Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

I'm always tempted by the 'soft launch' offer, but rarely free enough to take advantage. So when Hakwsmoor Spitalfields had a 50% off food for the entirety of June, how could I miss that? They were launching the bar section of their easternmost outpost, and wanted to make sure they had their operation absolutely nailed by charging full price. A noble thing to do, and I suspect a luxury for restaurants with big names like theirs.

The offer, of course, was completely oversubscribed. We arrived at 6 and were promised a table at 7. People arriving at 6.30 were turned away – by then the bar was all booked up for the evening. We supped on delicious cocktails (mine: a marmalade cocktail with marmalade, campari and gin - tangy) and enjoyed the surrounds. The interior is incredible: a 20s speakeasy palace, rich turquoises, golds, peacock motifs, metalwork straight out of an art deco cruise ship.

At 7, as expertly advised by the front of house, we were taken to our table. I was really impressed that she remembered our faces from just 5 seconds of interaction an hour beforehand.

The bar menu is relatively short – some meaty things in buns, some sticky things as sides, some fresh tasting things to counter-balance all the sticky, greasy things. We had a bit of everything, obviously.

I had the Ox Cheek French Dip – a brioche roll, filled with slow cooked, melt in your mouth ox cheek. There was some cheese inside the roll, and a hint of kimchi. The best bit was pouring a small gravy boat's contents over the entire thing, the bread getting moist and making the meat moister still. Eating that was an incredibly rich treat. I had a bit of Pete's burger, and can confirm that Hawksmoor is up there with London's best.

Ox cheeks' made another more appearances in our meal. We had ox cheeks and cheese nuggets, lovely molten cheese blending perfectly with the dreamy ox cheek, and complimented perfectly by the fiery kimchi dip. XO chicken wings were perfectly fried, and deliciously sticky. We rated the chips very highly too, especially the lime pickle mayo they came with.

And then there was the pig's head poutine, which could well be the richest thing I've ever eaten. Poutine, in case you didn't know, is the Quebec national dish, comprising hand-cut skin on fries, a chicken gravy and curded cheese (somewhere between mozzarella and haloumi). It's becoming a bit trendy in London, and I should now declare that I had in Montreal back in 2006. So there. Hawksmoor's version didn't use curd cheese as far as I could tell, but the intense juices from the pig's head mixing with the gravy in the cast iron skillet made for the stickiest, most delicious sauces you could imagine.

I should stress that we were pretty full by this stage. I mean, achingly so. But with such a good deal, and with such a nice table, how could we not soldier on? We shared a chocolate caramel cup and their homemade salted caramel rolos. As delicious and decadent as they sound.

The soft launch offer seems to be a very effective tool. Not only are we – and probably everyone else who benefited from the offer – gushing about it, the service, food and experience were so positive that we'd be willing to pay full price for the bar and consider eating in the (more formal) restaurant upstairs too. The soft launch, if done well, can be about much more than sorting out your processes; it can build loyalty and spread 'worth of mouth' buzz. Just like this.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robbie,

    I chase the soft launches across London too .. agreed, it's a brilliant way to build loyalty and Hawksmoor have really cottoned onto that. I also can't get enough of their desserts, that chocolate caramel cup looks divine!

    Do you have an email I can reach you on?