In a fortuitous and unlikely chain of events, I found myself at Hawksmoor with a group of Qypers. I've only been on Qype a while, and hadn't even heard this event was happening, but Jess managed to wangle me a ticket after someone else pulled out at the last minute.
I've read lots about Hawksmoor on various blogs, and was excited to finally have an excuse the visit there. Someone lovely at Qype had also arranged for us to have free wine and cocktails, which is always a plus.
I'm going to come out and say it - Hawksmoor really didn't impress me at all. The waiter who met us at the door seemed surprised to see us, and struggled to find our reservation on the system (I could see it, it was right in the middle of the screen!). The waitress didn't see particularly interested in taking our drinks orders, and it took 5 of us surrounding her before she finally wrote them down. Although she was able to give us some recommendations of cocktails, it was a good 20 minutes before they turned up - apparently the bar was busy. The cocktails weren't that great either, and lacked some of the subtlety I've seen in other cocktail bars. The Hawksmoor Fizz was quite nice though, although the one I ordered for myself never turned up.
We ordered our meals just before 8. The starters turned up about 8.30, which given that most of them were cold (with the exception of the belly ribs) was a bit too long to wait. The waitress left after she'd delivered our starters, leaving us to fetch our own wine from the cooler. My crab was uninspiring, and accompanied by a rather paltry slice of overly chewy bread and a tiny cup of mayonnaise. It was also described as "dressed" on the menu, but in reality this just meant that there was some mayonnaise already mixed in with the crab meat, but no noticeable egg or seasoning. While the belly ribs seemed to go down well, the oysters and smoked salmon ordered by Tim and Judith either side of me also failed to go beyond the norm.
The main courses arrived just after 9pm, by which point Jess and I had been in the restaurant for over 2 hours. Admittedly we were a bit early, but I was ravenous by now. I'd ordered a share of an enormous porterhouse, which fortunately arrived ready sliced. However, I was initially given someone else's ribeye, although I hadn't started eating it by the time the waitress realised the mistake. We had a large selection of sides, of which the triple cooked chips were the only ones that were above average. The potato gratin and the macaroni cheese were a little underseasoned, and tomato salad was overwhelmed by a pungent mint dressing.
The steak was very very good though. It had a lovely chargrilled crust, but was still pink and melting inside. It was the best steak I've had in a long time, possibly ever. This is the sort of meat that you still think about months later. We'd been warned about the bone, but not about the fat. Although fat and bone make meat taste better, we wanted a rare steak so the fat isn't really needed to baste the meat, as for longer cooked cuts. It seemed a bit cheap to include a massive fatty rind on our steak when they were charging by the gram. Trimming the fat down wouldn't have altered the taste or texture, but would have saved us a bit of money. We weren't offered sauces for the steaks either, only tiny cups of ketchup and herb mayonnaise that came with the chips. The steaks didn't particularly need sauce, but the choice would have been nice.
By the time we got on to pudding, it was 10.30. It took us a while to get through the 3.5kgs of meat on the table, but it also took the waitress a while to clear our plates and bring us the dessert menu. I had a gin and lemon sorbet, which was refreshing but not that memorable. I also ate quite a bit of Jess's chocolate fudge sundae, complete with brownie bits. Again, it was decent but not worth trekking across London for.
Then the bill came. We'd lucked out on having free drinks, but it was still £45 a head for food alone. The steaks were completely worth the £20 or so we paid, but I really questioned whether the rest of the food had been worth £25. I felt we were paying fine dining prices for food that had been mostly average, and some of the slowest service I've seen. The waitress did highlight that the service charge was optional, but as we felt guilty for abusing the free wine somewhat, we paid it anyway. (As a side note, this was one of the most painless bill paying experiences ever. Within minutes of dividing the bill, everyone had handed over their money, taken their change, and there was no quibbling about who ate what! I need to hang out with random people from the internet more often.)
Looking more closely through the other reviews of Hawksmoor, it seems that many other people have noted that the service is painfully slow. I don't see why, when most steaks can be cooked in around 10-15 minutes (especially somewhere that attracts hardcore meat lovers; who are probably more likely to order it rare or medium), and the menu is fairly restricted. You'd also think that they'd make a bit more of an effort for a booking made under the name of a well known review website!
If you love steak, or if you want to love steak, then visit Hawksmoor. You'll be converted to worship at the altar of beef. Just don't bother with much else on the menu.