, a consultation on the best choice for the table is a prerequisite.
The menu is simple but offers up an interesting range of seafood and steak. A seafood started is advisable, and we're recommended the fried queenies (mini scallops) and tartare sauce. Other choices include a lobster cocktail, half a Dartmouth lobster, shrimps on toast, Hawksmoor smoked salmon or for real carnivores, potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires. The Doddington Caesar is a refreshing, palette cleansing start to the meat feast ahead, as is the wonderfully citrus flavoured summer salad. The fried queenies are light, well seasoned and perfectly paired with the creamy tartare. Add a generous squeeze of lemon and the meal is off to a sensational start.
Next up is a sizeable main course. Steak options range from a variety of cuts for sharing (from a Chateaubriand cooked in wine to a hearty T-bone and a bone-in prime rib). We opt for a Porterhouse - a mouth watering combination of tenderloin and top loin meat - to share. Also on offer is an individual fillet, sirloin, rib eye, or D rump. All steaks are served up with a range of sauces (ours is the tangy anchovy hollandaise) and not for the faint hearted, accompanied by two fried eggs, grilled bone marrow or half a lobster.
The list of sides is extensive, offering customers a 'mix 'n' match' approach to their dinner dishes. Sharing is encouraged, and is probably the best option when it comes to sides - we wanted to try them all. Indulgently creamy macaroni cheese was a must-order, along with triple cooked chips (a real treat) and lemon and garlic spinach (can't forget your greens). Paired with the mighty Porterhouse steak, which is cooked to perfection (medium rare), our side options are a great accompaniment. The mac 'n' cheese melts in the mouth, meanwhile the wilted spinach is flavoured well with plenty of lemon and a hint of garlic. We're very impressed when the server presents Hawksmoor's very own ketchup: rich, sweet and thick, it's a great sauce for dipping steak and chips (the gentrified way). Forget Heinz, Hawksmoor ketchup is the one to go for.
If there's room for dessert, we would recommend the peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream. Juxtaposing crumbly, crunchy shortbread biscuit with a gooey, salty-sweet filling, this dessert is moreish and incredibly satisfying. Think peanut butter Kit Kat chunky and multiply that by 1000, then add home-made salted caramel ice cream. That's what this dessert is.
Hawksmoor claims to be London's best steak restaurant. Indeed, Giles Coren at The Times, along with Time Out magazine would agree. We're also inclined to say that Hawksmoor is up there with the best; for steak, for service, the setting and for that epic dessert.