Nightingale Takes Flight: Your First Taste of Hawksworth’s New Restaurant

BCLiving gets an exclusive look at Hawksworth's brand new Coal Harbour restaurant

Credit: Nikki Bayley

An exclusive look at Hawksworth’s brand new Coal Harbour restaurant

Canadian foodies have been waiting for this moment for so long: at last, chef David Hawksworth’s new restaurant Nightingale is open for business at 1017 West Hastings Street, and damn! Hawksworth is doing fried chicken and pizza and absolutely crushing it.

The room is simply gorgeous, all golden glowing honey colours with a big beautiful beast of a bar. Split across two levels, downstairs boasts a cosy fireplace and the beautiful red-flecked marble bar; but upstairs has the open kitchen, pizza oven (which needed to be hauled in by crane) and three banquets directly facing the kitchen for all those chef-obsessed.

There are charger ports under the bar and origami-winged nightingales taking flight across the room on the wallsso far, so gorgeous. But most importantly, this is the Hawksworth restaurant that you will be able to afford day in, day out.

Chef Phil Scarfone is at the helm and most items hover around the $12 to $17 mark. Pizzas are priced between $15 and 18, and the most expensive item on the menu is a grilled angus flank steak with chimmichurri at $25. Add to that a bar with cocktails around the $11/12 mark, and yeah, welcome, at last, to Vancouver’s brand new favourite restaurant.

Click through for a closer look…

Credit: Hawksworth

Meet the boss, David Hawksworth – Chef/Owner, Hawksworth Restaurant Group

Q: We first spoke about this in 2013. How far is the concept from what you had planned then?
A: The food menu is pretty much where I wanted it, the decor has evolved for sure… I love this building. I grew up here in Vancouver and I always loved its exterior, but I never went inside so had no idea what it was like! I wanted somewhere that was visually interesting and in the right area and this was it.

Q: What are you most excited about?
A: Everything! We want to have people come here and share a bunch of dishes and enjoy everything. We’ll have spot prawns in soon, and we’ll be doing things with them. I even worked on the music to get the right vibe in here [while we’re talking Will Smith’s Summertime is playing. This is definitely a bright, cheery vibe!].

Q: Are you completely exhausted?
A: I will never be tired ever again after working in London in the ’90s; you start work at 7 a.m. and finish at 12:30 a.m., maybe 1 a.m., and you get maybe a 45-minute break. It was super intense. You’re a zombie at the end… working 23 days in a row doing that schedule, it was pretty rough! So no, this isn’t tired.

With that, he stole a piece of my pizza, gobbled it down, smacked his lips and headed back into the kitchen…

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Hot Take: Menu Faves #1 – Fried Chicken

I’m furious that I already wrote our fried chicken story because this would absolutely be included. It’s fantastic ($13) and has an ultra-crunchy potato starch coating, super juicy meat, and it’s served with a tangy preserved lemon yoghurt dressing spiked with espelette pepper and a little dill. Say hello to your new favourite cheeky on-the-way-home snack.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Let’s Talk Pizza

“It’s a three-day dough, with 25% No. 1 flour, which has more whole wheat in it. If you look, you can see that it’s not pure white, and it has tiny flecks of brownthat’s the grain, it gives it more flavour.” -Chef David Hawksworth

So, David Hawksworth is a renowned pizza nuthe even has a wood-fired oven in his gardenand he’s been working on the recipe for the dough for years.

I tried the most basic: just San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil ($15). The crust is terrific: crisp, light and delicate with just the right amount of chew, and a pleasingly char-flecked base.

Apparently their pizza chef competes in pizza contests and ‘eats, sleeps, breathes pizza’ and it shows. The sauce is bursting with juicy, bright, clean flavoursyou’ll need napkins for thisit’s a little messy and insanely good. There are 10 different varieties to choose from.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Hot Take: Cocktail Fave #1 – The Belly of the Beet

Made with vodka, amontillado sherry and beet shrub, this cocktail has a terrific bright colour and a raw vegetal taste. According to bar manager Rhett, “you can almost taste the dirt from those beets, but in a really good way.”

This is likely the only cold-pressed organic juice you’ll get in a cocktail across town and you can taste it. I think this could be the cult classic drink of the summer.

Credit: Hawksworth

Meet the General Manager: Taylor Mikasko

Q: Is this Hawksworth 2.0 or a different kind of concept?
A: “I was at Hawksworth for two years, and for the last seven months have been behind a desk getting this operation going… it’s my baby! Just as Hawksworth is established as quite the restaurant in the city, we want Nightingale to benot the bestbut Vancouver’s favourite restaurant. Hawksworth has such a strong brand standard, and we want to uphold that, but we want people to just be able to walk off the seawall in their flip-flops and shorts and not worry about not having a reservation. But come and enjoy a cocktail or beer and a pizza and know they’ll be taken care of.

Q: So totally casual?
A: Come in your Lululemons anytime!

Q: Tell me about the design.
A: Our initial ideas were ‘rustic, industrial, chic,’ which I know are three completely different things. But it’s turned into a comfortable elegant cathedral-like space but totally relaxed. It’s a gorgeous glowing golden space with honey-coloured walls and medieval-style chandeliers. Our colour palette was autumnal, so we have oxblood red, hunter green and it’s an almost gentleman’s club-like aesthetic.

Q: And for people who don’t know what to expect?
A: Nightingale will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. till late, serving from the same large menu all dayso that means no separate lunch or weekend brunch service. It’s like a bistro. We’re committed to local and seasonal, so the menu will change but it will always offer something for everyone.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Hot take: Menu Faves #2 – Pacific Octopus

Grilled to crunchy perfection, this Pacific octopus sings with a smoky sweetness. Served with blistered capers, parsley, fermented chili and vinegar ($19), I really hope you can get bread on the side, because, yes, it’s a casual spot, but they likely don’t want you licking the plate all the same (and, sorry, not sorry, that dressing is simply too good to leave).

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Meet the Bartenders

Two of the city’s most talented booze slingers, Rhett Williams (ex-Pourhouse) and Alex Black (ex-Vancouver Club) are managing the bar.

Q: Tell me about the list.
Rhett: Everything on the bar menu is going to be like the food: few ingredients, simple and easily executed, light on the ABV [alcohol by volume], bold in terms of flavour. We really want to play with sherry… a lot of the food you’ll see is in that direction, a Cal-Med style, so lots of apéritifs.

Q: What are you most excited about?
Rhett: We have our own house beer, Nighting-Ale. We’ve done a collaboration with Main Street Brewing. It’s a marriage between an American blonde and a French saison. It’s the best beer I’ve ever had from them and you can only get it here; they don’t make it for anyone else. It’s a 5% dry, tropical, totally crushable beer and it goes with everything on the menu.
Alex: We’ll have a gin and tonic on tap, but with a twist. Instead of quinine, we’re using  angelica root and gentian. We’ve switched out that lemongrass, which you usually get in tonic for kaffir lime leaves and added long pepper, grapefruit and lemon. So instead of making a tonic, we’re infusing the gin with those botanicals and adding locally-sourced cold-steeped coffee in there too. That’s huge in Spain right now: cold-pressed coffee in tonic. We’ve taken it to the next level and then we carbonate it on tap.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Eat your greens

“Our menu is quite vegetable-forward. We’re getting into a zone of working with the farmers and seeing what’s really good. For a veg-forward menu, you have to have great veg and that’s the challenge.” Chef David Hawksworth

Nightingale has a nine-item vegetable section, and plenty of veg options in its raw section. Even the juices behind the bar are cold pressed, organic and unpasturised and come from Nectar. Try the beautifully presented spring vegetable crudite with a romesco sauce ($12) for healthy crunch.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Hot take: Cocktail fave #2 – The Paperplane

This is a salute to the guys at Attaboy in New York. Most of the cocktails on the short drink list are Nightingale creations but there are a few other fairly obscure modern classicsand if you’ve never had one of these beauties, you’re in for a treat. It’s a delicious blend of bourbon, aperol, amaro and lemon and glows like a peach in the sunshine.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Hot take: Menu fave #3 – Halibut Ceviche

How beautiful is this delicate pacific halibut ceviche ($17)? Served with crunchy pops of toasty-tasting quinoa, fresh bites of radish, buttery avocado with a mouth-watering citrus hit, here’s what you’re having for lunch and dinner whenever you feel like a clean protein hit of zingingly fresh seafood.