The Shed

If I can't eat it I don't want to know. Unless it gets me drunk.

Category: beef

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

The Sinking Spritz, taken by Tehbus on a proper camera, like.
The Twittersphere runneth over. The blog posts are trickling through. Only if you’ve been living under a rock will you be unaware of the new Hawksmoor in Seven Dials. Everyone else: I hope you had a great meal. Offering a 50% discount on food for their week-long soft-opening made for a full restaurant and busy kitchen. If staff were feeling the strain when I attended on their sixth day of madness, they sure as beef weren’t showing it. I’d have felt bad about getting the food half price had we not so gallantly made up the bill with seven hours of cocktail consumption.

Here’s a small selection of the other blog posts which on the whole are bigger, better, brighter, and have more pretty pictures.

And here’s my top five. I’m not going to include the meat because it’s “***king brilliant” and you all knew that already.

5. Décor. Every reclaimed door, swirly leather bar stool, the art Deco lamps and sexy little cocktail glasses – they’ve all been chosen with such care and attention to detail that I’m almost surprised they let the general public in. The place is stunning, which really adds to the sense of occasion; you’re not going out for steak, you’re going out for steak at Hawksmoor.

4. The Lobster roll. The tender, succulent flesh from a whole lobster finished with hazelnut and garlic butter, served warm in a light brioche bun with Bearnese on the side. Absolutely stupendous, and deliciously messy to eat. Well worth the wedge.

3. Dripping cooked chips. Hard to describe without transgressing into a Homer Simpson-esque dribbly pool, these are serious potato fun times. Like the best roast potatoes you’ve ever had only with a higher degree of crispy surface area, more perfectly seasoned than granny on the olorosso.

2. Hawksmoor Tomato Ketchup. Yes, for real. It really is that good. If you’re going to serve such high-grade meat you need a ketchup to match, and this definitely keeps up with the cow.

1. The bar, its staff, everything they make and do. Ever. Best appreciated in smaller numbers; as a party of two we had private audience with each of the talented bar team in turn. You might walk in thinking you know your stuff but these chaps will blow you and Your Mate Who Makes A Lovely Martini out of the water, and then some. Explore the painstakingly assembled list before going off piste and ordering a Sinking Spritz from Rich. Properly inspirational stuff. They have an impressive array of botanicals and bitters perched on the bar which they’ll happily explain as you make your way down the menu. It would be educational if it didn’t encourage you to drink so much.

So a bit good, then. Essentially, Hawksmoor sells you pleasure. They take wholesome chunks of beef, sex things up with butter sauces and bone marrow and medal-worthy chips, make you toe-curlingly fabulous cocktails before sending you on your way wishing you were as cool as them. You’ll only have one question about your visit: when can I come back?

Salt beef pho: East meets East End

I’m not attempting any fancy posturing with all the greenery,
the garden is simply the only place there’s any light

If someone were to offer me plane tickets to a destination of my choosing I’d almost certainly plump for Vietnam. I’m pretty pleased with where I am life-wise, but I do experience the occasional pang of jealousy at those who spent their early twenties flitting about the world, engorging a rich mix of culture and foreign grub. Then I remember I would hate pretty much everything involved in travelling of the backpacking sort, and resign myself to earning a fat pay rise and seeing the world in style, or at least from a proper apartment with fluffy towels, fewer insects and air conditioning.

So my experience of Vietnamese food is limited to London’s offering, but as the chefs are Vietnamese the dishes must be a pretty good approximation, right? Regardless of authenticity, I love what I’ve tried so recently invested in Luke Nguyen‘s Songs of Sapa, which technically leaves me another £20 further away from those plane tickets, but happily has brought the taste of Vietnam (probably) into my Newington Green flat.

Having dipped into the book to steal dressings and dipping sauces for other dishes I finally attempted my first full recipe, his monumental beef pho. My local butcher didn’t have quite the right ingredients, so off-piste I went swapping brisket for salt brisket, and oxtail for the biggest beefy bones you did see. The results were very agreeable indeed, just the satisfyingly savoury hit I was looking for.

This is most certainly a weekend recipe, but of the 4 hours cooking time most is spent simply waiting, spoon in hand, forlornly looking at flight prices. I’ve made a few other tweaks, more herbs and chillies, less salt to account for the salt beef. The broth freezes for up to 2 months accordingly to Mr Nguyen.

To serve 8 (or 1, repeatedly, several days in a row)

2kg raw rolled salt brisket
3 big raw beef bones
1 unpeeled bulb garlic
4 unpeeled onions
large piece unpeeled ginger
150ml fish sauce
2tbsp palm sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
5 star anise

To serve;
1.6kg rice noodles
500g raw beef sirloin, sliced into strips
8 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
Big handful chopped coriander
Handful mint
Handful sweet basil
3-4 limes, cut into segments

Soak the brisket in water for 1-2 hours as time allows, refreshing the water a couple of times. On a griddle, dry cook the garlic, onions, and ginger over a medium high heat until the outsides are blackened and in insides are going soft (this will make your flat smell delicious, like your own little ockabasi). Discard the chared skins, and roughly chops the squishy, sweet insides.

Dry fry the spices then bash roughly in a pestle and mortar. You’re not looking for a fine powder, just smallish chunks which you can strain out later.

Discard the salty beef water. Fill your largest pot with 6l water, and slowly bring the beef bone and brisket to the boil, skimming the water for 25 minutes to ensure a clear stock. You may have to divide the water and bones between two pots to begin with, reuniting the liquid once it starts to reduce. Lower the heat to give a very gentle simmer, and add the garlic, onions, ginger, spices, fish sauce and sugar. Go off and potter, leaving it the simmer very gently for 3 hours. Remove the brisket and strain the stock through muslin, discarding the bones and other ingredients.

To serve, cook the rice noodles as per the pack instructions, and divide the cooked noodles and raw beef sirloin by the 8 bowls. Slice the salt beef and chuck into the bowls as well, discarding any particularly fatty bits. Put the herbs, chillies, and limes onto a plate and place in the middle of the table. Ladle the stock over the beefy bits and noodles and serve, allowing people to add the botanicals as they feel necessary. Make sure you get plenty of slurping in, it’s one of the few times it’s truly acceptable.