Tuesday 28 April 2009

Hawksmoor Steak Tasting

If my excellent first visit to Hawksmoor wasn't enough to convince me that these guys know their meat, then the subsequent visit certainly did. I and several other bloggers were invited to Hawksmoor to a steak tasting, to try out different breeds of cow. I was disproportionately excited, to the point of nervousness. I needn't have worried as the owners, Will Beckett and Huw Gott were most excellent hosts.

When we arrived, we were shown to an impressive dining room. A large retangular wooden table was adorned with cutlery in a raised part at the back, partitioned with red curtain. We started off with a delicious punch which consisted of passionfruit, prosecco and a little pineapple. It was summer in a really cute glass - bought from Ebay, apparently. I coveted it.

Onto the steak tasting. I must say, I learnt an awful lot about the complexities of aging meat. Dry aged? Wet aged? I am now an expert. Well, not quite, but dry aged is preferable to wet for flavour, whereas wet aging is more economically viable as dry aged meat shrinks, but suffers in the flavour stakes.

When I was presented with the steak tasting sheet, I was overwhelmed with glee. There were 17 note boxes - which means 17 different mouthfuls! We kicked off with the sirloins, of which the South Devon beef, supplied by Wild Beef was my favourite of them all. The cows are 36 months old when they go to slaughter and this produced a deep grassy flavour, ever-so-slightly chewy. Not that this is a bad thing, mind; I have healthy enough teeth. Of the sirloins one of the marked differences I found was in texture. For example, the West Cork Hereford sirloin was very loose in texture, whereas the Angus / Charolais cross was much denser in flesh.

All the cuts of meat were cooked to medium rare. Whilst I go for rare when ordering sirloin or fillet I think it's vital to have rib eye medium rare, as the extra time on the heat gives the fat more of a chance to melt, resulting in a tastier bite.

And so came the rib eyes. I'd love to say I can recall each and every one of them, but since I've come away from the experience, I know which ones stood out and which ones were favourite and which ones were least impressive. The Casterbridge (Modern Cross) rib eye bled a lot on the plate, which according to Huw is not a good sign. It had a lighter flavour and was the least complex of the lot. The same is said for the Ruby Red Devon - such a pretty name, but failing to live up to expectations. On the otherside of the spectrum, the Longhorn from Ginger Pig was a delight - some of us (including me) said it had a Stilton-esque flavour to the rich, silky and unctuous fat. Similarly, Farmer Sharp's Galloway had a caramel, almost toasty flavour to the fat and the flesh.

As if that wasn't enough, we were finally presented with this flat iron steak, from the shoulder of the cow.

This was Aberdeen Angus, from Jack O'Shea. Look at the beast! We placed a fork next to it for comparitive purposes. The flesh had an almost livery flavour and was pleasantly gamey, but unfortunately it defeated us and was taken away to be made into doggy bags for us to take home.

What a fantastic night. Having consumed around 6kg of steak between 12 of us, it was definitely a case of pescetarianism for the next few days, but my god. What a night. It also confirmed that Ginger Pig' Longhorn meat is the daddy of all steak, and that the Hawksmoor lot know what they're doing as that's the steak on offer on their menu. The restaurant's food is cooked here:

Barely room to swing a cat. I don't know how they do it, but it's magic.

When we were offered dessert, I laughed. But then again, having had a cursory glance at the menu, I spotted jelly and I do love jelly so. I ordered one to share, and we had much fun giving it a good ol' wibble wobble. The moulds were designed by Bompas & Parr, the jellymongers. It was a light and refreshing end to the meal.

I waddled off home a happy girl.

Read more reports on the night here, here and here.

If this doesn't motivate you to get yourself down to Hawksmoor and try their steak, then I'm afraid I haven't explained myself very well.


David Strange said...

Great article! Wasn't it a total scream of a night? I loved it; top, top beef was on offer.

Fat Les said...

''...then I'm afraid I haven't explained myself very well.'' You have thus missie, I shall now trundle along to hawksie with expectations galore.

Helen said...

Yeah, the beast! ooof, I can still feel the distention right now.

Browners said...

Top stuff. Given that everyone else has done such a brilliant job of writing about the meat, I am going to have to find a different approach.

What a great evening. Would love to do the same thing at Sheekey's or Scotts.

Ollie said...

Terrific write-up. I now have major steak envy.

Alex said...

Loving the jelly action shot too!

Anonymous said...

That steak is enormous! What a great way to spend an evening :)

goodshoeday said...

Lucky you - 17 different types - do they do anything similar as a crazy tasting menu for regular diners - it would be a great birthday treat for steak fanatics.

Mark Dredge said...

I've seen so many of these amazing steak pictures, it's incredible! I've heard about this place a lot and I've got Will's 'Appetite for Ale' book so I think I might have to book up now. I want steak! Although the burgers look great too, maybe I'll book up for two days :)

Food Urchin said...

With regards to the Aberdeen Angus, I cannot comprehend facing a steak so big especially at the end of the evening. There must have been a collective gasp when it was placed down on the table.

Unknown said...

I have just read Food Stories report on this and am very jealous. Great publicity for Hawksmoor as I am now determined to go there. Sounds like a wonderful evening.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Once in a while, I still get twinges in my stomach from this tasting. But I'd do it all over again!

Jules said...

Looks like an amazing night. That Aberdeen Angus steak is giant! I need to get myself to Hawksmoor.

Gastro1 said...

I think the Black Angus from Jack 0'Shea is from SW Ireland not Scotland - IMHO it's much better I think climate and quality of grass gives it an edge.
Also the O'Shea brothers really do know their stuff !

He is my favourite Butcher at the moment and I single source all my meat from him when in London so I gess I'm biased.

Hollow Legs said...

It was Aberdeen Angus from West Cork, Gastro1. I've visited Jack O'Shea at Selfridges and I didn't rate it - I much prefer my local butcher, John Charles.

Gastro1 said...


You are right just spoke to Darragh O'Shea in the main Knightsbridge store - Aberdeen Black Angus is the breed - they label it Black Angus in store to
ensure there is no confusion with Scotch Aberdeen Angus.

I was fairly polygamous in terms of Butchers using Lidgates , Harrods , Wyndam House , Ginger Pig , Allen's of Mayfiar , Harvey Nicks , Butcher and Grill and Dove to name but a few - I find Jack O'Shea now has everything I need from French Chickens to all the cuts of beef , port , lamb and veal I need. The Irish Black Angus , Onglet , Sirloin , Ribeye is the best I have ever had in this country !

Will try John Charles is it the one in Blackheath ?

A Girl Has to Eat said...

This is certainly a lot of beef!

Hollow Legs said...

Yep, it's the one in Blackheath. My favourite, and their pork is fantastic.