On the table: Hill & Szrok
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Meat, meat and more meat: the premise at Hill & Szrok is simple (and vegetarians need not apply). Butcher’s shop by day (and a jolly good one at that); come dusk, the counters are wiped, the lighting dimmed and the chef’s whites dusted off. A selection of the day’s prime cuts are chalked onto the board, cooked on demand and served alongside a selection of deliciously unassuming sides.
With just 25 seats, and a fashionable first-come-first-served policy that ensures there are no empty chairs, this isn’t just efficient use of prime property on Broadway Market. In an age where farm-to-table cooking is de rigeur, Hill & Szrok has cut out the middle man – offering the most impeccable provenance, with a stripped-back, modern-day cookshop.
While restaurants putting the beef back in business are now standard fare – Pitt Cue Co, Temper, Black Axe Mangal, Hawksmoor, Barbecoa – here, there are no frills. You won’t find elaborate sauces, alternative seasonings and plush décor. There’s an echo of the straightforward British cooking found at The Quality Chophouse, a hint at the St John nose-to-tail philosophy, but Hill & Szrok is most defiantly doing its own, darned good thing.
The wine list is stand-out – a blend of trendy, natural bottles (no surprise given the spot’s location) and classic, traditional back-vintages from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône. We start with an extraordinary bottle from southern French legend, Domaine Gauby. Their La Roque cuvée is a skin-contact Muscat – combining the grape’s haunting aromatics with a tannic grip. An oxymoron in its own right, the wine manages to be both delicate and forthright – and mesmerizingly good.
On the night that I go, there is a choice of pork chops, chicken supreme, lamb chops and five cuts of beef (rump, ribeye, sirloin, fillet and T-bone) for the main event. We dive in with grilled quail, served in a dangerously buttery hot sauce, with a decent dollop of sour cream to soothe the spice. The most elaborate dish on the menu, the bird was irresistibly moist, with just enough kick to keep you going back for more. Next comes fried Pecorino Caciotta, drizzled with truffle honey – a sweet, savoury, decadent dish with boundless intensity, that worked surprisingly well alongside the Gauby.
Next was a half-kilo of ribeye – meltingly tender, deliciously rare, with a thin crust seasoned to perfection – and some of the best beef I’ve ever had. We sampled pink firs – the prettiest potatoes in town – with pickled shallot and mustard, as well as green beans with leek anchoide – the savoury twang of anchovy and sweet leek elevating these beans far beyond their side-dish status. Alongside our slab of meat, we turned to a Jura red – a juicy yet serious Trousseau that stood up to it, cutting through the creaminess of our sides and light enough for the bottle to disappear rather quickly.
A slither of cheese, a glass of Savagnin and a mouthful or two of trifle later, we tumbled onto the street and looked back at the appealing warmth of the tiny space occupied by Hill & Szrok. This isn’t revolutionary, ground-breaking food – but it will change your life. This butcher’s modest grub will bowl you over – and, since they supply themselves, the prices are as appealing as the plates coming out of the kitchen. There’s an art to doing humble well, and Hill & Szrok have nailed it.
What we drank:
- 2011 La Roque, Domaine Gauby, Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon
- 2014 Arbois, Trousseau, Cuvée les Bérangères, Jacques Puffeney, Jura