An interview with Will Beckett, one half of Hawksmoor duo
Prior to the opening of the Hawksmoor Edinburgh, I was lucky enough to go to London to meet the founders of the restaurant group, Will Beckett and Huw Gott. Passionate about local, seasonal produce and the ethos of the Hawksmoor, the duo were honest, open and enthusiastic to meet fellow foodies.
Will kindly agreed to answer some questions for us about the restaurant and the team’s growing food empire.
Q: You and your partner Huw have been friends for years – what does it take to make a successful friendship a successful business relationship?
A: Probably the ability to laugh at each other, stay out of each other’s way at the right moment and to challenge the other one at others!
Q: The Hawksmoor is synonymous with steak – what’s special about your seafood and vegetarian options?
A: I think that food at Hawksmoor, whether steak, seafood or vegetables is really based on a simple idea of buying the best produce and cooking it simply. We’ve spent as much time sourcing great seafood and veg in Scotland as we have great meat, and I hope that’s reflected in the menu.
Q: How do you keep innovating while maintaining the standards of the classics?
A: With difficulty! The answer is probably we work very hard on being a good place to work, which means that having a group of talented people doing what they love makes innovating and maintaining standards everyone’s job – and one that they enjoy.
Q: Are ingredients sourced locally? Who are your primary Scottish suppliers?
A: Many are – that’s been one of the great joys of opening this restaurants. Whether it’s been farmers like Iain Mackay or Tommy & Allan Taylor, fishermen like the Ethical Shellfish Company (who hand-dive Scallops off the Isle of Mull) or independent Edinburgh suppliers like Twelve Triangles, where we buy our sourdough, it’s been fun meeting people who love food and produce as much as we do.
Q: How will the Hawksmoor Edinburgh differ from the other restaurants in the group? Locals have been wary about St Andrew square being overrun by big chains – how do you make sure that the Hawksmoor doesn’t fit that expectation?
A: I can understand why (people have felt that way) – the last thing Edinburgh should do is lose its uniqueness. I hope we’ve tried to build a genuinely Edinburgh restaurant, and that once people have tried the restaurant, it’ll be spoken of in the same terms as the amazing places that Tom Kitchin, Martin Wishart, Roy Brett and many other great Edinburgh restaurateurs and chefs run.
Q: How do you retain control of the group and maintain the core ethos with significant outside investment?
A: Investors don’t get involved in the running of the company at all – it’s still me and Huw and a group of people around us who’ve been with us for years, like Louisa who runs the restaurant in Edinburgh. The worst thing that could happen to Hawksmoor would be to reply too much on individuals to maintain the ethos, even me and Huw.
Q: What’s on the drinks list that is extra special? Can you tell us about the ethos of the bar?
A: The drinks list has lots of beers from small Scottish breweries, an extensive whisky selection and new cocktails including Summerhall Club, made with Pickering’s gin, honey from hives on the distillery roof, raspberries from Fife and a dash of Edinburgh brewed Sweet Dram Escubac. The Bar Manager Murray and the Assistant Bar Manager Emma are both Scots who’ve worked with us for a long time. Doing Hawksmoor well in a local context is massively important to them.
Q: What’s your favourite dish on the Edinburgh menu?
A: Depends on the day! I had a steak from Iain Mackay recently that made me want to weep and I think the Hand-dived scallops with white port & garlic are pretty special, but tomorrow I’d probably answer something completely different!
Q: When you’re visiting Edinburgh, where do you eat?
A: The Kitchin and Ondine are favourites. I had some great ramen from Maki Ramen last time I was there. Now the restaurant’s open I mostly eat at Hawksmoor now to make sure we’re doing everything as well as possible!
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the charity aspect of the restaurant?
A: We always wanted to have a business that tried to do things the right way, and part of that has been to get involved with a number of charities. In Edinburgh were working with one of my favourites, Magic Breakfast, who help the poorest kids achieve better at school by proving free breakfast clubs, and Social Bite, an amazing local charity that feeds, employs and empowers homeless people to build sustainable lives. Both work extensively in Edinburgh.
Q: What’s next for Hawksmoor?
A: Watch this space! 😉 *
*Since the interview, Will have Huw have announced some very exciting news…the Hawksmoor will be opening in New York City in 2019!
Located on St Andrew Square, Edinburgh Hawksmoor is now open.
Find them: 2 W Register St, Edinburgh EH2 2AU
Contact them: 0131-526 4777, thehawksmoor.com/locations/edinburgh