Sunday Roast at Hawksmoor (Spitalfields, London, UK)

With a gathering of friends all descending upon London for our annual gathering of marchers for our “Death March”, we decided that it would be good to do a handful of traditional British activities, one of which was a traditional Sunday Roast. A good Sunday Roast requires a little bit of research, since it’s one of those traditions that in many ways is best experienced in someone’s home around the family dinner table, but there are still a good number of places (especially higher-end pubs) that do up a respectable Sunday Roast. After reviewing many of the options, my colleague Jeff made arrangements for our large group to go out for a Sunday Roast at Hawksmoor, the well-known London-area steak and cocktail chain.

This isn’t my first visit, or even review, of Hawksmoor (you can read up on a previous visit for their most excellent Kimchi Burger here), and while I have stopped by Hawksmoor a few times since for cocktails (the Shakey Pete is particularly good) or another burger, I had not yet actually had a formal dinner there, so this was a good opportunity. Hawksmoor isn’t exactly the cheapest place to dine in London, but the Sunday Roast weighs in at a quite reasonable £20 for a classic spread of 55-day-aged rump roast served with Yorkshire puddings, goose fat roast potatoes, veg and bone marrow gravy. Especially since the exchange rate has been pretty good for us Americans of late.

Indeed, the price was reasonable enough that despite the relatively large meal, most everyone at the table opted to also do an appetizer. Since I’ve always liked the quality of Hawksmoor’s beef, I went for the fillet carpaccio with porcini, Parmesan & crispy shallots, and wasn’t disappointed: a generous portion of fillet carpaccio covering the plate, nice and tender slices of very nicely marbled beef with a light dressing of cheese, shallots, and a bit of porcini. Definitely well executed and enjoyable.

Two of the folks near me got the Old Spot belly ribs, and these were particularly good as well: two ample chunks of well-braised belly ribs just oozing with pork flavor, the meat perfectly tender flakes almost falling from the bone. Also a very enjoyable appetizer.

Then, it was time for the Sunday Roast, a large plate brought out with three thick slices of aged rump roast cooked just past what I’d call medium-rare, a large Yorkshire pudding semi-inverted to make a bowl for some duckfat-roasted potatoes, a little boat of marrow gravy, a roasted garlic head, and a nice pile of roasted carrots and cabbage. You can tell that they’ve both grilled and oven-roasted the roast: it had a particularly good charcoal-grilled exterior and a tender, juicy interior. The meat itself was quite flavorful, and due to the aging, quite intense in flavor and just starting to pick up a bit of a game note, mellowed nicely by the excellent marrow and onion gravy. The Yorkshire pudding was soft and pillowy with a crisp exterior, without being overly greasy or salty, and the duckfat potatoes everything I look for in a good potato roast: soft, fluffy and steamy interior with a crispy, crunchy, salty, and fat-flavored exterior. Add in some good carrot and a bit of garlic from the roasted head, and a few forkfuls of the cabbage, and this was a great main course. Quite a pleasant feast for only 20 quid.

Finishing up, most everyone got the Sticky Toffee pudding for dessert, and while this is a dessert I’m usually quite picky about, Hawksmoor delivered: a good, delicious cake body with a bit of a pleasant date note, a really rich toffee sauce just starting to soak in, and a generous dollop of clotted cream atop it all made for one of the more enjoyable sticky toffee puddings I’ve had in a while (and actually edging out the Queen’s Arms, which had been a London favorite of mine).

Overall, I’m really saddened when “English Food” gets a bum rap, since done well the English really do know how to do a few things well, and a Sunday Roast is a good example. Hawksmoor’s version was flavorful, enjoyable, affordable, and every piece of the meal nicely executed. I’d love to come back.

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