Not so long ago, when I was due a haircut, I would become giddy with excitement. Not because I derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from a man named Antonio restoring my pompadour to its former glory; but because I would always double up my appointment with a burger from the Hawksmoor in Spitalfields, being only a minute’s walk away. At one time I considered their burger to be hands-down the best in London. How things can change in a relatively short space of time.
Think back to just a year ago and the landscape was quite different: There was no MEATliquor; no Bar 45; and the powerhouse burgers of Fred Smith of the Admiral Codrington were lesser known. Competition was thin and consisted of nothing more than a head-to-head between Goodman and Hawksmoor, with everyone else fighting to be king of the B-list. I was always firmly in the corner of Hawksmoor.
Hawksmoor hamburger with Ogleshield cheddar and triple cooked chips £15
Their burger lay claim to the richest, juiciest patty I’d ever tasted, with a most satisfying texture to boot. They use the same Yorkshire based, Ginger Pig cattle as they do for their steaks. Mixing in fatty cuts such as sticking-piece from the lower neck, and shoulder clod – what the Americans refer to as ‘chuck’ – created a tenderness and moistness seldom encountered. What really separated it from the pack however, was the inclusion of nuggets of bone marrow throughout the meat, which generated the richness I spoke of. Top it off with your choice of either Ogleshield cheddar or Colsten Basset Stilton, then have it cooked medium-rare; and you were face-to-face with the perfect burger.
These days it seems to have adopted a skinnier form-factor. Gone are the days when the patty would be practically spilling out the sides of the bun. I’m glad my photos came out well, because you begin to get an idea for how dry the current incarnation is. I want my burgers to glisten with arterial death! I’m not looking for safe passage into my 80s and 90s. I want to live right now; take risks, and if sometimes that means medium-rare patties and potentially unrendered nuggets of bone marrow, then so be it.
They acredit this misgiving to some new law being passed, that would (allegedly) see their restaurant shut its doors, if even one person became ill from an under-cooked burger. Therefore they choose to err on the side of caution and go no lower than medium – to ensure the nuggets are rendered – which seems to eliminate all the softness and juices. The sad thing is that all the qualities that made it worth eating, have now evaporated in a mist of over-cooking and slipping standards. Even the bun is dry. The one-time leader of the pack is no longer even a contender.
Triple cooked chips £4 (free with lunch special)
I tried to bury my sorrow in the triple-cooked chips, but even they have lost a step; lacking the crisp outer which they were famed for.
Chocolate malt tart £7
A chocolate malt tart with a luscious consistency was promising to at least send me home on a high-note. Unfortunately parts of the pastry-base were so rock solid, that every head in the restaurant spun to the loud clang of my spoon smashing into the plate as I broke through. So after my cutlery and I had finished making a scene, I paid my bill and left, perhaps never to be seen again. Next time I need a haircut, I’ll have to find somewhere else to eat.
food : 6.5/10
service : 7.5/10
ambience : 7/10
value : 5.5/10
157 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
020 7426 4850