Hawksmoor Seven Dials (March 2013)

A great experience from beginning to end. With so many dining options available within minutes of Hawksmoor and with the basic food item (steak) being relatively generic and commoditised, what really set this restaurant apart was its service. Every staff member we encountered was friendly and helpful, neither patronising nor intrusive. This enthusiasm clearly rubbed off on the diners too, creating a wonderful atmosphere, perhaps akin to a well-oiled engine, metaphorically firing on all cylinders. The setting itself is superb, in some ways quintessentially British (lovely comfy chairs), but in others (think the bare brick walls), not dissimilar to what one might encounter in Manhattan. More plaudits for the staff too, as they scored highly both in terms of their knowledge of the menu and the different cuts of meat as well as in their attention to detail (discretely clearing a small spillage that I had not noticed, but my comrade did). In terms of the food, it was hard to fault any of it, but worth highlighting in particular were the side dishes. This may sound strange, given that the main event is meat, but often in such places these dishes come almost as an after-thought. Here, the opposite was true and each of the ones we sampled was made to perfection and acted as a superb foil to the meaty main. In particular, go for the creamed spinach and also the sweet potato. The wine list is extensive and the option of many in carafe form too (we enjoyed an excellent South African Cabernet) is always a welcome feature. The set two-course lunch at £26 (in which I partook; my comrade went a la carte), represents good value, but the overall pricing of both food and drink seems fair. It came as no surprise that the espressos with which we ended were also spot on. It’s very hard to fault Hawksmoor.