Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hawksmoor: the breakfast of champions

Hawksmoor, the self-proclaimed "home of the best steak in London", has been near the top of my to do list for some time.  And it still is. Well at least for steaks.  Because, rather than heading along for an evening of oversized steaks and red wine, I decided to head along for breakfast. 

What is this?  Meeting people for breakfast? While it is common in places where the sun doth shine (Australia springs to mind) to meet friends for a bite to eat before starting the day, us Brits normally savour our friends' company in the dark hours! Preferably with a sizable helping of booze. I am no different.  But I have been forced to change my ways (at least partially) to keep up with G-Star, who now has a one year old baby. 

Normally we head along to Beppe's Cafe. An "old-skool" cafe at Smithfields market.  They serve a mean coffee and bacon roll. But seeing as it was G-Star's 30th we decided to go for something a little special.  And so it was that G-Star, the Ginger Weegie, DivC and I gathered at 730 on an April morning for some treats at Hawksmoor. 

Surprisingly we ended up ordering very little in the way of meat. We flirted with the idea of their signature breakfast - at seventeen fifty a head I think there is no doubt you would have got your protein fix for the day.  However, eating such a hearty meal so early in the day would no doubt have put us all to sleep.

So I went for the HK Muffin.  Hawksmoor's take on a McMuffin, that classic from the Golden Arches.  The sausage meat was flat disc which had been griddled to perfection.  Quite possibly the best sausage I have ever tasted! The egg, yolk runny, was nice, the muffin light.  Needless to say Hawksmoor have nothing to fear from McDonalds. 

GStar had the kippers with perfectly cooked poached eggs.  He was pretty happy with this.

The GW had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.  Again, all done to perfection. DivC went for Granola and unlimited toast.  Not my choice, and the granola did seem a little boring, but he seemed happy enough with his lot.

If you can drag yourself out of bed of a morn, get a couple of mates together and head along to Hawksmoor.  Even if its just for that HkMuffin.

Hawksmoor (Guildhall) on Urbanspoon

Laxeiro: a great find for a spot of brunch

LJC was down the other weekend from Scotland and we had to find somewhere nearby for brunch. I had been to Market Cafe and L'eau a la Bouche a lot recently (both very good)  and had been disappointed by Campania and the offering at Hurwundeki. I was starting to think I was out of options nearby. Then I remembered Laxeiro - a small Spanish eatery nestled next to Campania on Columbia Road.

We were there for brunch.  There isn't much in the way of choice - a Spanish breakfast of chorizo, toast and fried eggs, or small selection of ciabattas.  I was convinced that the Spanish breakfast would be a mistake so went for a salami ciabatta - the others were less cautious.  Hands up, I was wrong.  While the ciabatta was simple and nice and on any other day would have been perfectly fine, the breakfast was outstanding.  Simple fried eggs with rich, runny yolks, matched perfectly with the powerful, smokey chorizo.  Plain white toast (sometimes its just what is needed) to dunk in a mixture of paprika oil leaking from the sausage combined with silky yolks.  Heavenly.

I have not been to Laxeiro for dinner but the menu looked good and the reviews are strong.  What Spanish cooking should be about.  Simple dishes, strong ingredients, bold flavours.  I would recommend Laxeiro's take on sausage, eggs and toast. Give the pretentious Campania a miss and settle down to a hearty breakfast at Laxeiro instead.
Laxeiro on Urbanspoon


Growing up the closest I got to dim sum was some soggy dumplings at a Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh.  And, until recently, I thought that was all that had been on offer in Scotland in the late eighties.  How wrong I was. While I was stuck on chicken chow mein, the Fashionista was making a weekly trip with her family to the backstreets and alleyways of Dundee to savour the traditional joy of dim sum for Sunday Lunch.  Roast beef it is not.  Better? Perhaps.

Nowadays, of course, dim sum is everywhere.  Chains like Ping Pong have brought dim sum to the masses.  And, while these chains do have their place in the grand scheme of things, if the only dim sum you've tried is from there, you really are missing out.  I love the dim sum at Dragon Castle in Elephant and Castle, and there are a couple (literally a couple) of places in Chinatown that are pretty good.  Topping them all though, with a gleaming Michelin star, is Yauatcha.

Although technically a chain, with an outlet in Mumbai, Yauatcha is no ordinary dim sum restaurant. A tea shop upstairs, a dark and trendy restaurant down, we decided to opt for the former, it being a sunny Sunday morning.  There is an almost overbearing theme of bright blue, from the glass at the front running through the internal decor. I am surprised, I like it.  I also loved the low seats which made you feel like you were in a traditional Japanese tea house in Kyoto.

The menu has all the classics you would expect from a dim sum menu, cheung fun, har gow and larger noodle based dishes. The prices start at the reasonable, if a pound more than the equivalent elsewhere, and accelerate quickly. We had said that we were going to be sensible, not too many dishes and give the luxury ones a wide berth, but, as always happens, we quickly convinced ourselves that a treat was in order. 

This is how we ended up ordering the lobster and caviar dumpling.  Expensive at around fourteen quid for three small dumplings.  Worth it? Absolutely.  The lobster tail was sweet, the dumpling lighter than anything I had ever tried (this was a recurring theme) and the caviar completed it perfectly. Excellent.

I had heard so much about the venison puffs that I had to try them.  Now, if the lobster dumplings were light, they were nothing compared to the pastry surrounding the venison.  Hands down the best pastry I have ever tried.

Alongwith the lobster and venison we also ordered some har gaw (a traditional prawn dumpling), nice but not all that much of a step up from other places.  The turnip cake (traditionally made with shredded Chinese radish) came imbued with the flavour of the many wonderful smoky bacon pieces running through it and was delicious.  The mixed mushroom cheung fun was a step up from anything I had tried before. The fried vegetable dumplings were also very good indeed.

We also got a couple of bigger dishes to "fill us up".  The noodles were okay, but a little disappointing.  I suppose something had to be.  The fermented tofu soup which came with rice noodles was a lot better than I had been expecting - fermented tofu is not normally my go to option.

Now, after all that, you would think that we would have been full.  Such is the allure of the cake counter though, I doubt anyone has passed up on dessert.  I had a few macaroons.  I am still trying to understand the craze.  While good, they didn't convert me to the cause.  Probably down to me rather than the macaroons though. The Fashionista had a delicious mango cake which came with a creamy, yet refreshing, ice cream. 

And, after all that, how much do you think we are looking at.  I was a little fearful.  We had really "let rip" at a starred restaurant that had Soho rent to cover. Well it probably helped that we were on the tea, rather than the cocktails (which looked great), but I think that just over thirty quid a head is an absolute steal.  You can easily pay close to that for greasy dumplings with a side of soggy noodles in Chinatown. Don't. Go to Yauatcha.

Yauatcha on Urbanspoon
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Morphy Richards