Hawksmoor arrives in Edinburgh
For months we were all wondering what was going on behind the billboards at the old bank building in St Andrew’s Square. Lots of shiny new restaurants had already moved into the area so we were intrigued to find out what was going on at number 42. Lateral City Apartments announced the arrival of The Edinburgh Grand that promised to bring the old National Bank of Scotland building back to life with a sympathetic restoration.
We had also heard that Hawksmoor were planning to open their first Scottish venture in Edinburgh, taking their portfolio of restaurants to nine. The Times restaurant critic Giles Coren reckons they do the best steak ANYWHERE and feedback from our followers was extremely positive. We were interested to see how our fantastic Scottish Beef and Seafood would marry with the Hawksmoor restaurant cooking ethos.
A marriage made in Heaven?
Roll forward a few months and Hawksmoor’s new 185 seat home is in the banking hall within The Edinburgh Grand! It sounded like a marriage made in Heaven so we couldn’t wait to go along to check it out.
The first challenge is finding the main public entrance which isn’t via The Grand Hotel lobby but around the side in West Register Street. First impressions are that this restaurant isn’t new at all but feels like it has been here for a while. The cool and austere marble of the old banking hall has been defused with a magnificent wooden bar that gives the restaurant space a more intimate feel. Many of the fixtures and fittings have been re-purposed including the beautiful wooden flooring courtesy of a Blackpool ballroom. The art-deco lamps have also been reclaimed from France and give everything a warm glow.
The formal has been made informal with the hushed banking hall tones replaced with the chatter and clatter of a busy restaurant. The relaxed feel continues with the staff who all seem to be quite chilled, while still delivering a high level of service. Hawksmoor invest heavily in their staff and this is borne out by our lovely waitress Lydia who had already tried every dish on the menu as part of her training and had an impressive and enthusiastic knowledge. There is a good choice of starters that include lots of Scottish seafood plus some real crowd-pleasers. Mains are all hearty sounding meat and fish dishes although vegetarians are a little bit short-changed, unsurprising for a steak restaurant.
It was a balmy evening so we kicked is off with a couple of refreshing cocktails from their intriguing selection. I went for a deliciously bitter Hawksmoor Collins – Beefeater 24, Campari, Lemon and Soda. Donnie’s Shaky Pete’s ice cold Ginger Brew looked like an ice cream float made up of a sublime mix of Beefeater, Ginger, Lemon and Pale Ale. Both went down a treat!
Donnie went for a bowl of golden, crisp Langoustine scampi (£12) served with a wedge of lemon and a garlicky tartare sauce. He scoffed the juicy crustaceans while still piping hot and maintaining their light well-seasoned crunch.
Meanwhile, I was wondering how best to tackle my Potted Beef and Bacon with Yorkshires (£8.75). I was expecting something a bit more deconstructed and was thrilled at the sight of two huge Yorkies on my plate. After shuffling the gravy boat on to the table and pouring a puddle on my plate, I got stuck in. My first mouthful of perfectly crisp Yorkshire pudding, with a scoop of potted beef then dipped in the rich onion gravy was comfort food heaven. These would be a deliciously messy starter to share but I was very happy not to.
We were also treated to a bonus starter. Hawksmoor’s signature Gloucester Old Spot belly ribs (£9.50). These are marinated in a very long list of ingredients with cloves and fennel seeds shouting the loudest. They are incredibly tender, smoky and moreish with the red cabbage and fennel slaw the perfect crunchy partner. The portion sizes are generous and sharing is an option if you want to fit in three courses.
After a pleasant interval, our mains arrived – my 300g of charcoal grilled monkfish charged at the market rate of £8.50 per 100g looked golden and inviting. The fish is simply cooked with a light coating of Mediterranean herbed white breadcrumbs with a parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil dressing. The fish was nicely cooked maintaining its firm texture and I enjoyed the simplicity of the dish. I added a bowl of delicate creamed spinach (£5) and stole a couple of Donnie’s side of triple cooked chips (£4.50). I went for a large refreshing glass of Finca Allende, Rioja Blanco 2013 (£11) which was a perfect match.
The quest for the perfect steak was the genesis of Hawksmoor so it would have been remiss of us not to have tried one. The succulent 350g slab of rib-eye (£28) arrived in all of its glory, beautifully caramelised and a sight to behold. Hawksmoor pride themselves in the provenance of their ingredients and source their meat from ethical farms that raise grass-fed native-breed cattle. Thankfully the chefs here know how to respectfully cook this wonderful piece of meat, retaining all of the flavour, enhanced by the rich bone marrow gravy and the glass of Colombera & Garella, Nebbiolo 2015 (£11). It’s hard to disagree that this is the best steak in town.
Dessert didn’t seem to be on the cards after our generous starters and mains until we clocked the “Ambassadors Reception”. You guessed it, a giant tribute to the Ferero Rocher (£8.50 with 50p going towards Social Bite – what’s not to like? Half of a solid chocolate and hazelnut shell filled with a dreamy hazelnut ganache and chocolate ice cream. Topped with candied hazelnuts and edible gold leaf, it’s worth visiting Hawksmoor just for this – it blew my dessert-loving mind.
The Scottish Blacketyside raspberries with Knockraich crème frâiché and a homemade hobnob (a take on Cranachan) was never going to compete. It tasted delicious though, drizzled with honey, the flavour was amplified with every sip of the chilled Hungarian dessert wine.
Hawksmoor is worth adding to your must-visit restaurant list. They stand out from the crowd with not only the quality of their ingredients but also the standard of the dishes and service. The original ethos of the first restaurant has survived with the staff genuinely passionate about the company and what they stand for. If you are searching for feel-good food that tastes as good as it looks then look no further. They also do a Sunday lunch (£21) of slow roasted beef with all the trimmings and an Express Menu (2 courses £25, 3 courses £28). As a final treat with your coffee, add on a Tribute – their salted caramel in a milk chocolate cup take on the humble Rollo – fabulous!
How to book a table:
42 W Register St,
Tel: 0131 526 4790
Many thanks to Hawksmoor for inviting us along to experience their new Edinburgh restaurant.