Hawksmoor’s opening this week in Gramercy was twofold: it marked the Stateside debut of the London-based steakhouse restaurant, and also a reopening of the historic United Charities Building, which had been closed to the public for the last century.
Bringing Hawksmoor, which has several locations in London, to New York was a longtime dream for co-owners Huw Gott and Will Beckett. They were looking at a space within the World Trade Center in 2014, but when that plan fell through, they set out to find another. They were interested in a large footprint within a heritage building, and found both of those attributes within the United Charities Building in Gramercy, a landmarked space that had served as the headquarters for charities including the Children’s Aid Society and the Charity Organization Society in the early 20th century.
“We’ve always done things on the basis of falling in love with a building and a room,” says Beckett of finding the right New York location for Hawksmoor. “This experience reminded us how important that is to us.”
The kitchen is led by group executive chef Matt Brown and executive chef Matt Bernero, who was formerly the head chef at Minetta Tavern. Hawksmoor is anchored by its dry-aged steaks, with a slate of signature cuts including rib-eye, porterhouse and prime rib chop. Everything on the menu is cooked over charcoal and produce-driven, tapping into a local network of farmers, fishermen and ranchers.
“We’re really interested in food and where it comes from,” says Beckett, adding that simplicity is key. “That’s the thing that makes it feel like a New York restaurant; it’s the ingredients.”
The bar program takes a similar approach, featuring Hawksmoor classics alongside drinks inspired by and made with local-made ingredients like whiskey from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and honey from rooftop beehives in Union Square.
The Hawksmoor team approached the dining room’s design and restoration with sensitivity, “so that it looked and felt like it had been here for 130 years,” says Gott, adding that they kept original features from the space including a 30-foot vaulted ceiling, stained glass and crown molding. “In some areas we looked at old photos and recreated it, like wood paneling based off the look of the original. We tried to do things carefully and as in keeping with the building as possible.” Two private dining rooms turn up the vintage charm with design elements like vintage artwork and a board from a 1905 livestock sale.
The result is a space that feels uniquely special and one sure to impress even the most seasoned New Yorkers.
“You walk through a corridor and you get halfway through it and then suddenly this beautiful room opens up. There’s an almost exact point of the corridor where you see everyone’s reaction,” says Beckett, recalling the moment he brought one of his industry peers into the space. “His reaction was: oh my God, I can’t believe this room exists — two blocks from where I’ve spent the last 20 years, and I never knew it was here.”
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