I’ve often thought that dragging myself out of bed for breakfast with friends before work is a good idea. A coffee, a croissant and a good gossip would start the day off the right way, as opposed to the usual routine of dropping toast crumbs all over my dressing table, or worse, the keyboard of my desk. But more often than not, as the alarm goes off, the duvet’s charms are just too great, and the snooze button is pressed futilely every five minutes for an hour.
But not this morning. This morning, the lure of breakfast at the new branch of Hawksmoor dragged me out of bed at 6.30, into a rainy and dark street and a rush hour journey from hell.
Since I reviewed the last Hawksmoor at Seven Dials, the British steakhouse chain has gone from strength to strength, and has recently culminated in a) a new book, and b) a new restaurant in Guildhall. Undeniably designed to cater to the city crowd, this vast polished wood dining room, unlike its brothers, also opens at seven for breakfast. We shuffled in at 8.30, wet and bad tempered from the tube, and were greeted with a warm welcome and an espresso so strong I felt like I was drinking a shot.
The menu is, as you would expect, pretty meat heavy. There’s a steak and eggs section, as well as the full English, but also pancakes, pastries, yogurt and granola, which I imagine is for the dainty ladies on the arms of the city boys. But I am no dainty lady, and so my city boy and I plumped for the Hawksmoor breakfast for 2.
Deep breath…smoked bacon chop, sausages made with pork, beef and mutton, black pudding, short-rib bubble and squeak, grilled bone marrow, trotter baked beans, fried eggs, grilled mushrooms, roast tomatoes, toast and HP gravy. Oh, and hash browns. Don’t tell anyone, but we ordered those on the side.
Service was friendly, quick and efficient, and within 10 minutes we were sitting in front of an embarrassing amount of meat. 8 different types on one plate to be exact. The bone marrow, I could have done without – I love it in the evening with salad, but in the morning, it was just too much for me and I gave up after a small bite. (Although apparently the gin in the Buck’s Fizz I also ordered in the morning wasn’t too much for me, so I’m not sure what that says…) The bacon chop was an experience – done on the charcoal grill for a lovely smokiness, but the size defeated us somewhat. The sausages were unbelievably meaty and full of flavour and the hash browns were guilty perfection. The short rib bubble and squeak was divine and the star of the show for me – both crisp and fluffy, with melt in the mouth beef morsels running through it – I could have eaten a whole bowlful with just the homemade ketchup to accompany it. The trotter baked beans were also very tasty, although we were divided on this – he felt that something as sacred as baked beans shouldn’t be tampered with. But I have to disagree. My main criticism is that the toast needed to be much more toasted – done on the grill but not for long enough it was pretty much warm bread, and with such delicious sourdough it’s a pity not to treat it with proper respect. But it hardly ruined the meal, and the (quite large amount) we couldn’t finish was happily bagged up by the staff, and as I write the fashion team are tucking in with glee.
Overall conclusion – excellent. Possibly a little too much meat on one plate for my taste, but I think they know their audience, as every other table in the restaurant (mainly men) ordered the same thing. The cocktail list is eye opening and had I not been working, would have been happy to sit there and get merrily trashed before lunch. I just hope it catches on…but with bubble and squeak that good, I can’t see how it can fail!