Remember that first date with someone which went so well you thought: maybe, just maybe, this could be the one ? And the frisson of excitement anticipating the second….only to be left with a hollow feeling of back to the drawing board after a disappointing rematch ?
I’d been to Hawksmoor Seven Dials just a few weeks earlier, with my brother and his two lads, to celebrate Paul’s BIG birthday. You know, one of those mad, alcohol-fuelled weekends where eating at a vegetarian restaurant just wouldn’t cut the mustard. We needed meat. And the good stuff. So we went to Hawksmoor, and devoured the rib-eye and the Chateaubriand…and then told everyone we’d eaten the best steaks ever.
So when I wanted to celebrate retirement with my wife Gill, Hawksmoor seemed the perfect accompaniment to a Wednesday afternoon performance of Shakespeare in Love. Decadence piled on decadence. I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit (Master Shakespeare – Twelfth Night)
Hawksmoor plays the shy coquette. The sign is barely visible in Langley Street, one of those narrow Covent Garden alleys a far cry from the tourist-strewn Piazza. And the image of a Prohibition speak-easy continues as you descend into the subterranean meat-pit, all exposed brickwork and subdued lighting.
The service is nicely informal, but slick. First name terms as you’re passed from ground floor reception to the downstairs speak-easy front-of-house , and then a smooth affability from the waiter when you reach your table.
We hit the cocktails to embrace the sense of midweek bravado. The slug of alcohol from the Bitter State concoctions (Appleton Rum, apricot liqueur, Campari & lemon) bludgeons us between the eyes, and sharpens the appetite in an instant.
At £24 for 2 courses and £27 for 3, the Express Menu is a relative snip. Well, we are eating into our pensions now. And the pre- and post-theatre options look attractive enough for star-crossed lovers with not long to live.
Gill’s Doddington Caesar Salad and my Potted Mackerel are accomplished first acts, but the main player of the drama – our 250 gram rib-eye steak – should have been better prepared, and fluffs its lines. It’s cooked medium rare, although slightly too rare for my taste, with more blood than Lady Macbeth’s dastardly dagger. The quality is good enough but the main villain is the chewy, sinewy edges. A disappointing performance after the theatrical hype.
The extras are multi-textured beef dripping chips, and buttered spring greens – cabbage and overly chewable, tough spinach that do little to upstage the flailing central character. Thank goodness the Argentinian Malbec has played its part in perking up our spirits.
I mentioned our meaty disappointment to the waiter, exacerbated by the outstanding recent performance I’d enjoyed so much. An off day? Complacency? Forgotten lines? No matter, his reaction was word-perfect….an abject apology and immediate offer of free desserts, despite my genuine insistence that wasn’t necessary.
The final acts of peanut butter shortbread and white chocolate cheesecake with strawberries did much to recover the happiness of the occasion, and Hawksmoor’s image in our eyes. But you’ll always come away wanting more if Hamlet has messed up, no matter how good Henslowe’s small contribution was.
JR rating = 21
- Food = 6
- Service = 9
- Ambience = 6