Hawksmoor, 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WB – Visit Now
Hawksmoor have done a huge revamp of their cocktail menu, the first major update in nearly a decade. These concoctions come from six months of travel, tasting and tinkering from the award-winning bartending team. We head along for a boozy evening out.
The first thing to note is just how warm and welcoming the bar space is. High ceilings and wood panelling give a sophisticated atmosphere, but it’s never stuffy, more classic and a welcome step away from the gaudiness of its near neighbours. The bar staff are among the most cheerful and happy in the city, and more importantly, it feels real – there’s no sense of orders from above to fake-smile, these are people who genuinely love their job and workplace. And why wouldn’t they? Hawksmoor has a reputation to die for, for both food, drink and style.
This new cocktail list is split into five sections, with far too many cocktails to list. Instead, here’s a quick list of highlights.
The Full-Fat Old Fashioned has been transformed into the Fuller-Fat Old Fashioned, a clear favourite of my companions and their sophisticated palates. This cocktail involves a painstaking process of infusing butter into bourbon in a water bath, with the added luxury of beurre noisette and a hint of sandalwood and cedar oil. Me? I found it a little too grown-up for my sugar-loving palate, but don’t let that put you off.
Tastes like pear drops, Refreshers and all manner of other 1980s sweets
If, like me, you have a hankering for bright colours and sweetness, head straight for the Harvey Wallbanger Jnr. A smart, sharp and delicious combination of Absolut vodka, mandarin shrub, lemon and vanilla that tastes like pear drops, Refreshers and all manner of other 1980s sweets. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur, you might prefer something more classic, but if you want something that tastes gloriously fun, go for this.
The Sour Cherry Americano is another winner. The glass comes with a kind of sweet pink dust sprinkled up the side, and three potent booze-soaked cherries lay across the top. You’d expect something sweet and cloying, but you’d be wrong. It leaves a dry, sharp taste, clean and moreish.
Designed for your wild auntie Julie
Another highlight is the Pink Squirrel, Fords gin paired with a delicious, 40%-cocoa white chocolate, mixed with passionfruit and Campari and sprinkled with Campari dust. Or, as my cocktail-loving friend describes it, “Designed for your wild auntie Julie, the one who was rumoured to have slept with a priest.”
And these are just a small selection of the wonders on offer. While Hawksmoor has a well-deserved reputation as Manchester’s best steakhouse, thanks to the atmosphere, decor and quality drinks, the bar should be recognised as one of the city’s best too.
After three successful years, Hawksmoor’s Manchester outpost has become one of the city’s most well-regarded steakhouses, popular with both date-night couples and post-work crews who fancy something more high-end than Deansgate’s usual offerings. The decor plays a leading role, with dark wood panelling and high ceilings giving the space a traditional, English feel. Even the staff uniforms match up, with murky green overshirts and money pouches providing a touch of the Dickensian. Think Hogwarts with a focus on seared meats.
The cocktail menu is long and carefully-curated, full of complex smoky concoctions complete with mini-stories about pirates and 1930s New Orleans. It’s a cute touch that plays well. (Fear not, buried at the back there’s a section for Del Boy-style party starters.) The Fratelli Fizz is a stand-out choice: a blend of Aperol, rhubarb, rose, soda water, egg and cream. This silky, well-balanced drink makes an ideal base for the sheer heft of the upcoming food.
The bone marrow starter is a delight for anyone with carnivorous tendencies. Huge wedges of bone, split in two and topped with a thick tangle of onions – soft and sticky where they meet the marrow, crispy and caramelised at the end. Two thick slices of chocolate-brown wholemeal toast are provided upon which to smear the lot. It’s an intoxicatingly meaty opener which pairs well with a rich red wine (the Luigi Bosca De Sangre is a fine match).
The roasted scallops match up well, but for entirely different reasons. Roasted in the shell with tarragon and garlic – this can’t be overstated, steel yourself for a LOT of garlic – they arrive with the uncommon but delicious bright orange coral. The buttery sauce is divine.
The fillet steak is charred and crunchy on the outside and a vibrant fleshy purple inside
But of course, Hawksmoor’s reputation has been built on its steaks. The fillet steak, cooked rare, is as good as it’s possible to be, charred and crunchy on the outside and a vibrant fleshy purple inside. The equally high-quality rib-eye steaks are best cooked medium rare to sear the lines of fat and allow the salty flavour to drip through the meat.
The sides are good, great in some cases (the expertly cooked garlic mushrooms deserve a special mention), but everything revolves around the meat. The baked sweet potato is a delight, boasting all those sweet, root vegetable flavours, but the £4 price tag is a little less easy to swallow. Surprisingly, one of the most memorable elements is the homemade Hawksmoor tomato ketchup. The base is standard normal ketchup, but it’s full of impossible-to-identify zesty spices and flavours that provide a unique taste with every bite. They’re missing a trick – if they sold this on the way out, I’d buy it by the gallon.
A night dining at Hawksmoor doesn’t come cheap. But then, quality rarely does
A popcorn sundae for dessert is the perfect finale. Overflowing with impossibly fattening ice cream and chocolate, the texture is satin-smooth studded with crunchy salty toffee-coated chunks of popcorn. But skip the salted caramel Rolos. These are four sorry-looking dark chocolate circles, filled with a watery caramel – again for an eye-raising £4.
A night dining at Hawksmoor doesn’t come cheap. But then, quality rarely does. The steaks are arguably the finest in the city, and the starters aren’t far off. Even the soundtrack of cool-dad music (Roxy Music, Elvis Costello, Bowie) is pleasingly different to most restaurants and fits the unashamedly British tone. If price is no object, Hawksmoor stands tall among Manchester’s finest restaurants.