Hawksmoor and Creation Theatre at Home: A Christmas Carol – dinner and a show from the sofa
In an innovative collaboration, renowned steakhouse Hawksmoor and Creation Theatre team up to create a cosy combined Christmas dining and theatre experience from the comfort of home.
Hawksmoor is a name that synonymous with quality for any foodie. The restaurant was founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006 with the aim of offering high-quality, sustainable and well-butchered beef, and they decided that the best came from the UK. They opened a second branch in Seven Dials in 2010 and since then the chain has gone from strength to strength, with nine restaurants and one bar, including branches in Edinburgh and New York. It is regularly praised as offering the best steak in the UK by those in the know.
The hamper arrived precisely on time with a friendly delivery driver, and it was a magical moment to have such an exciting assortment of goodies to dig into. All the ingredients had been prepared and packaged – all that was needed was to cook them, and thorough instructions were provided.
To start is Forest and Brown Smoked Salmon, the same as is served in the restaurants, with a sweet, crumbly homemade soda bread and almost unacceptably moreish pot of cream cheese, whipped through with dill.
Of course, the main event was the magnificent slabs of ruby fillet steak, described by Hawksmoor as the laziest and therefore most tender cut there is. The flavour provided a complex umami wallop round the chops. The ingredients were simple and recipes traditional, but that did not mean any taste or complexity was sacrificed: everything was perfectly seasoned, singing off the plate. Garlic Mushrooms provided a hefty whack of garlic, the texture a complement to the beef, alongside Creamed Spinach, which was sweet and rich amidst the umami richness. The triple-cooked chips (Matt Brown’s Ultimate Oven Chips), haloed in beef fat and salt, were sublimely chunky.
We were also provided with a pre-mixed bottle of their much-loved Sour Cherry Negroni, which gives the classic cocktail a British twist by making the most of the short-lived cherry season in the syrup, which goes in along with Tanqueray gin, Campari and Martini Rubino. It has a sophisticated bitterness to it. A bottle of Real Agrado Rioja was a medium-bodied red with intense aromas of jammy blackberries. Sticky Toffee Pudding and Clotted Cream provided an immensely satisfying end to proceedings.
Oxford’s Creation Theatre have long been known for their innovative productions and they have adapted admirably to the medium of Zoom shows during the pandemic: A Christmas Carol is no different. Graeme Rose plays the miserly, cantankerous Ebenezer Scrooge and also narrates the story. Sparse set design features Victorian illustrations on a Zoom backdrop to create quirky, low-tech animation, which is especially effective when introducing Scrooge’s Victorian London streets, behind swathes of suggested snowfall. The video is split into five “staves” (as was the original Charles Dickens book), which helpfully break up the action so that one can also cook and enjoy the meal. There are five boxes that come in the hamper, which one is prompted to open at certain points to further bring the story to life. (Humbug anyone?) There are some quirky musical numbers and the play is a more lighthearted take on the classic, although the Ghost of Christmas Future, a silent silhouette, is as unsettling as ever. The production, by Rose, Gari Jones, Michael Deacon and Stuart Read, is clever and lively, embracing its limitations, rather than disguising them, for a whimsical take on the perennial Christmas tale. (The show is now also available to stream independently and is more than entertaining enough without the meal for those suffering from Christmas overload!)
This is big, sophisticated, proudly British dining done at its best. The customers’ needs have obviously been catered to at every opportunity and the experience is well thought through. It’s a dynamic response from two struggling industries to adapt to current hardships.
A Christmas Carol at Home is available to order from 9th December until 30th December 2021, with the standalone show available to stream from 17th December 2021. For further information or to book visit here.