According to my records (random scraps of paper in a Clarks shoebox) it has been some months since I broke bread with Helen, esteemed editor of Northern Soul. Regular readers of mine (hi Fred) will know of my recycled joke about the maître’d commenting that I don’t look like a Helen as the real Helen can’t make lunch due to NS matters of state. Helen works very hard in her one-woman gig economy so it’s great to see her at Hawksmoor as we sit down to review its new summer menu. I was flustered at having been to the moon with Laurie Anderson and the Blond. We splashed down in the Royal Exchange and the Blond presented a beaming Laurie with a Belka the Space Dog badge. I love Manchester International Festival as it throws up these wonderful once-in-a-lifetime happenstances and I’ve never seen the Blond happier.

I digress, but I wanted to share this by way of explaining my sharp desire for a gin and tonic after such a breathtaking morning. The barman obliged my desire as I hummed O Superman. Hawksmoor does a damn fine G&T. Equally fine was the Champagne Charlie that Helen supped as I downed my second anti-fogmatic. Of all the southern transplants, I think Hawksmoor is both the most successful and my favourite. It is set in a refurbished courthouse with a panelled interior that reminded me of a gentleman’s club where I half expected to be presented with an ironed copy of The Times. It is, however, distinctly unfusty and one of the keys to its success is the staff. Our host, Lauren, was gracious, informative and authoritative in dealing with a woman who has been working 16-hour days in front of a computer and a man recently returned to earth.

Langoustine scampiThe summer lunch specials is a short menu, so we ordered our starters from the impressive main menu. Helen had a crisp spring herb salad with goat’s curd, radishes and a sourdough crisp. I enjoyed a meaty roast bone marrow and grilled onions as deliciously old fashioned as the wood panelling. Lauren presented us with a blind tasting of three excellent reds and we nominated a Californian Zinfandel from the Viano Vineyards to lubricate our vittles. Along with an attractive 35-day aged rump, the summer menu consisted of a reworking of some classics. Helen had scampi and chips, though not the breaded pub variety that came in a basket and stood for old fashioned class when I was first stepping out. No, these were langoustine tails in a tempura batter so light it disappeared in the mouth. I had to practically wrestle one from Helen’s grasp just to get a taste. The fork marks on my hand are healing up nicely. I had a Michelin-starred tribute to the Big Mac by Head Chef Matt Brown, the Big Matt. The patties were properly pink and the whole homage proper good.

Big Matt, HawksmoorWe shared some grilled peaches, almond cream and muscat cream as well as two superb dessert wines, a Hungarian tokaji and a sauterne from Bordeaux. A fine finish to a fine meal. We bade the ever-hospitable Lauren and Hawksmoor adieu, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be long until I return. The moon and Laurie Anderson, now that’s another matter.

By Robert Hamilton

Chef's KnifeChef's KnifeChef's KnifeChef's KnifeChef's Knife