But while several prominent reviews have already lavished praise on the new Hawksmoor (and indeed my steak at Hawksmoor Guildhall just two weeks ago was, as documented in this blog, divine), our meal at the new Air Street branch ranged from lacklustre to sadly disappointing. On a table of three, including a prominent chef, we were all in agreement on this.
Key to the failure here was the steak, the very thing that I had loved most about my previous Hawksmoor experience. While the words 'juicy' and 'steak' are essentially bedfellows in the English language, on this occasion, they appeared to have fallen out and be sleeping in separate rooms. Our ribeye steaks (x3 medium rare), while having good flavour, simply lacked the normal juices you'd expect in a quality piece of meat, making the steaks feel dry in the mouth and hard to chew, requiring a good dollop of an accompanying sauce to stand in as a substitute; that is simply wrong.
The more I thought about this however, the triumph of taste at Guildhall, and the down in the dumps experience at Air Street, the more it made me believe that the answer most probably lay in the mathematical concept of 'variance', or what could be described as 'how far things are spread out'. Hawksmoor, through its four restaurants, has around 600 covers in total I'd guess, so serving potentially 1,200 people every day. In turn, they might serve up to 7,000 steaks in a week equating to around three thousand kilos of beef.
The 'average' steak at Hawksmoor is probably, generally, brilliant, but with numbers served so huge, over the course of any week, there will likely be material variation around that average: some steaks perfect (and perfectly cooked), some closer to duds. And while it might not be the case here, logically, the bigger the restaurant, the greater the risk that the average declines, while at the same time, the variance increases as consistent quality becomes more difficult to control.
On our main course, the triple cooked chips seemed stale, the Stilton hollandaise appeared to be a sauce with only trace elements of Stilton, and the steak, as noted, was simply hard work. Maybe it was variance, maybe we got unlucky by eating on a Monday, or maybe it's still too early for such a mega-restaurant to have properly found its feet. The unthinkable is that Hawksmoor has now grown simply too big to deliver the quality it did when it was a single and phenomenal steakhouse just three years ago. Whatever the answer, our meal here was, sadly, underwhelming from start to finish.