We went for dinner to Hawksmoor Manchester the other night. It’s been a while. We avoided Monday because that’s BYOB day with just £5 corkage to pay, so I guessed it might be rammed. ‘Slowish’ Tuesday it was then and, to our amazement, there wasn’t a table to be had by mid-evening… or a dry glass in the house. We were in the roaring dining room by 6.30pm and the last sharing porterhouse had already been snaffled 20 minutes before. Damn you, carnivores of impeccable taste.
No regrets, though, that we’d been detained in the penumbral clutches of the bar to sample the five fresh cocktails that constitute the upmarket steakhouse’s Summer Collection. You wouldn’t consider Miller & Carter or even Gaucho (and definitely not your local Toby Carvery) on the strength of the mixology team. At Hawksmoor it’s different. Quick flashback to a vanished age before vegans roamed the high street. Seven years ago I joined a charm offensive press pack ferried to London to gauge what all the fuss was about on the eve of this critically acclaimed outfit’s arrival in Manchester. Their latest conquest has been New York but no plane tickets in the mail, as yet, alas.
The food quality blew us away, especially the meat, with wines that made a splendid match. We visited four of their venues in the day. Somewhere along the line, probably in the Spitalfields original (above), we encountered the cocktail list that was an integral part of the Hawksmoor experience. The original list was created back in 2006 by the legendary Nick Strangeway and Liam Davy, who is still going strong as Head of Bars (his son Jack is now manager of the Deansgate Manchester venue). Check out the Hawksmoor classics and you’ll find the hardy perennial, Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew, the ultimate gin-fuelled ‘power shandy’ and the Fuller-Fat Old Fashioned, which I explored in a recent blog.
For the Father’s Day just past Liam devised Midsummer Old Fashioned, mixing Johnnie Walker Blue Label, salted Oxfordshire honey and cold brew camomile tea, topped with a cube of white chocolate fudge.
That’s now off the menu because it’s not really seasonal. So how did the Summery Five – launched at the same time and available until mid-September – fare?
• Green Snapper is a verdant riff on Bloody Mary. Five a day in a glass almost to send chlorophyll coursing through my veins. Forgive any nutritional, botanical inaccuracies; this is a zinger. Beefeater Gin’s the base, muddled with green tomato, jalapeno, lime, cucumber and lovage.
• Factor 50 Fizz pales in comparison, but then I’m not a spritz fan. It hardly feels alcoholic this mix of Lillet Rose, strawberry, cucumber and sparkling coconut water.
Rimini Iced Tea – Fellini’s home town (Amarcord in the movie of the name) is the tenuous inspiration for this cooler because of the reputation of its peaches. That fruit, basil and sparkling Darjeellng tea make a refreshing match with ultra-sustainable Avallen Calvados.
• R.A.C. Aviation is a classic rhubarb & custard combo. Made with Bombay Sapphire 1er Cru, rhubarb cordial, vanilla, lemon and maraschino. Surprisingly tart, it’s properly summery.
• Moselle Martini is my favourite of the five, mellow and approachable with an indefinable complexity. It’s made with Fords gin, cucumber, Riesling vermouth and pear eau de vie.
No Porterhouse – how did we pull through?
Our daughter’s dog Toro gnawed our doggie bag T-bone with great gusto. We adored the steak that was once attached in the company of a soft, summery Pinot Noir from the Loire. Creamed spinach, anchovy hollandaise, triple-cooked chips, heritage tomato salad. To start we shared beef carpaccio and scallops cooked in the shell with White Port. Never lets you down.
Hawksmoor Manchester, 184-186 Deansgate, M3 3WB. 0161 836 6980.