When Will Beckett and Huw Gott signed the lease on their first Hawksmoor site, they were facing bankruptcy. They didn’t even have a hot-food licence in place. Things were not looking good.
12 years later, and they’re undoubtedly one of the capital’s most treasured eateries, have a consistent annual turnover of almost £40m, and are preparing to cut the rope on their highly anticipated New York outpost. So you’d be forgiven for thinking the pair had simply always been destined for restaurant greatness, like a couple of beefy Hercules.
They were familiar with the industry, sure – Gott’s parents run a café and Beckett’s the son of Guardian wine critic, Fiona Beckett. But to begin with, the pair practically did everything they could to avoid the business, having been counselled by the older and wiser in the family that they should go for ‘real jobs’ instead. And so the childhood friends spent their early 20s respectively teaching English and making cold calls, before, at the age of 26, Gott invited Beckett to open a tiny bar with him in Shoreditch. He accepted, seeing as he had “nothing else to do”. And the rest…
…wasn’t quite history. From there, they opened a couple of other places (a Mexican joint called Green & Red, The Marquess Tavern pub) that were popular, but didn’t set the world on fire. They signed on their next site – an old kebab shop in Spitalfields – before confirming funding, but the lack of profit on their other spots was enough for the banks to stop lending. Persuading Gott’s parents to remortgage their house and café, they had just about enough to save their skins – but with business skills they describe as “quite average”, it was a close brush with bankruptcy.
Luckily, this site – one for which they’d scraped a deposit together, shut down their other spots and raided eBay for the furniture – was set to be the very first Hawksmoor.
They weren’t interested in creating something excessively innovative, they claim, instead choosing to take something that’s pretty much universally liked – steak and chips – and then doing it really, really well. They meticulously tested cattle breeds from around the world before settling on the shorthorn from English butchers Ginger Pig; one of several suppliers they’ve been working with directly for the past decade. The result: top shelf dining without the pomp and circumstance – but somewhere that, somehow, is also a great place for a special occasion. And that’s because – despite opening six sites in London alone – they’re committed to making each restaurant special, personable and unique. It’s one of those charming success stories in the vein of Dishoom, where a relative lack of restaurant industry nous has been buoyed by frankly, just being nice to people. Because also like Dishoom, they’ve been voted as one of the top companies to work for in the UK, and raise considerable amounts for charity every year. The £5 corkage for BYO Mondays doesn’t hurt, either.
Time to pull up a chair…
Their very first site recently underwent a huge refurb (to upgrade from all that eBay), and now bears the same glossy sheen as its siblings. The bar here is one of the best places for a drink in Spitalfields, and the decor retains that classic East London aesthetic (exposed brick, moody lighting, distressed furniture) with a Hawksmoor twist (parquet flooring, old maps on the walls, and art deco stained glass windows)… READ MORE
Details: 157 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ | Open Mon-Sat 12-2.30pm (3pm Sat) and 5-10.30pm, Sunday 12-9pm
Like a kind of Ancient Roman temple to beef, Hawksmoor’s Covent Garden spot is a sprawling space filled with imposing columns and dramatic lighting. Their proximity to Theatreland means they also do an excellent value express menu for lunch and early dinner… READ MORE
Details: 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG | Open weekdays 12pm-12am (12.30am Fridays; bar seating only 3-5pm and after 10.30pm); Saturdays 12-11pm (bar until 12.30am); Sundays 12-9.30pm (bar until 10.30pm)
Sporting beautiful, wood-panelled, gentlemen’s club-style interiors, Guildhall is the spot for long evenings spent sampling their Manhattans to share, and the Tongue to Tail whole-cow tasting menu… READ MORE
Details: 10-12 Basinghall Street, EC2V 5BQ | Open weekdays only, 7-10am, 12-3pm and 5-10.30pm
Dripping in 30s glamour, the fourth in the Hawksmoor empire overlooks Regent Street with majestic, arched windows, emerald leather booths and intimate lighting. It’s also the first spot to properly put seafood onto the menu, expertly sourced and brought in daily. READ MORE
Details: 5a Air Street, W1J 0AD | Open weekdays 12-3pm and 5-10.30pm (11pm Fridays); Saturdays 12-11pm and Sundays 12-9.30pm
Sticking to their tried-and-tested recipe, expect more elegant seating, marble and wood accents, and art deco-inspired windows in Hawksmoor’s most westerly incarnation – only with an oyster menu chalked up on a blackboard, too… READ MORE
Details: 3 Yeomans Row, SW3 2AL | Open Mon-Sat 12-3pm & 5-9.30pm (until 10.30 Fri/Sat), Sunday 12-9.30pm
Taking over two floors of an old hops warehouse, Hawksmoor’s latest and greatest finds itself a stone’s throw away from its suppliers, Ginger Pig, Chegworth Valley and Neal’s Yard Dairy over in Borough Market. There’s also a cosy Cook’s Room in the basement, where monthly supperclubs take place and groups of friends can gather to sample the Beef Feasting Menu from their private kitchen… READ MORE
Details: 16 Winchester Walk, SE1 9AQ | Open weekdays 12-2.30pm, 5-10.30pm; Saturday 12-10.30pm, Sunday 12-9pm
Like great meat restaurants? Check out the chophouse opened by three former Hawksmoor employees…