For my husband's 40th birthday there was no hesitation when it came to a restaurant for dinner. He absolutely loves Hawksmoor, and since his birthday was a Saturday and we had plans with his family, I offered to take him to Hawksmoor on the Friday night after work.
We've been to Hawksmoor in Air Street near Piccadilly a couple of times; you can read my review here. This time we decided to go to the one in Commercial Street, near Shoreditch, as it is nearer where we both work.
Walking from Bishopsgate and down a side street onto Commercial Street, I looked left and right and saw Nando's one way, the Old Truman Brewery the other and a bunch of shops like Urban Outfitters - nothing that leapt out at me as one of London's best steak restaurants. I had to use Google Maps to pinpoint the location and quickly found it - the restaurant is mainly below ground, with a discreet sign above a door at street level but not much else.
The staff were really friendly and helpful, and I mentioned it was my husband's 40th birthday both on booking and when I arrived, as I got there before my husband and the person in front of me at reception had brought a cake for a surprise birthday for the table he was joining. I didn't have a cake with me as I'd been at home all that day baking a birthday cake to share with my husband's family the following day on his actual birthday!
The atmosphere was noisier and the other diners more 'colourful' (including a drunk couple who spilled a drink over the man next to us and nearly got into a fight), prompting my husband to comment that the Air Street restaurant was a lot quieter and more conservative than the Shoreditch location. I don't know if he's right, but I think the next time we go to Hawksmoor (which we will, because we love it), we will probably choose the Air Street location again.
The steak was beautifully cooked and really tasty - we both had the fillet, pretty steep at £35 but so good - and for dessert, my husband had the sticky toffee pudding (£8) and I'd had my eye on the Crunchy Bar (£8.75, 50p of which goes to Action Against Hunger charity) from the start. As far as I can remember it had a biscuit base, a layer of caramel, ice cream and pieces of honeycomb - it was really good.
I spent ages scrutinising the extensive cocktail menu at the start before my husband arrived, and finally settled upon the Champagne Charlie - so felt a bit silly when I turned to the food menu and printed across the top were their top three recommended cocktails - including the one I had spent ages choosing! Champagne Charlie was described as containing Beefeater gin, lemon, seasonal fruit syrup and champagne. I asked the waiter what the seasonal fruit was and he said beetroot - that isn't a fruit! I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and was actually amazed at how good it tasted!
When our desserts arrived I had hoped my husband's might have had a birthday candle stuck in it and was mildly disappointed that it didn't - and then moments later the waiter brought out another plate, with 'happy birthday' written in chocolate and three of their homemade salted caramel rolos - these are on the menu for £4 for 4, and I've often wanted to try them but never have. The chocolate shell contains almost liquid caramel - they are really good and it was lovely to receive them as an extra treat.
So overall it was an excellent meal and a great way to kick off the celebrations for my husband's 40th birthday.