Sunday, 13 February 2011
Hawksmoor (Spitalfields), 157 Commercial St., London, E1 6BJ
This is perhaps the quickest I’ve ever blogged about a restaurant between when I’ve eaten there, and posted about it. We went here for lunch today, about 3 hours ago, and because I was so annoyed about the service we received, I decided I’d blog about it right now, while I’m still annoyed.
But before you go thinking that I’m letting my annoyance cloud my judgment about the food, let me say now that the food was good. Good along the lines of perhaps being one of the best steaks I’ve had in London, but that’s not saying a lot because the only other steak I’d had in London was from Gaucho’s.
This is not a patch on Peter Luger’s in New York though. Not in terms of food, and definitely not even in the same league (like waaaaaaay in the next league, even) in terms of service.
OK, you should know that I’m not the kind of diner who usually places much importance on service. Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t care if the waiting staff don’t smile when they bring the food, if they just take the order and then come back with the food – no, I don’t care about them not smiling as long as they are efficient, and not rude. Being disinterested is fine by me.
The waiting staff here are rude though. Rude to the point where they made me think I was not good enough to be dining there. Rude enough to make me think that they were being disdainful of my friends and I. Rude to the point where I had to come back and blog about this right now.
My first thought that was maybe it was something we did. Were we being too loud? Disturbing the other diners? Asking too many questions? No, I don’t think we did anything out of the ordinary. However, the service we got was probably the rudest I’ve had from a London restaurant. And that’s saying something.
It was hard enough figuring out who was a waiter there to begin with. They’re dressed casually like how you’d dress if you were slouching around watching telly on a weekend. We only began to identify who was working there by the number of times we saw them go by our table, and even then, it was quite hard getting their attention because not only did they choose to ignore us quite a few times as we tried to make eye contact, but when they came over, it was with the attitude of a sulky teenager who’d been interrupted from doing what they do best – hanging around sulking.
Sulking’s still fine, I guess. But when we asked one of them to suggest how much we should order since we were going to share the bigger cuts between us, the explanation was delivered as though we were receiving a telling off. Seriously, hey, we’re full-price paying guests, not even using a voucher or anything. Chill out with the sulky attitude.
They (and I use the term collectively because all of them were remarkably consistent in how sulky there were) took our orders as though they were doing us a favour, then told us it would be a half hour wait for the food to be served.
Half an hour?
There were about 5 other tables there, and this was 3.30pm on a Saturday afternoon. I know we asked for our steaks medium rare, but we only ordered 2 huge pieces to be shared so how long did it take to cook those pieces of steak? We waited and waited, talked until we ran out of conversational topics, pondered on why it was taking so long, and still, no steak.
When the food finally arrived, I was actually scared to ask the waiter for anything. Call it classical conditioning, or plain cowardice, but I’d been trained in the 1 hour that I’d been sitting there not to ask them for anything. The less we had to disturb them from their sulking, the better.
But enough ranting. Now on to the food.
We ordered 900g of the Porterhouse (£6.50 per 100g), and asked for it to be served medium rare. Because the piece of meat was quite big, some slices were nice and pink (the ones closer to the bone) while the ones nearer the edges were understandably more towards the well-done end of the scale.
This suited us just fine as one of our group preferred it more cooked anyway, so with a bit of sharing and caring, we divided the pieces between us just fine.
We also ordered the 1.1kg Bone-in Prime Rib (£6.50 per 100g) which again, was cooked to a lovely shade of pink with really great bits of crispy fat here and there, and the flavour and quality of this piece of meat was almost faultless.
Juicy and tender, with just the right amount of charred edges.
One of our friends ordered the 400g Rib-Eye (£26) which seemed to be the best value in terms of how much meat you got for the price. He ordered it medium-rare also, but I only managed to take a picture of the steak before it was eaten, so I can’t really show you what the inside of the meat was like. He enjoyed it lots though, so I’m sure it must have been cooked alright.
To accompany the steaks, we ordered 4 portions of Triple Cooked Chips (£4 a portion) to be shared between us, and to me, this was perhaps the best order of the meal. I’ve not had triple cooked chips before, and I’m not sure what the triple cooking does to it, but I know that this was the best tasting chips I’ve had so far. Not only were they perfectly crispy on the outside, but the inside managed to be slightly mushy and yet firm. Slathered in the peppercorn sauce, mustard and ketchup, this was absolutely amazing.
Bone Marrow Sauce
We also ordered the Peppercorn Sauce and the Bone Marrow Gravy (£2 a sauce) just to add on to the flavour, though the steaks would have tasted just fine as they were.
Being completely unbiased, and completely disregarding the rubbish service, my conclusion of the food here is this.
1. It is one of the more expensive steak places I’ve been to in London, but all the prices are displayed on the menu so if you’re not up for paying big bucks for a piece of steak, you could always order something to be shared, just to have a taste of it.
2. The quality of the beef served here is very good. Despite some of the pieces being served almost well-done (we asked for it medium rare), those pieces were still tender and juicy without any stringiness to it.
3. The chips are perhaps the best chips I’ve ever had. It’s £4 a portion, but it’s worth it.
A few people have recommended this place to us, and none of them mentioned anything about the service being of that standard. I think it’s probably because those people who liked it came with a group of people from work, and maybe the waiting staff here treat those office group types better, because they order more? I don’t know, but I certainly felt that there was plenty of room for improvement.
Finally, you would’ve thought that with the rubbish service we received, we would’ve shown our displeasure by withholding the 12.5% optional service charge they put on the bill. But no. We paid it. Why? Well, we did consider asking them to take it off just to show them what we thought of their service but in the end, I chickened out and decided to pay it anyway. I just couldn’t picture us creating a scene there with the explanation of why we thought the service was below par, how we’d then probably have to talk to the manager about it, and to be honest, those waiters were quite intimidating and I don’t think I would’ve wanted a confrontation with them …
In my opinion, it’s a place that I would’ve liked to have tried once just to see what the fuss is all about, but having tried it, it is unlikely that we’ll be making another visit to the restaurant, least of all the one in Spitalfields. I didn’t feel welcomed there, and I’m sure that with a bit of searching, I’ll find another place with equally as good food, and with waiters to treat their diners with a lot more appreciation. We are, after all, the ones who pay the bill.