Wednesday, 7 December 2011

hawksmoor guildhall

the entrance to hawksmoor guildhall
i’ve been in a permanent state of food coma since the last week of november. a three day trip to geneva was something along the lines of a nakd nut and fruit bar for lunch followed by a dinner of steak frites one night, italian the second and fondue on the third.  of course a visit to geneva is not without its share of chocolate. i bought myself lindt kirschstengeli, delicate batons of dark chocolate dusted with cocoa which hold a centre of sugar crusted kirsch. i have always loved the williamine morand liquer bar by goldkenn whose milk chocolate capsules spill thin and sharp williams pear brandy. for o i got a box of martel chocolates, a long standing favourite chocolaterie. i also managed in the two nights i was there to try rohr. this is a beautiful little chocolate shop that has been in existence since nineteen fifty produces handmade chocolates. i bought a box of ten assorted pralines, marzipan and nuts based ones. i had hoped to find time to go to the tearoom at chocolaterie du rhone but got caught up in the united nations bookshop and so missed a good hot chocolate. there will be more on geneva by the by as i really must tell you about the fondue i ate, but for now it's on to hawksmoor guildhall.

i got back to london on sunday night right in time for kbt’s birthday. now kbt is not a morning person and sure enough on monday morning he grumbled (carefully under his breath) about having to wake up. i was very confident though that a birthday breakfast at hawksmoor guildhall would be worth the early start. in fact so sympathetic were the reservation staff that they gave me the latest possible breakfast slot for ten o’clock. kbt was a bit concerned that the lack of other breakfast eaters meant that something was amiss so i had to explain to him why we were the only other couple breakfasting at ten o’clock.

kbt’s first request was a filter coffee that was literally meant to be an ‘eye-opener’ to wash the sleep of his face. the glass carafes in which the coffee is served are designed by a laboratory equipment company chemex. it’s exacting hourglass figure is made elegant by a collar of wood and a leather tie. i loved the smooth bodied yirga cheffe that we started on. o’s choice of anti-fogmatic marmalade cocktail was helped along by our waitress. as much as i love delicate cocktails with fruity or bubbly notes, what i was craving was a hard edged and savoury bloody mary. there is nothing like a well made bloody mary to mediate a rich breakfast. the number seven has a peppery heat from the combination of the horseradish infused gin and spice. even o who doesn’t usually like bloody mary’s really enjoyed it.  
steak, eggs and hash browns fit for a birthday boy
omelette arnold bennett
o had steak and eggs and i was recommended the omelette arnold bennett whose deceptive description of an omelette with flaked haddock did well to mask the calorific richness of this dish. but then those of us who love food know all too well that good food is almost never good for the figure. hawksmoor guildhall breakfasts are for those with hearty appetites. o’s steak with a little candle for a birthday wish came with two large fried eggs and thick rounds of hash browns. my omelette came in shallow white ovenware. it’s top of cheese was softened under the grill and rimmed by liquid butter. there is nothing more lovely than the smell of sharp cheese with butter. the omelette arnold bennett at hawksmoor is between a soufflé and scrambled eggs with thick flakes of smoked haddock and cheese. it’s perhaps the most comfort i’ve seen on a plate and is perfect winter food. the heat of pan continues to cook the omelette and so you get a lovely variation of textures from top to bottom. i do think that jay rayner would be pleased with this omelette arnold bennett given his scathing disappointment of the one he had at the savoy grill, coincidentally the birthplace of this creamy calorific concoction. this was the anti-thesis of his description of the savoy grill’s version which i have reproduced here “omelette arnold bennett – a confection of eggs and smoked haddock and hard cheese (cheddar or the like) and cream, burnished under the grill – was invented here for the writer and is less a recipe than an outrageous idea. it should arrive at the table on the dish upon which it was grilled, so that you can scrape at the crispiest bits. here they have somehow managed to replate so it arrives as a desperately clean and tidy disc. it is too well-mannered, an outrageous concoction that is trying to hide its roots. it reminds me of woody allen's gag about sex only being dirty when it's done properly. omelette arnold bennett is only dirty when it's done properly. we are at its birthplace, and it isn't.”   

despite being uncomfortably full o and i both decided that we couldn’t forgo the marmalade french toast. hawksmoor guildhall only does breakfast weekdays and we aren't sure when we will get a chance to come here again. so with that in mind we took the plunge and ordered one to share. what we got was a light and airy french toast with streaks of marmalade and a sprinkle of sugar. the french toast is markedly genteel in contrast with the gutsy breakfasts we had just eaten. it was perhaps the most feminine element of the day too with a delicacy of appearance and flavour. the atmosphere here is one for men. in the days when smoking was a sign of sophistication and not banned this would have been the den of cigar smokers with glasses of whisky, scotch or port to close a carnivorous feast. the smell of leather and meat hangs heavy in the air. i think i would have much preferred to be seated near the bar which is slightly more intimate as it is not as expansive as the main dining area. service is swift and the staff are friendly and helpful. in the end o’s birthday turned out to be a birthday of many treats as our drinks were on the house and our evening was spent drinking many a chai made naughty with liquer, masala spiked mince pies and turkey raan at dishoom.   

if you not working, or have a day of or better still need a reason to take one, bookmark the breakfast at hawksmoor guildhall. i’d be surprised if you were disappointed. 

a photograph of the 'hawksmoor at home' cookbook 

Hawksmoor (Guildhall) on Urbanspoon

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