At this time of year in the sticks – long winter nights, pricey cabs, shortage of sitters, the offer of culture and good food without the hurdles is a compelling offering.
The premise of the Hawksmoor at Home boxes is that with top notch, often part-prepped constituents, and good instructions, you can create the food of the steak Gods at home (Hawksmoor now has 12 restaurants including one in NYC, since starting out with its East London steak house in 2006). And the added festive flair with this box? This limited edition kit also includes a code to watch a recreation of A Christmas Carol online produced by Muddy faves and award-winning Oxford theatre-makers, Creation Theatre. Result!
The box contains everything for a three-course feast (even the salt to sprinkle on the steak) and password to stream A Christmas Carol online.
We were instructed to start the theatre experience first so we did so, but not before pouring ourselves a sour cherry negroni each (ticking the box for accompanying drinks is a no-brainer in my view). It all felt pretty fancy – a bar-quality cocktail and, naturally, it helped that we got out the best tumblers for the occasion. The cherry was indeed sour and the overhaul effect was warming and festive.
Graeme Rose as Scrooge for Creation Theatre
Credits rolled on A Christmas Carol. It’s a fresh take on the classic and isn’t simply the output of a camera pointed at a stage, but a full multi-media performance. Graeme Rose works overtime in his role as Ebenezer Scrooge and other characters, using digital graphic novel-style backdrops and IRL settings. It’s all there – the ghosts, the admonishment, the retribution, regret, and of course, Tiny Tim. At times the dialogue is more modern and at other times more classic. It kept us on our toes flitting between styles, which also made it more engaging than a filmed stage performance might have been.
The other quirky addition was the five little boxes that accompanied the performance, which we were invited to open at various stages throughout. I won’t ruin the surprise but it was a fun distraction and might help engage teenagers (though then of course, you’d have to share your steak with them).
SQUAFF & QUAFF
As aficionados of all things beef and flame cooked, Hawksmoor is all about taking high quality ingredients and cooking them simply, but expertly, which explains the full page of instructions, leaflet about heat and salt, and QR code linking to an instructional vid. Time to put the negroni down and focus.
Unpacking the box had my other half in a pique of excitement – two hulking great fillet steaks, a box of triple-cooked chips, two vast portobello mushrooms with garlic butter, creamed spinach and peppercorn sauce. He laid it out like the contents of a Christmas stocking and mouths watered.
The starter of Forest & Brown smoked salmon with soda bread and cream cheese was simple, but the Hawksmoor ethos came through here – it was up there with the best smoked salmon I’ve eaten – a tender texture and decent but not overpowering smoky flavour.
At the next interval, it was time to tackle the steak. The instructions aren’t in order of action so you need to scan through the lot first to get it right though there aren’t many stages – chips first then garlic mushrooms and then steak. Here, the separate leaflet was handy – warnings about the amount of smoke, not to use oil and about the sheer amount of salt were all reassuring and points on which we would have faltered.
But boy was it worth it – the steak was crisp on the outside, tender to cut and absolutely divine – truly the best steak I’ve had in years – and we cooked it ourselves!
The sides were also a hit – with the Matt Brown Ultimate Oven Chips, they’ve somehow managed to recreate the miracle of the triple-cooked chip at home, and these paired well with the peppercorn sauce, mushrooms and spinach. The accompanying Rioja Real Agrado was a really well balanced red – lots of fruit, only a little tannic, and somewhere along the way the bottle got finished.
This all left no room for dessert, so, defeated, we put off the sticky toffee pudding until the next night. Moist, warm and not overly sweet (if you go steady on the sauce), we reluctantly shared it with the kids, together with the clotted cream. It disappeared in seconds.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Steak lovers who want a treat at home – it would make a perfect early Christmas present (or those poor souls with December birthdays who need a treat), especially with the addition of the theatre to add something a bit different. Also would make a special NYE night in, with the 30 Dec delivery date if you can still focus on the TV by then.
Not for: The whole family – you won’t want to share, despite the generous portions. And it’s pretty pricey for more than two.
The damage: £125 for two people or £145 with alcohol, good value given the quality but admittedly not a casual purchase. The meal really does beat the steak you’d be served in some of the gastropubs in the area.
The Limited Edition Christmas Carol Fillet Box is available for nationwide delivery on Thursdays and Fridays in December, so the remaining available dates are Dec 16, 17, 18, 21, 22 and 30.