★★★★★ / Seafood / Steak/chophouse

Hawksmoor Air Street review – seafood from a steak house

Classy Piccadilly steaks and fish

It’s not usually fair to review a restaurant during its soft launch period – this is when a new restaurant offers a discount on its usual prices while it works out the kinks both in the kitchen and in the front of the house. I’m willing to make an exception in the case of Hawksmoor Air Street though. This meal was easily one of the most satisfying I’ve had all year and I have to share it with someone before I burst – although the sheer quantity of food I ate probably has something to do with that.

Hawksmoor is a small chain that serves up some of the best steaks I’ve had in London, the chateaubriand alone is worth selling your firstborn for, but each of the four restaurants has a slightly different menu and its own distinct character. The original Spitalfields branch has a stylish bar with a quirky menu of small plates separate from the main menu. The Covent Garden-based Seven Dials location does a small but fine line of burgers – although it’s fallen behind a little in the London burger race. The Guildhall restaurant serves up gut-busting breakfasts for swaggering City boys and normal people alike.

The newest Piccadilly Hawksmoor serves up a menu of both seafood and steak. It’s located in the large space formally occupied by the mediocre Senkai and it’s been lovingly redecorated. The curved wooden and brass fittings, stained glass windows and handsome but simple light fixtures give the place an art deco-esque feel that’s stylish without being vulgar.

hawksmoor piccadilly decor

Gaucho can sod off.

The Euro Hedgie and I sampled a fair swath of the new seafood dishes. One of the two meat dishes we had was a starter of potted beef and bacon served with onion gravy and Yorkshire puddings. The potted beef and bacon, served in a glass jar, may look unappetising but this coarse mixture goes down a treat – the moist tender strands of beef dotted with pork are complimented nicely by the sweetness of the thick onion gravy. The only hitch is the Yorkshire puddings. Although soft and fluffy, they’re also quite thick and get in the way of appreciating the loveliness of the potted meat.

potted beef and bacon at hawksmoor piccadilly

Potted guide.

potted beef and bacon with onion gravy in yorkshire pudding at hawksmoor piccadilly

It can’t be that grim up North if it can produce vittles like Yorkshire puddings.

Despite the Britishness of Hawksmoor, for some reason I was expecting a Spanish-style fish soup with a tomato base. What actually arrived was a much thicker, starchier soup that had a salty hit to it probably derived from a prawn shell stock. The scratchings of cheese added a surprisingly pleasing musky punch to the soup, but it’s telling that the thing I enjoyed most about the soup was the soft, fluffy pot pie-style pastry crust.

fish soup pie crust at hawksmoor air street

Shut your pie hole…

fish soup at hawksmoor piccadilly

…this is fish soup.

The roasted scallops were an unconditional success though – the firm, milky molluscs had a slightly crisp exterior and an unusually herby hit to them that’s apparently due to a combination of port and garlic.

roasted scallops at hawksmoor air street

Do you pronouce ‘scallop’ as ‘skol-op’…

roasted scallop at hawksmoor air street

… or as ‘skal-lup’?

Three starters deserves to be matched with three main courses. The monkfish had been grilled over charcoal and was both firm and moist with a herby flavour to it that I couldn’t quite identify. It’s simple but delicious.

monkfish at hawksmoor piccadilly

The poor man’s lobster may actually be better than the real thing.

The one fish I like more than monkfish is turbot. The flesh of Hawksmoor’s charcoal grilled version is milky and firm with a buttery sheen and herby hint to it that was immensely satisfying. The Hedgie’s only quibble is that he prefers his turbot skin crispy rather than soft, but that’s a very minor quibble indeed.

turbot at hawksmoor air street

Turbot War!

Sea bream in lesser restaurants can often arrive in such a dilapidated state that you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from an equally tired slab of sea bass. That’s not a problem here though – the bream baked in paper with pepper, garlic, rosemary and chilli retains that unmistakable and distinctive taste of fresh bream. The fish has been lightly but expertly seasoned with a mild chilli kick that occasionally punched through the garlic and rosemary.

The only potential problem with the bream is that it’s served on the bone which may trip up those not used to deboning fish.

sea bream at hawksmoor air street

Fish wrapped in newspaper.

The only other meat dish the Hedgie and I had besides the potted meat starter was a side dish of braised pig’s trotter meat and fennel. The pieces of fennel bulb had been cooked just right – neither too firm nor too soft. They were perfect for conveying the tender, moreish and intensely meaty strands of trotter into my mouth.

braised fennel and trotters at hawksmoor air street

New York, Paris and Piccadilly.

Even though the onion rings didn’t really compliment any of our main dishes, I had to have them. Onion rings are not only one of my food obsessions, but they’re unique to the Air Street menu as far as I can tell. The batter was remarkably free of oil, but it was also quite thick and crunchy which got in the way of savouring the sweet, sour, gently sweated whole rings of onion.

onion rings at hawksmoor piccadilly

That’s one weird glory hole.

onion ring at hawksmoor air street

Don’t sweat it.

Despite shovelling all that down our gullets, we still had room for dessert. The Euro Hedgie opted for salted caramel rolos which aren’t really shaped like the famous Nestle chocolates – probably due to intellectual property issues. The unremarkable chocolate shell contains a thick and gooey salted caramel interior. It’s not bad, but I’ve had better salted caramel chocolates where the contrast between the sweetness of the caramel and the salt is much more pronounced.

salt caramel rolos at hawksmoor piccadilly

Orion’s belt.

salted caramel rolo chocolate at hawksmoor air street

Give me your last rolo. Now!

I have rarely had room for desserts during my previous visits to the other Hawksmoors, so I was looking forward to the orange and hazelnut jaffa cake. The chocolate shell was once again unremarkable and I couldn’t detect much hazelnut anywhere, but inside the sharp, gently citrusy jam was sandwiched between two thick layers of fluffy, chocolate sponge. Although the chocolate aspects didn’t satisfy the chocolate snobbishness of either myself or the Hedgie, it’s still a very rich dessert but this is neatly counterbalanced by the moistness of the vanilla cream supplied in a separate jug.

jaffa cake at hawksmoor piccadilly

-Look at the size of that thing!
-Cut the chatter Red Two!

interior jaffa cake at hawksmoor piccadilly

The secret of the ooze.

jawksmoor jaffa cake at air street

All that glistens…?

Hawksmoor’s cornflake milkshake, which is available in all four restaurants, is just as brilliant as ever – the sweet, crisp, milky taste of a bowl of cornflakes in a delightfully creamy milkshake. Ace.

cornflake milkshake at hawksmoor air street

I will never tire of Hawksmoor’s cornflake milkshake.

The fruit cup was the Hedgie’s boozy tipple of choice. The mixture of gin, vermouth, curaçao, bitters, ginger ale and lillet rouge was a potent one.

hawksmoor fruit cup at piccadilly

Liquid Lunch.

The Verdict

Enthusing over a new restaurant that has yet (at the time of writing) to exit its soft launch period may come back to bite me in the arse and yet I don’t care. Although there were one or two hitches, these were minor flaws in a meal where the highlights were the simple, seemingly effortlessly well-cooked fish dishes.

There’s always a worry that chains will lose their soul and their competency as they expand, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem with Hawksmoor. London doesn’t have enough good seafood restaurants (especially once you exclude sushi restaurants and oyster bars) and if Hawksmoor Air Street can maintain this standard of quality, or perhaps even exceed it, then it will be the standard by which others are judged. Plus they have steaks.

Name: Hawksmoor Air Street

Address: 5a Air Street, London W1J 0AD

Phone: 020 3641 1893

Webhttp://thehawksmoor.com 

Opening Hourscall to confirm   

Reservations: essential

Total cost for one person including drinks and service when shared between two people: £65 (we actually paid £45 each during the soft launch – either way, you’ll pay less if you’re not as gluttonous as we were)

Rating: ★★★★★

Hawksmoor  on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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6 thoughts on “Hawksmoor Air Street review – seafood from a steak house

  1. The day I had salted caramel rolos, the middle bit was very runny. Doesn’t look like yours at all…..and those onion look intense (they sold out the day we went lol). The bream looks wonderful, might try that next time! Our turbot sadly was undercooked by quite a bit, had to send it back! But okie….might just have to order that jaffa cake next time too

  2. Pingback: MASH review – a Danish steakhouse in London « The Picky Glutton

  3. Pingback: Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar review – new meat and cheese menu | The Picky Glutton

  4. Pingback: Foxlow review – the Farringdon meat restaurant that’s not St John | The Picky Glutton

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