Soliciting Flavours

Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine

Love at first bite? Hawksmoor, Guildhall London.

A late afternoon meeting in my firm’s office in the City (Square Mile, London that is) gave me the opportunity to continue my examination of the burgers that the capital has to offer.

Just around the corner from the office is the Guildhall branch of Hawksmoor (one of the six Hawkmoor’s in London).

I love Hawksmoor’s beef steaks and have previously reviewed their Manchester operation (very good it was too).

In all cases, what you can expect at Hawksmoor is top quality beef. The place using only British sourced beef from traditional breeds (Aberdeen Angus, Hereford, Longhorn and Guernsey) which are grass feed. The beef is dry aged for at least 35 days to concentrate the flavour. What you get (including in their burgers – various cuts of Longhorn I believe) is therefore top quality stuff.

On the burger front, Hawksmoor’s standard cheese burger has garnered many a plaudit and is consistently in people’s top London burgers.

Just the job I thought for a quickish bite to eat before catching the train (mobile torture chamber – based on the extraordinarily uncomfortable seats on the new Hitachi trains) back (ache) to Cardiff.

The place

Hawksmoor always seem to choose places with unobtrusive entrances. Here it is a rather nice art deco doorway

with stairs leading down to a bar area and a massive dining room behind the bar.

As I was just there for the burger rather than a steak, I bagged a table in the bar.

Lovely space, with a real speakeasy feel to it.

The food

Whilst the steaks in this place are always tempting, I was on the clock (train to catch) and looking for a quick bite. The bar menu was therefore the one for me.

At the time of day I was in the place the express menu was also in play, but to me it is only tempting if you go for the steak (which comes with a £5 supplement – grrr hate supplements on fixed price menus- which takes it to £30 for two course and comparing that to Asador 44’s £15 offering it looks pricy for an express lunch, but then they have London rents etc. to pay I suppose).

I, however (whilst toying with the French dip – next time methinks), went for the gulp inducing £16.50 burger.

What arrived certainly was a handsome beast (and so it should be at a whopping £16.50, with one side), whose size made it only just capable of being picked up and a bite taken out of it. Even with my big gob dislocation of the jaw was a worry.

The bun was a lightly toasted demi brioche number, which held up right until nearly the end when the bottom element finally collapsed under the weight of fatty beefy burger juice. It, therefore, pretty much served its purpose in allowing the conveyance of the all important patty to the gob.

Under the bonnet, there was a nice slab of cheese (I choose Ogleshield over the blue Stichelton), which had achieved required gooey, stringiness (possibly a further 5 seconds in the Josper would have achieved maximum gooeyness), a chunky slice of beef tomato (not entirely necessary in my opinion), raw red onion and a crisp lettuce leaf. Of course the meat in this sandwich is the key element.

This was a chunky patty which had a nice char to the exterior with lots of lovely gnarly caramelised bits.

The flavour was outstanding, with my first bite eliciting from me a (hopefully internalised, but not 100% sure) deep moan of delight as fatty beef juice erupted from the patty. This was serious beefy umaminess, with the bone marrow nuggets that studded the patty doing a fantastic job of dialling the flavour up to the max. Very nice, yielding, texture to the patty. Dear Lord it was good.

I had asked (on ordering) if my burger could be cooked medium rare and this request brought a rueful look to the face of my server, who said due to new rules it was no longer practical to serve them rare (not sure about that – certainly the rules are quite stringent, but certainly not impossible in my opinion when you are charging £16.50 for your burger, but it seems it is getting high on impossible to get a properly pink burger these days – even Bleecker Burger according to reports I have heard have succumbed).

Notwithstanding the lack of a medium rare option (what arrived did have a hint of pink to the interior), this was a really juicy burger. So juicy, in fact, that I had to take a rather radical approach to napkin use!

Abandoning the traditional “on the lap” approach, I had (in order to protect my tie, shirt and suit) to tuck it in to my shirt collar. Not a good look I fear (I did get a few curious – there’s a nutter in the corner alert – looks), but it was very effective as I came away (grease) spotless (burger juice has ruined many an expensive tie of mine).

The burger here comes with a choice of sides (either triple cooked chips, beef dripping fries or a salad). I plumped for the triple cooked chips (had the beef dripping ones in the Hawksmoor in Manchester – nice, but didn’t really get the difference I had hoped that frying them in beef dripping would make).

These were very good, proper chunky, chips. They had a nicely crisp exterior and lovely fluffy interior

Not quite as good as the chips at Arbennig (sadly closing in Cardiff – but their dynamite chips can still be found at the Lamb & Flag in Wick – and couldn’t ask for a better replacement that a Tommy Hearny run outfit there), but few are so no shame in that.

The Drink

On the booze front, Hawksmoor is renowned for it cocktails. I am not a huge cocktail drinker, but am quite partial to Hawksmoor’s signature “Anti- Fogmatic” in the form of the “Shaky Pete’s ginger brew”.

A turbo charged shandy, with London Pride bitter, homemade ginger beer and a kick of gin, this is a über refreshing drink and seemed (at the time of my visit) to be the beverage of choice of those at the bar.

With a juicy burger though it was always going to be a glass of red wine for me and Hawksmoor have a very good list (mark ups are a bit on the hefty side mind), with a decent selection by the glass

Malbec is probably many people’s go to wine with beef, but my eyes were drawn to a South African Cabernet Sauvignon on the list (£7.50 for a 125ml glass). From Hertenberg (a respected producer from Stellenbosch), this had a lovely blackcurrent nose, with a hint of cedar and pencil shavings.

On the palate, you get a lovely hit of cassis and a back note of tobacco. Lovely on its own and rather good with this burger. This wine retails at less than £15 so the £45 per bottle price is a bit high if ask me.

If you have deep pockets (many in the City do) then there is some really serious stuff on the list.

Interestingly the 1982 Mouton Rothchild retails at £960.49 a bottle,

so if you go on a Monday (when they have an across the board £5 per bottle corkage charge) you could buy a 1982 Mouton retail and save yourself £1540 as against buying it in the restaurant!!! Of course you have to have the moolah to buy it retail in the first place (which I most certainly don’t, but plenty in the City do).

The verdict

This was a really, really, good burger. Juicy with a lovely umami hit from the nuggets of bone marrow and dry aged beef. It is fair to say I literally swooned at the flavour bomb that was my first bite.

This brings me to the price. This is not a cheap burger and I am sure many people will blanche at the thought of shelling out £16.50 for a burger (even with the price including a side).

I paid for a burger and fries and a glass of nice wine (and tip – as seems to be the norm these days in London – here added automatically, which is not a practice I am a fan of this to put it mildly if I am honest, but understand many eating in Hawksmoor will be doing so on expenses so the tip being added to the bill is no issue and makes it easier to recover when putting an expenses claim in) a hefty £26.44.

There is no doubt that this is a lot for a burger meal, but I suppose you pay for the rather salubrious surroundings (the rents in Guidhall must be astronomic) and it is a seriously good burger (I would order it over many a steak I have had).

To put the price into perspective Jamie Oliver’s Italian in Cardiff (which I suspect pay a huge amount less in rent, staff cost etc.) has their burger, with one side, on the menu at £14.90. The Hawksmoor burger is also massively bigger than the diminutive burgers on offer at Shake Shack in Cardiff (with their tiny double cheese burger – £8.75 + £3 for fries – looking less than half the size of what is on offer at Hawksmoor and a lot less tasty in my view).

I know which one of these I would choose and it would be the £16.50 Hawksmoor offering everytime.

Talking of Cardiff, if Hawksmoor feel like expanding into the Principality I know a perfect spot with an unobtrusive entrance leading to a cavernous underground space (ripe for a Hawskmoor’s speakeasy refurbishment).

I would love them to come to Cardiff, especially with their fab £5 a bottle (any size – bring on the magnums) corkage charge on a Monday. Not a bad idea Cardiff restaurants, to get the punters in on a slow day.

So where does this burger sit in the London burger hierarchy? On flavour alone, in my view, pretty darn close to the top. One of best tasting burgers around. Once you take price into account it perhaps falls below the likes of Patty & Bun, where the Ari Gold cheese burger and chips will set you back £11.75 or the Bleecker Double cheese burger and fries which costs £12.50, but you do get a more salubrious (far from fast food) dining experience and the booze selection at Hawksmoor is a big bonus to my mind.

Best burger I have had this year so far and I will be very happy if I come across a better one during the remainder of the year.

The details

Address: 10 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5BQ.

Email: guildhall@thehawksmoor.com

Tel: 020 7397 8120

Website: Click here

Twitter: @hawksmoorlondon

Instagram: @hawksmoorrestaurants

Opening hours: Breakfast Mon – Fri: 07.00 – 10.00; Lunch Mon – Fri: 12.00 – 15.00; Dinner: Mon – Fri: 17.00 – 22.00

Food served in the bar from 12.00.

Other Hawksmoor branches open at the weekend.

Nearest tube station: Bank, 4 minutes walk.

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