HAWKSMOOR, the Capital’s latest steak restaurant, housed within the plush new five-star home-from-home that is The Edinburgh Grand, is gearing up for its official opening next week.
Consequently, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, co-owners of the Underdog Group, which already operates four Hawksmoors in London and one in Manchester, are in town preparing for the launch of their plushest eatery yet, situated as it is in the former Royal Bank of Scotland banking hall building on St Andrew Square.
It’s the culmination of years of planning for the pair. Boasting around 170 covers, including a private dining space, their restaurant is currently mid-way through a soft launch (you could get 50% off) ahead of next Thursday’s big day and it’s clear Will and Huw are excited by the project.
They’re here to give Evening News readers an exclusive ‘First Look’ at the premises and are clearly pleased with the result.
Rich dark woods, veined black marble and soft leather seats bring a sense of luxury to the grandeur of the historic hall.
“We’ve always said we want to open restaurants in places we love to spend time and Edinburgh’s an amazing city to do that in,” says Will.
“We started looking here five years ago, but never found a building where we felt we could build a truly great Edinburgh restaurant, that’s what we want, to build, an institution in Edinburgh.”
He continues, “This building is incredible and has been closed off to the public for decades, so designing the restaurant has felt like a responsibility.
“But that’s exactly what we like doing, trying to be respectful of the building and the city to build something that feels like it truly belongs.”
Although the pair opened their first restaurant - The Redchurch in Shoreditch, London - in 2003 at the age of 26, they have been friends for far longer, having met when they were just 11 years old - even then, food played a part in their friendship.
“We probably met on the school bus,” reflects Will.
“We lived two roads apart from each other. We were never the cool kids at school, but because Huw has two older sisters, we got to sit near the back seat - the holy of holies - with them and their friends.
“We’ve been friends ever since but even then it often revolved around food; a McMuffin in the morning (the bus stop was opposite a McDonalds), churros after school (Huw was a budding home cook) or dinner round at each other’s houses, where each of us was quickly adopted as an extra member of the family.
“On special occasions at Huw’s, his dad would cook steak, whereas at mine, my mum would always have good wine open.”
Despite the culinary aspects of their upbringings and becoming restaurateurs was not initially a career option for either of them.
“It’s hard to know if there was ‘a moment’ we decided to go into the restaurant business,” reflects Will..
“Our families were in the business; my mum as a wine journalist and Huw’s parents as café owners. His grandparents were also the last of four generations of butchers.
“So we had an interest, but we went off and did other things before we decided to open our first place together.
“I don’t think we ever really fitted in outside the industry, it just happened that we worked really well together in this one.”
“Although there were a lot of challenges along the way at the beginning, now neither of us could imagine doing anything else.”
Well established on the culinary maps of London and Manchester, the pair have high hopes for the new member of the Hawksmoor family.
“At heart, Hawksmoor is about ingredients and people.
“We’ve always tried to source the best possible ingredients and cook them as simply as possible and we’re blessed in Edinburgh to be surrounded by some of the best ingredients in the world,” says Will.
“We’re a people business in many respects and I hope we’ve got a deserved reputation as a great place to work.
“We’re all in this business at the end of the day because we like trying to make people happy, and I hope the people of Edinburgh feel that too.
“Finally I hope we’re respectful of the people and community we work in. It’s a great one and we feel very lucky to have a chance of being part of it.”
Hawksmoor Steak Restaurant, West Register Street, 0131-526 4790