Apr 032012
 

The new Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is both a new venture, for restaurateurs Huw Gott and Will Beckett, and a return to their starting point, located as it is in the basement of their first restaurant, Hawksmoor Spitalfields.

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Unlike the bars at their Guildhall and Seven Dials restaurants, the latest bar feels like a much more separate space, and indeed the regular restaurant menu is not available here, due to the small size of the kitchen. (The main restaurant upstairs uses the original kitchen, also pretty small).

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Bang on trend, the space is dark and intimate with retro tiling and a simple decor. There are three huge booths, of which we are lucky enough to be seated in one, and a number of tall tables with stool chairs around them.

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Some things are familiar though, such as a list of original cocktails and a short sweet list of mainly local beers from brewers such as Meantime and Kernel. A handful of cocktails are on the permanent list. These are joined by the Desert Island five, which will be devised and selected monthly by the large bar team across all three properties.

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The menu is short and sweet, split into food, sides and puddings.

We order four items from the sides list, thinking some will work as starters and some as sides to our main order.

I’ve already heard great things about the shortrib nuggets (£6) and they don’t disappoint. Served piping hot with a vibrant and punchy dipping sauce these bread-crumbed beauties contain soft flakes of deeply flavoured meat, chopped pickles and oozing melted cheese. There are 6 in the serving and they don’t last long!

Smashed cucumbers (£3) seem a little steeply priced but are rather good. Very lightly soused in a mild, sweet pickling liquid, they still have the taste and texture of fresh.

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The oxtail poutine (£6) comes out with our mains and is not an attractive dish. That’s because it’s all about the eating, and believe me, on that front it definitely delivers. Fantastic chips, fluffy inside but with a decent crunch on the outside, are smothered in gravy, melted cheese and immensely savoury oxtail meat. There’s gravy beneath them too, so the bottom chips get good and soggy by the time you reach them.

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I am unable to resist the lobster roll, which is priced at £15 rather than the £20 listed on the online menu. That’s just as well as it’s not very large, though it’s reasonably generously filled. The roll is soft and sweet, which brings out the sweetness in the meat. Although the meat tastes really great, it’s a touch too soft, either overcooked or cooked and left aside for too long, I’m not sure which. In any case, it’s a minor quibble and I enjoy every bite.

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Pete’s chilli cheese dog (£10) is also a little expensive though it tastes fantastic, with a lovely smoky dog, punchy chilli, though very little of it and some oozy cheese. However, the roll it’s on is far too small for it, so small that it’s actually not possible to pick it up in the conventional way, as the roll doesn’t extend at all around the sausage. It’s a delicious dog but a tenner ought to buy a big enough roll to hold the thing!

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The Tamworth laab (£6) is the one thing on the menu that just doesn’t make sense to me. Laab is a Laotian / Thai ground meat salad and the Spitalfields Bar version is good and tasty – strong flavours and a pleasant but not too strong chilli kick. It could do with a few more lettuce leaves with which to parcel up the meat, I think, but the dish is decent. However, it doesn’t fit with anything else on the menu, and I can’t work out what it’s doing on there.

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I am already full but, like a moth drawn to a flame, am unable to resist once again, when I see peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream (£7) in the puddings list. Served hot out of the oven, this is magnificent! I’d venture to say it’s one of the best desserts I’ve had for ages, and the mix of hot, crumbly pastry, a gooey melted peanut butter filling and the tangy sweet salted caramel ice cream is worth busting a gut for!

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So good is my own sweet that I don’t even want to taste Pete’s lemon meringue pie (£6) as it’ll mean one less bite of my own that I’ll be able to manage! He assures me it’s a good example of the dish.

So that’s the food, what about service? We’ve been looked after by Miguel all evening, and he’s enthusiastically helped us with understanding some of the menu items, making our selection, and checked that everything is OK during our meal. Staff seem well trained and on the ball, as they do at all the Hawksmoor venues.

I know that if I worked locally, this is just the kind of casual bar restaurant I’d love to have around the corner, to drag colleagues into for a quick drink and tasty bite after work.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar.

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on Urbanspoon

Feb 132011
 

Roselle (known as Rosella in Australia) is a species of Hibiscus, a genus of flowering plants numbering in the hundreds and native to temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.

It’s also known as red sorrel, Jamaica sorrel, Indian sorrel, Guinea sorrel, sour-sour, Queensland jelly plant, jelly okra, lemon bush, Florida cranberry, amongst a whole list of other names. Jelly okra doesn’t sound too lovely to me!

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is commonly grown for bast fibre, which is used in the manufacture of rope, matting, carpets, paper and even furniture. The red sepals (part of the flower) are used as food colourings in America and Europe.

And flowers and syrup are used to flavour a variety of dishes, restorative infusions, diuretic tonics and medical ointments in places as far afield as Senegal, Burma, Sudan, India and Brazil. The Senegalese use the leaves too, as a vegetable green.

More recently, roselle seems to have become trendy in Western European bars and restaurants, where preserved flowers and syrups are now available.

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When I was offered a jar of the flowers in their own syrup, I was curious, having heard of them only in the last year, but never having tried them. The 250 gram jar contains 11 flowers.

I decided to keep things simple and opted for trying the flowers in champagne, one of the most common serving suggestions. To my good fortune, I discovered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rosé in the cupboard. How serendipitous!

I took both Rosella and the champers along on a visit to friends and together, we gave it a try.

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Our flowers never opened as beautifully as those in the marketing shots (no big shock there) and the rosé champagne did, perhaps, subtract a little from the beautiful colour that the syrup imparted.

However, we liked the fruity jam aroma and the sweet floral taste. And certainly, we enjoyed sipping our rather elegant and unusual aperitif…

…before tucking into a takeaway curry from the local curry house!

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