Tuesday 5 May 2009

Hawksmoor Steak Tasting

We were honoured to be invited to what must be the most indulgent evening of the year. Imagine being seduced by 17 rounds of red middled, char skinned, deep flavoured, borderline porno-sexual, steak. Cowie and I were in carnivore heaven courtesy of Hawksmoor.

It was a fascinating evening during which we met some fascinating people, gorged ourselves on top class meat and saw behind the scenes in one of our favourite restaurants.

Our sneaky peak at the kitchen revealed a pleasing simplicity. All the kitchen consisted of was a preparation area, some storage space and a brilliantly rustic grill. But the best thing of all was the sight of a hairdryer which they use to get the grill up to heat. No need for super duper, mega expensive broiler grills imported from America here. Just reassuringly practical cooking.

Grill bw

Hair drier bw

The evening was divided into 4 sections. In the first round we were invited to try an array of sirloin steaks. Without going into superfluous detail, our collective opinion was that the steak from Northfield Farm (Hereford) and the Ginger Pig Longhorn were our favourite. The Hereford had a light, nutty flavour and firm texture with had us cooing with meaty glee. The Longhorn, which is Hawksmoor’s house sirloin, was magnificent. It was served on the bone, which probably helped keep the meat stretched out during cooking, and resulted in a steak which bordered on being too good to eat. It had the texture of top class seared tuna and a flavour of bovine brilliance. The Ginger Pig is rightly proud of their Longhorn cattle. As Tim Wilson (Mr Ginger Pig) says, "If you are going to raise animals you might as well get ones that are nice to look at."

Image from polandeze on Flickr

We found Northfield Farm’s Sussex breed was very light and had a mild flavour which contrasted very starkly with their Angus/Charolais cross which exuded a stiltony flavour that had us gasping. Some loved it. Others were less sure whether they wanted to feast on cheesey meat.

Next up were the rib eyes. 10 of them no less. It seems mean to complain that some were a bit dull, but they were: the Casterbridge breed from Fairfax was a bit dry and Beefeatery; a Hereford Cross from Graig Farm Organics was like a slice of roast beef; Aberdeen Angus from Select was just a bit boring; and the Hereford from Rare was a bit snoozy too. But some really got our pulses going. Our favourites were the Ginger Pig Longhorn (again) that was silky and had a pleasant tang of bonemeal, the outstanding Fairfax Hereford was blessed with a caramel and fudgy flavour that had me trying to steal a second piece and the Galloway from Farmer Sharp and Red Ruby from Pipers Farm were both rich, moist and classically grassy. It was another vindication of Hawksmoor’s selection of Ginger Pig’s Longhorn meat as their house steak.

At this stage we were achingly full. I was sweating and beginning to have meaty hallucinations. The finale was spectacular.

A vast rump was ceremonially placed at the head of the table in front of Huw and Will, our charming hosts. It was so big we feared the table might collapse. Striped with char marks from the grill and smelling addictively of BBQ it had us all glued to it like teenagers around an X Factor star opening a shopping centre. This photo of Lizzie and Helen ogling it probably sums up our collective sense of awe.

Helen and Lizzie bw

Massive rump steak bw

It was much firmer than the sirloin and the rib eye, which is natural. The rump has to work a lot harder and yields meat that is tougher, but rammed full of deep flavour. As we chewed, the flavour developed and had us grinning. But this was only the start of the excitement. Huw then invited us to try a piece of picanha, which is known outside of South America as Rump Cap. In Argentina and Brazil it is revered as being a steak man’s steak. Because of the rich seam of fat and it’s less strenuous existence, it is full of flavour, moist and tender. The holy trinity.

Steak knobs

Then things got even more exciting. A flatiron steak emerged from the kitchen. This is an American term for what I had previously called feather or blade steak. It is taken from the shoulder and is seamed luxuriously with fat. I often buy feather steak because it is cheap, tender, and cooks brilliantly. This Aberdeen Angus flat iron steak, from Jack O’Shea had a livery tang that had me cooing with delight. I was elated that we ended on such an interesting note. I went along to Hawksmoor hoping to sponge up some knowledge about steak and was so pleased that we were treated to a couple of interesting additions to the normal fare of rib eye, fillet and sirloin. Flat-iron and Picanha should be on every steak aficionado’s radar.

We finished with puddings and coffee which included the incredible pyramid jelly created by Bompas and Parr. Cowie’s rhubarb sorbet with a shot of rhubarb liqueur was as if someone had created spring in a dessert.

Hawksmoor Jelly bw

It was a pleasure to meet the likes of David Strange from Elitist Review whose red corduroy suit and equally loud personality added a flamboyant air to the evening. It was also brilliant to meet Allan and Erica from Steaklovers.net who certainly know their meat and to catch up the gang: Niahm, Helen, Lizzie, Helen YP and Chris.

Thank you Will and Huw for such an incredible experience. My mind and steak repertoire have been expanded, as has my waistline. If nothing else our findings confirmed that the meat being served currently at Hawksmoor is straight out of the top drawer.

Will and Hu


I’ve got an idea as a development of our steak immersion. Seeing as the worlds of wine, coffee, honey and spirits all have tasting wheels, wouldn’t it be fun to create a tasting wheel for steak. It would be a great way of helping people to understand how to discern what makes steak great. Maybe Hawksmoor could team up with Ginger Pig to pioneer this. Or maybe I’m a bit slow and it already exists... if anyone wants to run with the idea, can I be involved as a taster!?

Image from Caroline on Crack on Flickr.


Helen said...

yeah, even though it was your idea Jonathan, I think I should be involved as a taster for that tasting wheel too! What a fantastic night that was. I'm feel a steak craving coming on...

Hollow Legs said...

What a behemoth night that was. The steak tasting wheel is an excellent idea, I'd be only too happy to help...!

Browners said...

@Lizzie and Helen - Let's see if we can push the tasting wheel forward. Can you imagine how much steak we would have to eat!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Lovely post! Reading this transports me right back to that unbelievable evening...

Browners said...

@Helen YP - it was such a fun night. But it did mean I couldn't eat for at least 2 hours!

Simon Leong said...

looks very tasty


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