I have discovered my Death Row Meal.
Quite a morbid start to a review, perhaps, but the truth of it is that I have now come across possibly my favourite three courses in all of London – and Hawksmoor Knightsbridge have taken the top spot.
It might also be the experience as a whole that clinched it – one can’t disregard the famous Hawksmoor hospitality, the reputation of which precedes my visit and matches up to all expectations. As my friend, who is a Hawksmoor fanatic says, ‘they are attentive without making you feel as if they’re hovering like creepy spectres intent on always topping up your wine.
It’s the ultimate balance of friendly and professional’. And I couldn’t agree more – it’s pretty impeccable. But back to the food, because that is what made me wake up the next day and immediately want to tell the world about this place.
Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is the sophisticated sibling of this bunch of uber-cool, gastronomically respected restaurants. It still has the trademark suave décor and sumptuous leather banquettes, as well as glamorous art deco touches and gilt edging. What’s more, the menu is divided equally between prime seafood as well as steak, which is kind of the Hawksmoor calling card.
So I took a male dining partner safe in the knowledge that he’d want a huge lump of cow, and I could pinch some of this while ordering myself some delectable shellfish. After starting with a little pre-dinner cocktail (Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew is a must-try for anyone who likes a pep of ginger and citrus, tempered with London Pride), then we moved to our table – or rather ‘booth’, feeling very Mad-Men-esque surrounded by mustard yellow and teal hues.
If there’s one thing on a menu that is always going to wink out at me, whispering sweet nothings, then it’s oysters. ‘He was a bold man that first ate an oyster’, says Jonathan Swift. Well, now I believe he’s a foolish man who doesn’t dive in and take the chance to scoff them when possible, especially when they’re Fine de Claires.
We shared six, and by my third I was dispensing with the shallot vinegar and Tabasco entirely, purely enjoying the rush of ocean and seaside and cold coastal morning that washed over my palate as the gargantuan mollusk swilled around in my mouth.
Starters were also fishy-based – the salmon had a delicious autumnal smoke-house mustiness to it, while the sea bass ceviche appealed to my love of Asian cuisine and was as bold in flavour as it was delicate in preparation.
But the real game-changer was the Singapore Lobster. Any meal where the implements for eating are laid out like the scary tools of a mad doctor from a Hammer Horror film appeals to me, and there I was with the pliers (aka Lobster Crackers) and a tiny pick. Was I slightly daunted by the fact the menu said 900g? Yes. Did I actually eat most of it and only give up when my jaw physically stopped being able masticate any more shellfish? Also yes.
It was just… phenomenal. I’ve never had lobster like it. There was so much soft, sweet meat packed away beneath the bright red fortress of the shell. Every time I thought I’d demolished one portion there was more creamy white strands of crustacean flesh.
And the sauce was that Singaporean accidental-creation that has now become their national dish – tomato and chilli, ginger and sweet chewy stickiness. I started off attempting to be vaguely dainty, and by the end resembled one of the greedy children from a Roald Dahl book – completely covered in food and not giving a toss.
For the record it’s also worth mentioning that the steak was superb – my dining partner was delighted, proclaiming it one of the best he’d had (especially with the Stilton Hollandaise), and sides of heritage tomato salad and golden shards of chunky chips were fab. I briefly paused in my scoffing to try it and must say I was impressed, particularly with the little dish of Mac & Cheese.
You’d think that by the end of our main courses I’d be too full to even consider another morsel – I would have too, until the dessert menu was put in front of us. Now, when I was a child I 100% had a food-fantasy that a Ferrero Rocher as big as a shed was in my garden and it was my job – nay, my responsibility – to eat my way through it.
The Ambassador’s Reception dessert is the closest thing I’ve found yet. It’s a mountain of chocolate, hazelnut, gold leaf and pure food porn. In a fit of austerity we decided to share one, but by the end were battling for the final bite. Mind you, I was also sipping away on the calorific and oh-so-moreish Burnt Butter Old Fashioned, which pretty much tastes like liquid caramel and popcorn heaven.
So there we go. I rolled out of Hawksmoor about seven stone heavier and not caring a jot – it was such damned fine food that I’d do it all again without batting an eyelid. Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is an experience that all food fans need to indulge in - if someone had come at me with the needle right then I’d have gone with a smile on my (albeit slightly sticky) face.