Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar, 157 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ
There are not many places we could say this about, but we’d happily eat at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar every night. We were wowed enough by the main restaurant when we went last year for Ade’s 40th. A fantastic evening in the private dining room at the Seven Dials branch in Covent Garden, beautiful huge steaks, the best chips ever, even the spinach was amazing. We were lucky enough to secure a table during the soft launch with 50% off food at the new Spitalfields bar, we went with our good friend Keith, a fellow cheese hater.
Situated in the basement under the main of Will Beckett (read our interview with him here) and Huw Gott’s original steak restaurant, the new bar has a more glamorous and decadent feel than any of the other Hawksmoor eateries. The basement, previously a dodgy strip club, that was used as a storage for the spoils of Huw’s eBay addiction has been given a stunning 1920s Art Deco makeover. As always with Hawksmoor interior design, the new bar features loads of reclaimed materials. A polished brass wall is made from 90-year-old lift doors salvaged from the Unilever Building in Embankment (blue-patterned mirrors and the teak parquet floor are from there too). White Victorian glazed bricks have been used on the columns, even the heavy dark wood tables are made from chemistry lab tops. The walls of three alcoves are one of the most striking features in the bar, covered with turquoise Art Nouveau tiles with brass caged lights. The ceilings of the alcoves, along with the bar top, are covered with copper which looks amazing against the dark blue leather seats and peacock-blue walls. Despite it being brand new it has the look and feel of an older establishment.
We were early so had a couple of drinks at the bar in the main restaurant before being led down to our table in the basement bar by the friendly waitress. Being quite a bit of a tomboy, I love how the Hawksmoor feels almost like a gentlemen’s club, and the menu and drinks are very male-orientated. My Monk Antrim’s Manila Julep £7.50 Pineapple Bourbon, Rum & Mint was a special thing to watch being prepared and wasn’t dissimilar to a Mojito.
Keith and I shared a Shortrib French Dip £10 and a Hot Dog £8.50, the only downer on the night was when the waiter asked if I was sure I didn’t want cheese and made me feel like he was laughing at me a little bit. I said I was and he said no more, I should make myself a ‘I hate cheese’ badge for situations like this! The French Dip was so good, tender thinly sliced steak in an rich intense thick and meaty gravy wedged in a soft shiny bun, I ended up with gravy dripping over my hands but that just made it even more pleasurable, especially when I could still smell it on the way home on the train… The dog was very good too, a juicy firm sausage very much like the Big Apple Hotdog that we had at Mishkin’s.
We had some of the gorgeous Triple-cooked Chips £4 between us, and Ade ordered the Oxtail Poutine £6 (a dish heralding from Canada consisting of Oxtail, chips, gravy and cheese – amazing!) plus a Chilli Cheese Dog £10, Shortrib nuggets £6 and Chicken Wings £5 for us all. I was so jealous of his Poutine, gutted I couldn’t try it, and the nuggets had a vein of cheese running through the inside so they were out of the equation also. Ade’s face when eating it was almost orgasmic, and he looked at us like we were mad for not liking cheese, but sadly that can’t be helped.
I was hoping to share desserts so I could try a few but Keith’s face told me he wanted one all to himself. Ade had his heart set on the Peanut Butter Shortbread with Salted Caramel Ice Cream but it had sold out, so he sweetly chose the Lemon Meringue Pie £6 instead so I could try it. I had the Chocolate Malt Tart £7, am amazed I managed it as it was just as rich and heavy as the main, gorgeous though. Keith had the Sticky Toffee Sundae £6.50 he reluctantly let us try a bit – we can see why he was guarding it.
We left with the fullest happiest bellies in a long time, knowing full well that we’d be back soon. We were. Ade and I returned a couple of weeks later to try what we didn’t on the first visit. Although saying that I had to have the Shortrib French Dip again, along with a very rich cheeseless Chicken Poutine, which I did really enjoy but it didn’t beat the dip. Ade opted for the veggie option, not like him – a Bermondsey Frier Sandwich £8.50, a brioche bun with fried cow’s milk cheese made in Southwark (a bit like halloumi), mushrooms, onions and tomato.
In the meantime I had received an email from co-owner Huw, a feedback follow-up from our original booking, not knowing that we’d be writing about it. I mentioned the cheese situation and he took note of it, we thought it was a really nice touch that they do such a thing, apart from Dishoom, it’s the first place we’ve known to get in contact for regular punter’s feedback. Weirdly on our second visit a girl who was sat at the table next to us also couldn’t eat cheese and we overheard her conversation with the very same waiter that we had before. This time he mentioned that she could have anything on the menu without cheese, apart from the shortrib nuggets. His response was much better than it was with me but I could tell she was left feeling like her options were limited, they aren’t. I was desperate to talk to her but thought she may think I was a freak.
I had the same dessert again and Ade finally got his hands on the Peanut Butter Shortbread with Salted Caramel Ice Cream £7, he was a tad disappointed with it, it wasn’t what he expected a little dry and could hardly taste the peanut butter (I think he was expecting it to be more like a Reese’s peanut butter cup). On to the cocktails (a short list of just ten)… I absolutely loved Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew £8.50 – Gin, Ginger, Lemon & London Pride– the combination sounds gross but it was brilliant, it fizzed in my mouth. We were chuffed when a barman put down a Non-Such Punch £15.00 Cognac, Claret, Green Tea, Lemon & Spices in front of us, a mistake at the bar apparently, a welcome mistake for us. A lovely drink but we felt a bit stupid drinking out of a huge glass with two straws, somehow it didn’t quite fit in with the feel of the Hawksmoor, bit too girly.
Seeing as Ade has an irritating habit of not ordering the same thing as me, we are set to return so he can have a Shortrib French Dip. And I’ll no doubt have one too. Even if they are pretty expensive, a great way to spend a tenner. The Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar: come armed with money and empty stomachs.
The Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar
157 Commercial Street,
London E1 6BJ
Tel: 020 7426 4856
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 5.45 – 11pm (food available 6-11pm)
Friday 5.45 – 12am (food available 6-11pm)
Saturday 12pm-12am (food available 12-3pm and 4-11pm)
Sunday 12-6pm (food available 12-5pm)
Nearest tube: Shoreditch