London restaurants have been a bit slow to meet demand for simple high quality steak.
London's West-End is dotted with steak houses selling Scotch beef and undrinkable reds to theater going tourists. But Londoners with almost demanding palates are scarce in these velvet-chaired fish bowls.
Quite a few high end London restaurants serve steak. It usually takes the form of model-arsed-thin shavings of lager fed Kobe beef on a foam of wasabi pudding skin. Flintstone sized, charcoal grilled, ballsy, bloody, well-aged and simple it's not.
The meat loving Argies have carved out a bit of a niche on the London steak scene with the up market Gaucho Grill and the more down market Santa Maria Buen Ayre in Hackney and Clapham. I've not been to the Gaucho Grill for a while but I can't seem to stay away from the Buen Ayre in Hackney.
Buen Ayre's steaks are superb and well priced. Their wine list is quite limited but offers some quality Malbecs at reasonable prices. Spring Saturday afternoons don't come much better than Malbec and steak at Buen Ayre after a morning reading the papers in London Fields.
For the last few months Hawksmoor has been the new kid on the block, the white toothed Agyness Deyn of London steak. It's owned by the team who own the so far successful Marquess Tavern, Green and Red and the Red Church and can be found at the Hackney end of Commercial Street in E1.
Last Friday I twice tried to book dinner that night at Hawksmoor. Each time I failed to pass the hairy chested answering machine. Neither call was returned. Undeflated and emboldened by a pint or two V and I walked in at about 9.30 and asked if there was any chance of a table.
One of the best steak houses in New York is Robert's, which is located on the mezzanine level of the Penthouse Executive Club. If "Penthouse" triggers memories of your brother's teenage interest in adult literature, well yes, two types of flesh are on display at Robert's. Men drool over both. Only one is dry-aged and grain fed. Hawksmoor feels a bit like Robert's minus the human flesh and the mirror balls. A bit of a man's place.
Hawksmoor's menu is simple and brief. We ignored the starters and ran for the mains. The mains are cuts of meat supplied by the highly regarded Ginger Pig - bone in sirloin, rib-eye, rump, lamb - and one fish dish, which escapes me. I ordered the bone in sirloin (26 quid for 600gm), V ordered the rib-eye (23 quid for 600gm) and we shared two serves of the triple cooked chips (each 3 quid).
Both steaks were excellent. The sirloin tastier and funkier - in a blue-cheesy, musky, well aged way - than the rib-eye. Both were ordered and served rare, both had a nicely charred smokiness and were tender and succulent, the rib-eye more so than the sirloin. I've not eaten better steak in London than this bone-in sirloin. At 26 quid it's not cheap, but it's well worth it. You don't need to eat much the next day. And after all, it's pretty hard to complain when 600gm of Ginger Pig sirloin would cost you about 13 quid at Borough Market.
The triple cooked chips are good, but not up there with those of Chez Bruce, the high water mark of cloud pillow versus crispy exterior.
Hawksmoor's bar has been praised for its cocktails. V tried a Hawksmoor Juleep, a stunning creation from mint, lemon thyme syrup, gooseberries and gin. I headed straight to a bottle of the 2005 entry level Catena Malbec (35 quid) which was good but not exceptional. The wine list is a broad mix of old and new world wines heavy in big reds to accompany the beef. Although mark-ups are not bad there's not much that's interesting under 30 quid.
Lovers of simple high quality red meat should rush to Hawksmoor. Though I'll be back to Buen Ayre, Hawksmoor's bone-in sirloin is London beef's answer to La Petite Maison's chicken. Move over Kate, step forward Agyness.