As halal consumers, for decades we have yearned to feast on the same gastronomical delights as our non-Muslim compatriots, after all, variety is the spice of life. But ironically, dishes that were slathered in spice were usually the only halal options available to us.
With the rise in Muslim diners; UK now has a population of over 3 million Muslims according to the Office of National Statistics (Jan 2016 data), double the figure compared to just over a decade ago; more and more restaurants have started to serve halal produce. However, not all establishments are offering an authentic Western culinary experience catered specifically for the Muslim dietary requirement, which can also be enjoyed by all.
Hamza, Sam & Co., are among the new wave of restaurants that recognise the multicultural diversity of Britain and the evolving palate of the Islamic community.
HS&Co., are a specialist steak house located in Stratford, East London; offering a full halal menu and serving three week dry aged Irish steak prepared on the acclaimed Josper grill. A Josper is a combination of a grill that operates at extremely high temperatures, while also having the functionality of an oven, thereby ensuring that none of the natural moisture or flavours escape. Essentially the Josper is the hottest indoor barbecue available. Due to the high price tag associated with a Josper, only a handful of restaurants use the devise.
The venue is deceptively large, with an elegant, sophisticated and boutique style decor running through the establishment. There is also a 1940’s American prohibition era feel to the restaurant, which is quite apt, as no alcohol is served on the premises, thereby ensuring a true halal experience.
From the mocktails section we ordered, left to right: “Disney Star Martini” with a shot glass of “Non-Alcoholic Champagne”, “Lavender Lush” and the “Blue Basil”.
The Disney Star Martini, served suitably in an elegant Martini glass, was scintillatingly sharp, sweet and tangy in piquancy, as a result of the syrupy passion fruit puree, which was a joy to consume. The shot of non-alcoholic Champagne, was a revelation to the tastebuds, as it delivered a dry, sweet, bubbly and sour taste, with a subtle after kick, which was sumptuous.
The Lavender Lush, served in a stunning vintage Double Old Fashioned tumbler glass, was an odd little concoction. It delivered a sour and bitter taste, along with the prominent flavour of lavender, which conjured up images of bathroom freshness and toiletries. This one is for all you marmite lovers out there, as you will either love it or hate it.
The Blue Basil had a sweet and tart flavour that emanated from the blueberries, and the basil provided an aromatic scent of pepper, anise and mint, that made the taste slightly sweet and savoury. This was a refreshing and effervescent mocktail.
For starters we opted for the “Honey & Chilli Wings”, “Pulled Duck on Toast”, “Cured Salmon Tartar” and “Chicken Liver Pate”.
The Honey & Chilli Wings were exactly as the name stipulates; the chicken wings were supple and tender, with a candied honey glaze that was pleasant, but the addition of the jalapeño pepper added a lascivious heat that cut through the sweetness to make the tastebuds sing with delight.
The Pulled Duck on Toast arrived looking majestic and alluring. The shredded duck was moist and juicy, however the taste was very subtle, due to the use of minimal seasoning and a reliance on the natural flavour of the duck itself, which tasted slightly boiled. The tomato based jus was also very lightly spiced, with the slice of orange lacking in sweetness. The concept is commendable, but personally we would have preferred the flavours to be more prodigious. Duck is a gamey dark meat, with a large fat content, and therefore prefer my duck to be generously seasoned and spiced, otherwise it can be slightly unappetising.
The Cured Salmon Tartar was another winning dish, with the fresh salmon, delicately cured with salt and dill, with no offensive piscine after taste, that can be present in low quality salmon. In terms of texture, the entire dish was smooth and velvety, so a contrasting texture, such as the addition of croutons or toast would have added an extra dimension to the dish.
The pièces de résistance in our opinion was the humble Chicken Liver Pate. Visually not the most appealing looking dish, however, the liver pate itself was triumphantly silky smooth, with a gloriously rich and moreish umami taste. The top of the pate was covered in a layer of jelly, which further enhanced the creamy consistency of the pate. The dish was accompanied with rustic toast and onion jam, which was spectacular. The sweet marmalade onion chutney, toast and pate consummated together exquisitely to deliver jubilation and joy to our gustatory cells.
For mains from the steak section we ordered the “Chateaubriand” and from the “Others” section of the menu we selected the “Proper Cheese Burger” along with “Mac & Cheese”, “Homemade Coleslaw” and “French Fries” for sides.
The Chateaubriand steak is a cut of Tenderloin meat, which is a lean piece of beef that has minimal amount of fat marbling. The dish arrived with a wondrous aroma that was intoxicating. The charring from the Josper grill made the out layer of the steak crispy and firm, with the inside of the steak being cooked to a perfect medium rare. As the knife cut open the lean piece of beef, we were greeted with the magnificent sight of tender pink meat that was secreting the wonderful juices from the moist steak. Conceptually the steak was marvellous, but the steak did require a big dose of salt and pepper to bring out the flavours more. Furthermore, the steak was also slightly a bit chewy, indicating that the meat possibly should be been prepared medium. The stilton and peppercorn sauce were nothing short of ethereal, as the taste was truly divine. Stilton by nature is a very strong and pungent cheese, that can be an acquired taste. However, the stilton sauce was subtle and savoury in flavour, which provided an epicurean taste sensation. The peppercorn sauce, which can be acerbic and bitter, was astoundingly moreish and creamy.
True to its name, the Proper Cheese Burger resembled a volcano, oozing out a sea of cheese lava, which profusely made the mouth water. The bun was a dry sesame seed bun, which I find unfortunately unpleasant since the introduction of the smooth, buttery brioche bun. The patty was regrettably prepared medium well, so not as succulent as I would prefer, nonetheless the patty was delicately well seasoned with a slight sweet piquancy, which was extremely satisfying. Overall, the burger was not a gourmet experience, as it was too mundane in texture, components and flavour. It required sauce and a key element, which personally no burger is ever complete without; caramelised onions.
The side dish of Mac & Cheese was well seasoned and flavoursome. However, the dish could have benefitted further from more cheese to make it more creamy and viscous.
The Homemade Coleslaw was once again delightful, fresh and light in texture and also seasoned well.
The unassuming French Fries were a surprise hit. Cooked impeccably so the outer layer was crispy, while the inner layer was fluffy and moist. The addition of the truffle oil also gave the fries an earthy, mushroom like flavour, which was delectable.
The climax to our meal was achieved with an assortment of desserts.
From the “Puddings” section we sampled, from the top of the picture, the “Sticky Toffee Pudding”, which had a velvety smooth soft sponge, with a luscious sweet, sticky and warm caramel sauce, which invigorated the tastebuds after such a meaty meal.
Centre left was our favourite pudding, the “Strawberry Eton Mess”, which was simply sensational. The segments of strawberries were fresh, ripe and sweet, with the meringue being light and airy, with a sweet vanilla and almond flavour.
The bottom dish, the “Apple Crumble” with custard had a warm toasted crumbled that married well with the gooey, caramelised apples. Once again, another well executed and accomplished dish.
From the “Ice Cream & Sorbet” section, we sampled the “Nutty Sundae”, centre right dish. The pistachio and hazelnut ice cream was pleasant, but the surprise ingredient was the popping candy, which ignited a party of fireworks in our mouths.
HS&Co., are one of the leading protagonists who are influencing the creation of a new chapter in the halal food chronicles. They offer the next stage in halal restaurant evolution, by delivering authentic Western cuisine, while ensuring an Islamic dining experience.
In terms of the food, there are areas we believe that do require improvement. Some of the dishes do need a good helping of seasoning, because at the end of the day, unlike the indigenous British palate, we are accustomed to and rapaciously yearn for bold and prodigious flavours. However, in terms of execution, delivery, the quality of ingredients, service and the overall experience, HS&Co., are nothing short of astounding.
So if you desire an elegant and adventurous dining experience at the cusp of the next stage of the halal food revolution, then be sure to Follow HS&Co.,’s Halal Food Journey.
Disclaimer: We were invited by HS&Co., to review the restaurant.