Hawksmoor – Air Street

I won’t lie, I felt a little “tired” on my visit due to some slightly over enthusiastic gin drinking the previous evening (sorry mum).

Nearing the end of a week’s staycation I had arranged to meet one of my bestest pals who was coming into town for a catch up and having a day off from her busy mum job.

Hawksmoor had been on the list for a while but it’s not the cheapest and I viewed it very much as a special occasion place, suitable for die-hard carnivores only.

Well I was happy to be proved wrong – finding a great deal on their summer menu – £30 for three courses which included a cocktail or glass of holey wine (champagne).

The restaurant is a chain of 9 which includes Manchester and NYC, has been voted as one of the most sustainable eateries in the UK. They take animal welfare very seriously and are resolute that Britain produces the best beef, working with small farms to source their ingredients. Thumbs up.

I didn’t realise they specialised in seafood too – produce arriving daily from Brixham market without setting foot/fin inside a warehouse.

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The Air Street branch overlooks manic Regent Street but sitting behind the gorgeous art deco frosted windows you soon forget about the chaos that is passing underneath.

The restaurant is light and airy, stylish yet relaxed. All the staff we encountered were friendly and good-humoured. The clientele today seemed more of the businessy variety, but tables were really well spaced so no being forced to hear about Nigel’s projected sales figures as you enjoyed your meal.

Starting with a pre-dinner drink, in a rare flash of being sensible I start with a softie. Expertly advised I chose a grapefruit and bergamot iced tea. Life giving and delicious I was back to my normal self.

Hawksmoor has a dizzying array of cocktails split down on the menu into various times of the day. I was thrilled to see a section entitled Disco Drinks. We had four options for our set menu so I chose a Tom and Jerez containing gin, almond, sherry and pear, which was not too sweet, ice-cold and refreshing – perfect pre dinner. My friend had a Hawksmoor Cup – a delicate pinky cocktail made with strawberry gin. These drinks were small and perfectly formed – just enough before food.

So moving onto said food we both opted for identical meals (not uncommon for us two).

As starters go this was up there in terms of size and deliciousness. Not one but two excellent Yorkshire puddings, gravy and potted beef and bacon. My friend and I were uncharacteristically quiet as we ate this.

As this was Hawksmoor we went for steak. 35 day dry-aged rump served with triple cooked chips and homemade ketchup. Arriving on hot plates (a rare thing these days) it was tender delicious and cooked to perfection. We couldn’t fault it.

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Now to the only disappointing part of the meal. There was an inexplicable lack of desserts available, just ice cream (no sundaes either) or cheese. We picked three ‘homemade Rolos’ covered in dark chocolate and filled with salted caramel which were actually really delicious and probably preferable to a sleep inducing dessert.

Wine wise we both had a large glass of gorgeous Picpoul coming in at £7.50. There’s three white wines (bottles) on the menu sub £30 – so not bad for such a good quality place.

Check out their pre and post theatre menus, and express menu too. On a Monday you can even take any bottle in for a corkage of a fiver. The snazziest BYOB I’ve ever encountered.

This place is great – high quality – simple menu and great service. If you’re looking for somewhere excellent and don’t want to fork out a shed load then there’s several great menu options and locations you can pick.

Mooo-ve it. (sorry)

Odette’s – Primrose Hill

For me Camden Town on a Saturday is literally one of the most hellish places on earth. Today I’m visiting there to see a play. Above a pub. It’s free and it’s press day, and my friend is reviewing. As it goes it turns out to be actually really good.

At six o’clock we leave the theatre and both of us want to get as far away as possible from the grotty souvenir shops and over excited teenagers.

After just a ten minute walk we are in leafy Primrose Hill – a world away from Camden high street. I used to come here a lot back in the day but it’s been a while. On the hunt for dinner, my friend suggested Odette’s, somewhere that’s been on my radar for years now.

I knew this place has been a longstanding firm favourite with locals, but I’ve only made it to one of the many pubs on my previous visits (some I now understand have been made into flats – sigh).

The area was once the home to ‘Supernova Heights’ and the Primrose Hill set – Noel Gallagher, Patsy Kensit, Sadie Frost, Kate Moss et al. The celebrities here are less prominent these days and the paparazzi seemed to have moved on elsewhere.

Regent’s Park Road is still a nice spot to while a way the hours and people watch. It’s a rare sunny eve so we sit outside. Despite not having a reservation it was no problem bagging a table and the set menu looked pretty good value for such a highly lauded restaurant.

Odette’s been going since 1978 but is now owned by handsome Welsh chef Bryn Williams who formerly worked under Michel Roux and Marco Pierre White. He also owns a bar and restaurant in Colwyn Bay, and appeared on the Great British Menu where he cooked for Her Maj’s birthday.

The set menu is £22 for 2 courses and £27 for three so not bad in my opinion. We start with a G&T and my Welsh friend (and I) are thrilled to hear they have Brecon gin from their list of just four.

We’re brought a basket of delicious soda bread with homemade butter, and crisps served with an amazing garlicky dip. I could have quite easily eaten that all night to be honest.

Aside from the food the highlight was two very glamorous, very Welsh ladies in their sixties sitting next to us, who declared very loudly they had been to Bryn’s restaurant in Colwyn Bay just so we all knew.

There are just two options per course on the set menu, but neither of us are picky so everything was up for grabs. We both chose cured sea trout with garden beetroot (which is white!) and smoked rosemary. It was light and fresh – the smoked rosemary a great accompaniment which I wouldn’t have thought would have worked with fish.

Until today I hadn’t eaten cooked lettuce that I can recall. In this meal we ate it twice (by choice) and I’m a massive convert.

I choose the lamb (Welsh I’m assuming) which consisted of lamb fillet and a kidney which I wouldn’t go for ordinarily, but was ruddy lovely particularly when complimented by an oozing garlic sauce and braised lettuce.

We chose sides of summery new potatoes with seaweed and lettuce cooked, with Parmesan and breadcrumbs which is something I’m going to try and recreate at home.

We share a dessert of Caerphilly, Bara brith (a fruit bread to the uninitiated – me) and pear chutney. The perfect end to a great the meal.

There are two testing menus on offer one of them vegetarian for £49 which is worth noting for anyone seeking a special occasion veggie meal that isn’t predictable or unimaginative.

I can’t comment on the atmosphere in the restaurant but based on the service we received and food we had I’d imagine it would be pretty spot on.

The residents of Primrose Hill are lucky to have such a great local eatery, and for the rest of us a perfect venue to escape to for some laid back Welsh sophistication.

PS I’ll be previewing another Welsh eatery this month Tom Simmons on Bankside before it opens so look out for that.