Before trying to open the UK’s best steak restaurant we travelled the world in search of the perfect steak, from Kobe in Japan to Argentina’s Pampas by way of Italy, Australia and Texas. And our verdict? That the best steaks come from carefully reared cattle right here in Britain.
The reputation of British beef is returning to where it deserves to be after a couple of decades in the wilderness. It used to be the envy of the beef-producing world: the animals that produce the best beef in America and Argentina originate from British cattle and even the Japanese crossed their famed Wagyu with British breeds in the nineteenth century to improve flavour.
It’s a crying shame, but most international beef now comes from cattle rapidly fattened on grain instead of grass. They’re often kept in close confinement and fed additives and growth-promoters so they can be slaughtered at a young age. All to make the process as quick and cheap as possible.
When we first opened our doors at Spitalfields in 2006, we made a commitment to serve only the very best beef that this country has to offer. Animal welfare and quality have been our focus and are things that we won’t compromise on.
We support traditional British farming methods and work with small farms around the country who raise cattle to our specific set of guidelines around the quality of the animal’s life, which is as high a standard as you’ll find anywhere in the world. All our beef comes from cattle who have led a stress-free life and are fed on a natural diet of grass and hay. They are grown slowly in order to reach maturity and the best meat is selected, butchered by hand and dry-aged for 35 days, losing on weight but improving in flavour and tenderness.
Man cannot live on steak alone, so we decided to apply everything we’ve learnt about beef (pretty much: buy the best meat possible and don’t mess it up) to the fruits of the sea.
Before we opened the first Hawksmoor we searched the world for the best beef we could find, before realising that it was right here on our doorstep grazing England’s green and pleasant land. As a nation, we’re also lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the best seafood in the world, so it felt like an obvious next step.
As with beef though, it can be really difficult to get hold of the good stuff. Before it reaches most London’s restaurants, a fish will go on an impressive journey (almost on a par with a salmon’s up-stream migration). But with more lorries, depots, warehouses and markets delays along the way are almost inevitable.
We wanted to do things differently, so we teamed up with Mitch Tonks, to our mind the best seafood chef in the country and owner of The Seahorse, a great restaurant in Dartmouth that was recently awarded Britain’s Best Restaurant by Observer Food Monthly (something we might have objected to had we not come a close second). He’s helped us negotiate the complex world of seafood sustainability and fishing methods, and has shown us that (like beef) cooking fish this fresh is all about simplicity. He’s also hooked us up with all his fishermen contacts and his pal Nigel who has become our dedicated buyer at Brixham market. Every morning at the dawn auction he selects the best seafood, before sending it directly to us. No middlemen. No warehouses. As with our beef, the seafood we buy isn’t cheap – the best ingredients rarely are – but we think it’s definitely worth it.
If you enjoy your seafood at Hawksmoor then we owe a big debt of gratitude to Mitch, Nigel and the fishermen of Brixham. And a little bit to beef, which taught us a lot about how we should think about food.