10/12 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5BQ , United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)207 397 8120
Website: View bar's website
Door: Make reservation
Style: Restaurant bar
Recommended for: Cocktails
Price guide: High-end
Food: Bar snacks
Images By: diffordsguide.com
We visited the new Guildhall branch of Hawksmoor a mere two days after it opened to the public, and got into trouble with its PR as a result. The upshot was that we're happy to pre-empt what we say here by pointing out that we visited ahead of the official launch, but they needn't have worried. They might have been charging only 50 per cent for food and drink but we would have happily paid full price.
The new branch ups the City's steak stakes - it's just around the corner from Goodman on Old Jewry, so it's England versus the USA in terms of the grass-fed beef that Hawksmoor sells and the grain-fed USDA Prime at Goodman. On the bar front, Goodman might be more than a match for Hawksmoor as far as red wine goes, but Hawksmoor wins hands down in terms of cocktails.
The cocktail list is slightly different in content from the other restaurants, with new and apparently more accessible headings such as Disco Drinks and Cards and Cigars among the now familiar historical Antifogmatics and Bridging Drinks historical sections. Drinks are made by a casually dressed team led by Liam Davy, who's moved from Hawksmoor Seven Dials, and which includes Alastair Reynolds who joins from Pollen Street Social.
We started with a Nuclear Banana Daiquiri - a blended version of the late Gregor de Gruyther's invention (overproof rum, Yellow Chartresue, Falernum and lime blended with half a ripe banana), followed it up with a Sinking Spritz, (Seven Dials' Rich Hunt's combination of Aperol, Vermouth, Picon Bier, elderflower cordial and Sauvignon Blanc). Next was a Shipwreck Sour - Somerset Cider Brandy, cognac, Stone's Ginger Wine, lemon juice and egg white and finally a Champagne Charlie (gin, lemon and homemade seasonal fruit syrup and champagne. All were well executed, balanced and accessible drinks: we had no complaints though we probably drank them in the wrong order as the Charlie seemed a bit light after the forward flavours of the others.
The bar snacks menu wasn't ready but a portion of the house special beef dripping chips and some bacon and blue cheese mussels were tasty accompaniments.
What didn't we like? Um, nothing really, though this is a virtual carbon copy of the layout of Hawksmoor Seven Dials and although it is a fine site, with mahogany panels and copper table tops, embossed wallpaper and a moulded ceiling, there's a certain familiarity when you descend the stairs to the basement space. Oh and having to refer to the Hawksmoors as different 'branches' makes them sound like Harvesters, but that's what happens when you roll out a concept - it becomes a chain. And that's not helped by coming only a year after the Seven Dials launch.
In short, if it's this good after two days, we are confident from this sneak peek that Hawksmoor continues to set the benchmark for what a restaurant bar could and should be.