Hawksmoor, Deansgate, Manchester

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I like the Hawksmoor ethos. They eschew ostentation. They keep it simple. They do it well. Hawksmoor Manchester stick to this blueprint. The décor is wood panelling, wooden floors, leather banquettes, and solid tables nicely spaced. The have proper napkins, good plain crockery, and the cutlery is steel and sturdy.

The menu is relatively short but you can be sure that everything on there is  prepared to a high standard. On the night we went, the potted beef with Yorkshire pudding was an excellent starter. The Caesar salad had romaine lettuce, anchovies, parmesan, croutons, and plain but perfect Caesar dressing. The fillet was high quality, soft and tender; even though it was rare, and the rib-eye had just the right amount of fat to bring out the flavour of the meat. This is all as you would expect from the Hawksmoor brand. The chips were full cut and well cooked. The mac and cheese, which we ordered as a side, was indulgent.

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The wine by the glass was excellent, the Malbec robust and rich, and the Pinot Grigio Rose was dry and pale, possibly the nicest I have had. The service was impeccable, just as it always is at a Hawksmoor restaurant, never too close but always at hand when you want something.

If I  have a misgiving about Hawksmoor Manchester, it is the bar. The area here veers toward the austere. It feels a bit more like a church vestibule than a comfortable place to chat and wait for friends. They have good wines and all sorts of premium spirits, but their beer list is short, and it has little recognisable on it.

The restaurant is not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Everything is of the highest quality, and if you want somewhere that you can rely on to deliver a fine dinner, in pleasant surroundings, with polished service; then Hawksmoor Manchester should be one of the first places that you consider.

Shake Shack, Victoria Nova, Victoria, London

 
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This is a shiny, brand new, glass fronted burger and hot dog restaurant on the corner in Victoria Nova. The building is beautiful and given the location, there will be a lot of passing trade. It is licensed, so it sells beer and wine, although I did not order any with my burger, and to be honest I did not see any alcohol on any of the tables that were occupied.
The burgers are marketed at the top of the price range, advertised as being 100% Aberdeen Angus beef, source verified and traceable. I don’t doubt that this is true. I had a single smoke shack, which comes with bacon, cheese and cherry peppers.
It was good without being exceptional, the cherry peppers were a nice addition, but the meat  was a little bit greasy for my taste. The chips were an extra £3 and were poor value. There wasn’t enough of them, and they were crinkle cut, semi-crispy and hollow. They were also cold when they arrived, although when I complained they changed them without query. The shake was nice and thick, but very sweet, perhaps they are more aimed at children than adults.
Given all the new high-end burger joints opening in London, the competition must be fierce and this did not strike me as one of the best. Sorry to say, I think “5 Guys” does it better.

Brasserie Blanc, Trinity Square, London

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The view from this member of Raymond Blanc’s brasseries is spectacular, from your table you overlook the crenellations of the Tower of London, with Tower Bridge in the background.
We ate from the Fixe Price menu and found the fare a little more average. The beetroot salad was nice and the soup good, but only lukewarm, we considered asking for it to be reheated, but in the end did not.
The mains were ok. My steak was good but small, the Beef Lyonnais were a little less tender than amazing and the cod was reportedly delicious after we had sent it back to be reheated.
The apple crumble was the highlight of the meal. the apple retained its consistency beautifully and the crumble was perfectly crisp and short. The chocolate pudding was also nice but once again had to be sent for reheating, as it was cold in the centre.
The waitress was excellent; very helpful and quite attentive, she brought us small glasses of the rose wines to try when we enquired about their flavours. The wine list looked very good, by the way, and not outrageously priced for central London.
Overall, this restaurant is decent, but go primarily for the view and you will not be disappointed.
 

Brasserie Vacherin, Croydon

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A table for two with crisp white linen. An aperitif while reading the menu. A flavourful starter. A main course and side made with good quality ingredients accompanied by a nice bottle of wine. An indulgent dessert. A digestif with coffee. An attentive but unobtrusive waiter. Good conversation with sophisticated soul and jazz playing gently in the background.
A complete night out.