New York City steakhouses can typically be counted on to excel in delivering a few high-quality, albeit standard menu items—outside of the red meat headliner, that is. Iceberg wedges with thick slabs of bacon, creamed spinach, massive shrimp cocktails or perhaps some mashed potatoes with an ungodly amount of butter can be counted on to round out the experience at any number of the city’s established temples of beef. But even if they’re great, these dishes are merely supporting players to the restaurant’s star.
Hawksmoor, a British steakhouse that opened in September 2021, has managed to buck that convention. It has created a dish outside of its big, family-style charbroil steaks that deserves top billing on your night out at a steakhouse, because it’s that craveable in its own right. I’m talking about Hawksmoor’s roasted bone marrow.
It’s not unusual to find bone marrow dishes gracing New York menus, but it is unusual to find bones like these—the kind that’ll have you requesting more toast points instead of bemoaning the fact that after two tiny spoonfuls, your searching utensil has come up empty.
This abundance, as anyone with a taste for the once-humble dish with French roots will tell you, is a rarity.
To Hawksmoor executive chef Matt Bernero, it’s just how it’s done. Popular in British cooking, Bernero says bone marrow is a staple of the English import’s menu. “We take only the center cut from the marrow bones. This ensures that each piece has a deep cup of marrow that runs from end to end,” Bernero says. And in addition to the stand-alone roasted bone marrow appetizer, the British steakhouse enlists marrow to punch up charcoal-roasted oysters, serve as the rich backbone of a gravy (for dipping anything and everything) and even elevate a halibut dish.
The marrow-rich bones—which are roasted in a 375-degree oven until the meat (or marrow, as it were) starts to caramelize—are served with slow-cooked onions and toasted sourdough bread.
The center cut, combined with Hawksmoor’s quality sourcing (at a recent dinner, our server said the restaurant works with over a hundred farms to source its meats), results in an otherworldly dish, one that has little resemblance to its humble beginnings or even one you might try to recreate at home using bones from your local butcher.
Butcher Erika Nakamura, who discovered her love for the craft of whole animal butchery while working in New York City restaurants, easily disputes the idea that bone marrow is a cheap dish. The French Culinary Institute graduate says, “Many may see bone marrow as a byproduct (hence, cheap!), but for butchers who are sourcing exceptionally, they would still need to factor in the weight per pound off of the whole carcass weight.”
That level of care drives the price up, explains Nakamura, who says the best stuff can command $12/pound. Whereas when it’s sourced as an inexpensive byproduct via the industrial food chain, it can be had for a quarter of the price.
“We get all of our beef for a collection of small farms in the Northeast, the marrow bones come from those farms as well,” Bernero says, adding that their marrow comes from both fully grass-fed cows as well as cattle that has a light-grain finish, distinguishing it from the beef sourced from factory farms and feedlots.
Pasture-reared cattle—and the bone marrow ultimately derived from these animals—plays a huge role in the dish’s flavor, something which Nakamura echoes: “I inherently believe in terroir … When steer spend their lives on pasture, with plenty of fresh air and access to clean water, the flavor of its flesh will be deeper, the fats more pronounced.”
Indeed, at Hawksmoor, the fat, unmistakably beefy, is pronounced; aided by the acidic hit of the caramelized onions it’s topped with, it beats bread and butter any day of the week.
There’s nothing subtle about bone marrow, something which the French discovered long ago. “When you look back at the intricate history of the culinary arts, bone marrow has always had a place on the plate. The French masters have always loved it,” says Nakamura. “Even a dish like Osso Bucco leaves the diner salivating over the last and tastiest morsel of the dish to be scooped with a teeny tiny spoon—the theater in that very moment leaves us all dreaming of the next time you’ll be lucky enough to have it.”
Fortunately, for bone marrow lovers, Bernero promises it’s a Hawksmoor classic. “[It] will always be on the menu at any of our restaurants.”