A couple of years ago, Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote came to Manchester from London. With a set menu offer and unswerving policy of service, their London restaurant boasted daily queues but the Manchester venue remained stubbornly empty. It lasted barely a year. Hawksmoor, by contrast, another established brand with a number of sites across London, seems to have hit the right note since opening in Manchester last year.
Set up in 2006 by childhood friends Will Beckett and Huw Gott, their idea was to serve the best beef and cocktails – which is pretty much what they do. Set in the beautiful Grade II listed Courthouse building on Deansgate, Hawksmoor is inspired by the building’s late Victorian heritage. The reclaimed floor is soft and warm, the leather furniture worn and comfortable, and there’s crystal glassware rarely seen outside the home. This place oozes grandeur with an old gents’ club spin.
I was really looking forward to this one. I took along an old friend from London who told me he actually preferred it to the Knightsbridge site. Our pre-dinner drinks (dahling!) – a classic old fashioned and vodka martini ordered off menu – were superb. My martini was served with Aylesbury Duck vodka which gave a creamier and more rounded finish. They definitely delivered on their ‘best cocktails’ promise.
For starters we ate Ginger Pig Belly Ribs (£9.50) from Tim Wilson’s Ginger Pig farm where all their meat is reared. A really generous portion of crispy, sticky, mouth-watering meaty pork with just enough fat on. On a lighter note, Brixham Crab Salad with Brown Shrimp (£12) was delicate, elegant and beautifully paired with their Cave de L’Ormarine Picpoult de Pinet 2015 (£7.50 175ml).
The Sunday roast itself is slow-roast rump (£20) with all the trimmings. The beef is aged for 55 days in a climate-controlled room the farm built especially for Hawksmoor. Their main breeding cow is called Maisie which, coincidentally, was also the name of our server. Strange but true.
As expected, the beef was amazing. So tender and soft, with the ageing process increasing the sweet, brothy flavour. The melting buttery carrots were the best vegetables either of us have eaten. Ever. And the Yorkshire pudding was crisp and light. It kills me to say it, but there is a but! Our roasties weren’t fully cooked through and not fluffy enough inside. And the cabbage was nearly raw. What a shame!
Mind you, that was very quickly forgotten with our desserts. The Peanut Butter Shortbread (£7.75) was good but the absolute stand out winner was the Salted Caramel Rolos (£4). They might not look like much on the plate but this is definitely food porn. Try them with Quinta de la Rosa LBV Port (£6.50 70ml).
Hawksmoor is the kind of place you go to for special occasions or to impress your guests. This is reflected in the prices – and rightly so. I’ve struggled to score this, but sticking to my criterion of marking on the roast itself, I have deducted points for the vegetables and value as at this price point every item on the plate should be perfect.
Having said this, everything else we ate gets a big fat five.