Hawksmoor Breakfast

Is the bottomless coffee on the menu yet?

We went along to the soft launch of Hawksmoor’s brunch a couple of weeks ago.  The menu’s initial launch was eagerly greeted around here because it affords the 9-5/M-F crowd the opportunity to try the much lauded burger, supposedly one of the best in London.

We went for the shared breakfast that day instead.  What arrived was the mountain of carniverous delights that you see above.  Bacon chop. Ginger Pig special recipe Sausages. Black Pudding. Fried Eggs. Field Mushrooms. Tomatoes. Short Rib Bubble and Squeak. Marrow. Dripping Toast. Some green stuff as a token and Onion Marrow gravy on the side.

:: Marmalade Martini, Bottomless Bloody Mary #10 mix, rehydration OJ ::

I was feeling slightly delicate after a late night and so the marrow might have been a step too far. Curiously I’d just been reading Julie Powell‘s description of her cooking Julia Child’s Bifteck Saute Bercy where she describes marrow sauce as ‘rich, meaty intense, in a nearly too-much way…it tasted like really good sex’ (her italics)  For me it was a step too far that particular morning, or probably would have worked in a sauce.  However overall the meat was perfectly cooked and the Trotter Baked Beans – homemade beans with pulled pork were soft and slightly piquant – fabulous. Next visit, I’d happily have those on dripping toast alone. I coveted the Staub Cocotte horribly too.

:: Trotter Baked Beans ::

:: Shaky Pete behind the bar ::

The bar has quite the Manhattan feel but it’s resolutely British in attitude- as they have pointed out, the word brunch originated here.   We  gave them feedback as requested: interesting to see that the Full English is now available as a single portion and not just for two. Will clarified that you can request the eggs in that dish to be cooked any way you’d like, and we put in our plea for bottomless coffee too.  Tea is more their priority.  I loved how their drinks menu focusses on gin rather than vodka, a refreshing change and the Marmalade Martini was eye-openingly sharp but welcome in the context of such a hearty meal.

Stars *****

The staff are super-sweet and delightfully proud and invested in the restaurant.  I think the way to do the Hawksmoor brunch is at the start of a big weekend, to set yourself right up, probably with a group. And possibly just go for the big one: the Hawksmoor burger for breakfast.

Hawksmoor, 157 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ

020 7247 7392

Stationery Club and Confessions of a Moleskine Fangirl

From Moleitau's Flickr stream: want

After seeing James Ward‘s presentation on London Twirls at Ignite, we found out about Stationery Club.  The second meeting was last night and today people have asked:

“Is it a real club?” Yes.  A real-life, lots of people in a bar, scaring the non-stationery normals out of the room type club.  It looked like there were more than thirty of us upstairs at the Horse and Groom.  I’m not quite sure what I’d expected but yes, it was a semi-serious, question-led discussion which only occasionally descended into drunken chatter, rowdiness and generously traded insults.

“Did you really talk about stationery for two hours?” And the rest. We left about 9:30 because we were ravenous, but I think conversation and debate continued on. There was voting.  It was awesomely good fun.

The topic of choice was the Notebook and it was always going to descend into mayhem when the word Moleskine came up.  Firstly as to whether they’re made of real moleskin,  and should we choose a pronounciation? Or go with the slightly affected ‘Mo-lay-skeen-ay’ in tribute to the the Johnny-come-lately Italian company who’ve reissued them? They used to be produced by family businesses in Paris until 1986.  Is its success a triumph of marketing?  Surely nobody buys into the schlocky story that they peddle with the books – that it was beloved of Bruce Chatwin, Ernest Hemmingway et al.  Meh, who cares? Instead, look at the practical, stylish Muji number which was championed at the meeting – typical thoughtful Japanese design which includes a plastic pocket for cards, two elastics and dotted paper (ooooooh) for versatility.  It was popular, for sure…

But I’m going to be honest.  Even though I’m not quite sure why, I’m a roaring Moleskine fangirl (Clairefontaine being my second choice).  First and foremost because I’ve always liked the stock (though I’ve had issues with the soft-cover A5 folio and bleed-through recently) and paper is always the first and foremost consideration in buying a notebook for me. I’ve got quite the collection in current rotation – currently using the red 18-month week to view diary, the monthly planner for work, various sizes of A6 and A5 black ruled hardcovers for notes, red large cahier journals for writing projects and black ones for morning pages.

I used to have a bad habit of starting lots of different notebooks and running them concurrently for the same projects. I’m trying to stop doing that. Stopping buying them is another matter altogether.  It could also be because I see things like this and this and they make me think that maybe having the notebook is the first step to actually doing something interesting with it, to expressing yourself more creatively:

:: Mike Rohde’s amazing SWSW Interactive 2010 Sketchnotes ::

Perhaps it’s because I’m a freelancer:

Freelancers are more likely than most people to love Moleskine notebooks. We need to keep and manage our own schedules and to-dos. We’re creative, so we need a place to store and expand ideas. We need to take notes at meetings with clients–or at least look like we are. We need to appear productive and busy in coffee-shops–even when we aren’t.

The Freelance Switch

Or because I’m a geek. And an analog geek at that. Maybe I’ve just always had a thing about paper, pens (ooh, pens!) and the potential of a new page.  Perhaps it’s because fond as I am of my mac and iPhone, the former is on its last legs and I need to be super organised at the moment. A notebook doesn’t run out of battery at a crucial moment.

I’m investigating GTD at the moment so what I’m most interested to see is the new Moleskine Folio.  Paper with rounded corners that you can print yourself? Bring. It. On.

Angela Malik’s Cookery School

Last month those lovely people over at Qype invited a lucky group over to Angela Malik’s cookery school in Acton Central.  I was slightly fractious when I arrived, having taken TFL’s advice and therefore a ridiculous route.  Hint: make sure you’re arriving to Acton Central overground rather than a tube + onward journey if you go.  Walk into the deli at the front of the shop, accept a very chilled glass of wine, decompress.  Awake taste buds (which you’ll need shortly) by nibbling bread loaded with their signature pestos.  Peer down the demo room lined with long stainless steel tables, stations awaiting chefs.  Or Qypers, at any rate.

Angela is a former consultant who changed careers in her 30s and retrained at Leiths.  She’s diminutive but authoritative and it’s easy to imagine her running a commercial kitchen though she’s also great fun, and crucially as good a teacher as a chef.

Her inspiration comes from the five tastes which of course she invited us to name.  Like good students we shouted out the answers: sweet, salty, hot, sour and umami.  You know there’s a foodie crowd in when she asked for examples and the responses include jaggory, agave, anchovies, tamarind and turmeric. She taught us that you can exchange different substances from the same group which I’d instinctively do with sweet substances when baking but it wouldn’t necessarily have occured to me to swap citrus for vinegar in savoury dishes.  She emphasised the importance of including all of the five tastes in each meal and then went on to guide us through making dim sum and gyoza.

As we prepped the ingredients George the KP kept our wine glasses topped up, which led me to pepper the mixture with an overactive flick of the wrist. Suddenly the bowl looked like it was being shown on a black and white TV screen with a bad reception.  We’d been instructed to call for Chef when we were ready for her to taste our seasoning and I considered hiding behind my teammates. Surprisingly, it was passed without any additions – and this along with other recent experiments led me to realise I’ve been underseasoning food for ages. Essential ingredient like salt in particular have been demonised – but I’d sooner eat a smaller plate of something bursting with flavour than a trough of bland fodder.

Dim sum served with piquant tomato relish and fresh coriander, fresh out of the steamer. Angela champions the need to serve this food fresh (to the point where I actually started planning to cook these in a friend’s open-plan flat and pretty much lob them into guests’ mouths straight from the pot) and it certainly makes a difference to the taste. Even after sitting for only minutes there was a marked deterioration in flavour which makes me wonder how restaurants manage.  We moved on to steaming and frying gyoza which were light and fantastic drenched in the homemade dipping sauce.

It’s certainly worth the trip to visit Angela Malik and you can check out upcoming classes here.  The most important thing in this entire – and very enjoyable – evening was leaving with the urge to experiment with flavours and substitutions, rather than slavishly following recipes. Yes, there might be some disasters but it’s worth it.  I sense a storecupboard spree coming on…