Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Hawksmoor Seven Dials


Best burger update!

Just when you thought that we’ve all had enough of those bleeding (no bun intended) burger reviews this post unashamedly upholds the tedium. Quite simply, I hereby concedeth (and as Lord Noods suggested- ‘…you're in danger of losing your 'contrarian' tag!’) that the burger I had at Hawksmoor Seven Dials was the absolute the mutt's nuts.

Came here with my daughter. She wanted what any teen would be entirely amenable to- pizza, Nando’s or burgers. The Covent Garden branch of Hawksmoor was chosen for a couple of reasons-

Firstly I needed to find out if a burger redemption was possible after my not-so-good experience at the original restaurant in Spitalfields.

Secondly Byron was no longer an option as they have as many branches in the vicinity as McD’s and astonishingly two more than KFC! Byron’s made me uncomfortably wary of its rapidly burgeoning motives.

Upon entering Hawksmoor and perusing the menu, daughter became suspicious of my choice for our weekly lunch date.

‘Dad, this place is expensive! You didn’t bring me here to pester about Oxbridge…Dad?’

‘Well you’ve nothing to lose so give it a go!’

‘Dad, a steak or let alone a posh burger is hardly going to change my mind. I’m going to Edinburgh or UCL, that’s that!’

‘I’ve also decided that I’m in total agreement with your Mum re the Reading Festival...deferred till next year I’m afraid’

‘Sooo No-Thank-You! And come to think of it I was going to give you The Ramones’ Teenage Lobotomy LP (vinyl) on Father's Day’

‘I have a mint copy already, thank you anyway. I’m hungry, shall we order?’

‘Sooo undeserving, yes let’s’

The service at Hawksmoor Seven Dials was exemplary except for a couple of hiccups-

Balls-up 1- a bottle of salty tasting Kingsdown was plonked before we were given the chance to opt for Tap du Thames. My issue is generally with the high sodium content found in most mineral water that’s bottled in Blighty, this invariably affects the taste buds. Best stick to tap, and besides the bottle it’s served in looks the part (as usually the case at upmarket restos).

Balls-up 2- the excellent waitress did stress that ‘we serve our burger medium unless specified well done’. And as common sense prevailed, I ordered the burger with an explicit reminder about my paranoia of meat ending up grey and cooked to death. Alas, and with lamentations abound, the burger arrived way beyond well done. Rather un-amusingly on my daughter’s part, she had to endure a Tim Dowling moment. A replacement was insisted upon despite the presence of a much-embarrassed and by now, half-fed teen.

We started off with bone marrow and slow cooked onions.

The generous helping was suitably and deliciously unctuous but overwhelmed by the all too sweet onion topping. Not a patch on the roast bone marrow and parsley salad found at St. John.

The warm lobster roll.

One of the most expensive sarnies offered in Britain and I would like to quote a good chum-

‘Really really very nice indeed, but decadent and expensive’

The replacement Hawksmoor Hamburger.

Cooked so perfectly medium it deserved a second close-up.

100% Longhorn mince with bits of bone marrow and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, gherkin and Ogleshield cheese (Colston Bassett Stilton is an option but methinks blue cheese is too strong for a noble breed of beef cattle). Daughter declared it more memorable than the one here and I agreed. It was quite simply a perfect burger that leaves the rest standing and to save everyone from the pain of my lack of eloquence in describing this distinguished offering, I’d best leave it to Mr Dickens-

‘If I knew as little of life as that, I'd eat my hat and swallow the buckle whole.’

From the The Pickwick Papers

On settling the bill, I asked my daughter whether it would be enough to sway her if Hawksmoor were to open a branch in Oxford, she replied back tersely that UCL is conveniently close enough to Covent Garden. End of conversation.

The chef Stevie Parle tweeted the following earlier this month-

‘I am not interested in burgers. They are just burgers.’ Well all I can say is, a burger is indeed just a burger unless it’s a Hawksmoor Hamburger. Highly recommended.

Seven Dials
11 Langley Street,


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

: P



Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Quê Việt redux

A second posting of the same place can only imply a positive note. Following the abysmal evening at Viet Grill, the latest dinner at Quê Việt was all-redeeming and a revelation.

BYO, but not for long…as all the Vietnamese joints on the Pho Mile are either renewing or applying for their booze licenses, now’s your chance to show off your Alsace Gewürztraminer, Côte de Beaunes or Tennent's Super without the dodgy and hefty mark-ups.

5 quid corkage for a bottle of wine is ‘fair dos’ but a quid for a can of amber nectar reflects Quê Việt’s policy in maintaining the practice that spells 'rip-off Britain'.

Came here with a vegetarian Dining Companion. And like all occidentals faced with a daunting menu in an ethnic restaurant, a platter of everything thrown in was enough to make her go weak at the knees.

The order of this vegetarian platter (rather huge I might add) was enforced with the usual rule of large starters of the ilk; a minimum of two or more peeps sharing. DC or Mme Gobbler scoffed the entire contents and declared the starter (or her entire meal methinks) totally scrumptious. However I did try a piece of battered aubergine, it was delightfully moreish and suggested that I shouldn’t needlessly poke further fun at veggies in time to come.

This review is down to the two outstanding dishes I had at Quê Việt. I began with Dê Hấp (steamed goat served rare). I suppose the best way to describe how this dish is prepared is to quote the following-

''There are various dishes made with goat meat such as stir-fried goat meat, steamed goat meat, grilled goat brisket, goat hotpot, rare goat meat mixed with lemon. Each of them has its own unforgettable taste but among those dishes rare-goat meat in Hoa Lu is considered is the most delicious one. The process of cooking this dish is quite complex and requires experience. Because goat meat usually has strong and weird smell, therefore, makers must get rid of that smell before cooking. Goat meat is washed carefully and cut into thin slices, then marinated with holy basil leaves and duckweed leaves for about ten minutes. After that, goat meat is dipped in hot water until rare and then mixed with various spices and additives such as ginger, chilly, lemon juice, citronella and roasted sesame seeds.''


Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese have all sorts of advantageous excuses to eat certain foods. By eating goats, they say, one’s likely to curtail the following- anaemia, thinning hair, anti-dizziness, headaches, infatuations with Theresa May, back pains, etc.

Absolutely sublime, the herby lime sauce was perfect with the fragrant and tender meat. This dish also dispels the myth about goat meat being ‘strong’ and tough. And despite the above claims I was and am still very much in awe of T May.

DC’s unexciting looking veggie vermicelli bowl, after the starter binge, she opted to take it away instead.

Thịt bò lúc lắc- ‘shaking beef’.
Quê Việt’s most popular dish and thus their signature. The shaking description does not mean that one’s indulging in a sadomasochistic-culinary experience like devouring morsels of meat off a live cow…it simply describes the method of cooking! Marinated cubes of sirloin steak are frantically tossed and shaken from side to side in a wok to preserve the melt-in-the mouth consistency.

Once the dish arrives on the table, you’re encouraged to perform another ceremony, mix the beef well with the warm salad and tangy sauce (a mix of limejuice, rice wine, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper identified) until everything looks diametrically deconstructed or a plain bloody mess. Spoon it over a bowl of plain white rice, you’ll be on cloud nine thrice over. One of the best beef dishes I’ve had in London and most certainly on par with the high-end steaks at Goodman or Hawksmoor!

The reviews of Quê Việt at London Eating may seem alarming but my experiences here suggest otherwise. However I must admit that one of the managers here recognised me as bellaphonic and offered to ‘help’ with the bill, but I don’t do freebies (with exception of). That said, Quê Việt is nonetheless remarkable and it comes highly recommended…just make sure that you order the goat and wag beef.

My first review of Quê Việt here

102-104 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP