If a chain of restaurants has managed to survive 25 years in the capital, you can reasonably assume that it's either a) very good, or b) past its sell by date; it's been about three years since our last visit to a Smollensky's (pre blog) and we wondered how it would now seem. The website meanwhile notes Smollensky's is one of the great names in grill restaurants... [and] continues to operate with the same values that Smollensky's flagship restaurant... began with back in 1986...
1986 is a bit early even for us, but I do remember that visiting Smollensky's in the early nineties was still considered an exciting new thing to do for food and a night out. But back then, British food was really quite poor and an American based grill that cared about service and food could shake things up a little. Without doubt however, over those 20 years, food in the UK has been on an inexorable journey of improvement and whether you consider the competition to be Pitt Cue, Red Dog, Byron, Burger & Lobster, Goodman, Bodeans or even Bubbledogs, the formulas that worked in 1986 will need to be considerably updated if Smollensky's is to stand shoulder to shoulder with this new peer group. Sadly, for us today, it fell well short.
A starter of blackened shrimp with creole mayo and lemon wedge (yes, they advertise the lemon wedge on the menu) had no real impact leaving you to wonder if it contained any creole spices whatsoever. A crayfish and mango salad was nice enough, and pleasingly, the salad leaves were fresh and crisp, but a heavy hand on the Marie Rose sauce provided a challenge even for a sauce lover like me.
When the order for the burger was taken, we were asked 'how would you like it done?'. The right question, heaven, hope surges. But then when it was ordered medium rare, health and safety kicked in and we were told medium is as low as they go; hope plunges. The burger was better than expected (we now didn't expect much), but in playing the game 'if Goodman's burger is a 10, what is this on the naught to ten scale'; the answer was a four. Since there is a Goodman in Docklands just five minutes walk away, and a burger there costs £15, the question is actually important. A basic burger at Smollensky's costs £10.50 with £1.25 for each extra topping (including cheese) which means that this £13 burger is price comparable. The dip in quality versus a Goodman therefore is inadequately compensated by a lower price. Patty & Bun meanwhile price all their burgers below a tenner; enough said.
Our other main was the ribs. Among the problems here was that they had not been properly prepared. As About Barbecues & Grilling
says When cooking a rack of ribs, you want it limited to the actual bone section of the ribs. Well above the ribs is a section of meat filled with cartilage, little bones (the Chine bone) and connective tissue... you can also find it by looking for a long line of fat that runs lengthwise along the rack.
As well as lacking basic BBQ flavours (it relied heavily on the sauce for that), and being dry at times, there was simply too much fat and connective tissue for this to be anything other than disappointing.
It left us wondering what the point of Smollensky's now was because it still feels to us like it hasn't moved on from its historical recipe for success. Maybe that recipe still works well with the mainstream, maybe there's enough office parties from the surrounding Canary Wharf area to provide bums on seats, or maybe Canary Wharf stacked only with restaurant chains is itself still years behind the rest of London's food scene. Whatever the answer, we personally would struggle to find a good reason to return.
located in the heart of Canary Wharf
the dining room
crayfish and mango salad with Rose Marie sauce
Blackened shrimp with creole mayo and lemon wedge
BBQ rack of ribs
Unintentionally, it turned out to be burger week on the blog. If we had to name our three favourite burgers in London it would most likely be, in no particular order, Patty & Bun, Goodman and MEATliquor, though the Goodman burger is the odd one out here in our view as it is a more mature burger, both literally and figuratively, as the beef comes from aged steak off cuts of the very same beef used for steaks in the restaurant. The result is a high quality patty that gives much the same tastes sensation in the mouth as if you were indeed having a proper Goodman steak.
P&B and MEATliquor tend to be messier affairs, everything melted to a singularity under the bun whereas the Goodman burger is cleaner, with cheese delicately melted on top of the patty while the lettuce, full slice tomato, onion and pickle are then added politely (and easily removed if you want purity). Add your own ketchup/mayo as you like it at the table.
Eat the P&B burger and a little pool of fat and juices forms in the greaseproof paper in which it arrived; here there's a similarity for at Goodman, it too is so juicy it can get almost messy, but the bun does a remarkably good job absorbing the juices while holding its form until the last bite.
Having eaten at P&B the day before (and loved it), the Goodman burger too stands the test of multiple visits and each time I have it, it is only ever totally satisfying. This is the Rolls Royce end of the burger market, a big bruiser of a patty, itself the best beef money can buy, and while a little pricier than P&B or MEATliquor, it's very clear where the money goes, and it's still cheaper than sister restaurant Burger & Lobster. In short, resampling the Goodman burger head to head with P&B, I love both, different burgers for different days. If you haven't had one yet, well, you're missing out.
the glorious cheeseburger
Olly Bird, exec chef, Goodman
Our experiences at Hix's restaurants during our blogging years have not always been good, so as well as being a former tram shed, today's venue takes on the role of last chance saloon also. We already know the concept, basically steak and chicken, so we're fine with the format, and we know about the room and its imposing Damien Hirst centrepiece, but is there substance behind it? And, given our previous experiences, would service let them down even if the food is good enough?
Front of house was personable and while it felt like they could have been sharper in servicing the table, as we've said endless times on this blog, a smile goes a long way and so the overall friendliness of their approach left us happy with our time in their hands. One small negative with the environment however is just how close the tables are together, such that the back of your chair is often touching the one behind and personal space too often feels encroached upon.
Starters were the weak link of the meal. There's no choice here (which we knew) but instead, a trio of starters is brought out that is scaled to the size of the order. There is Hix's 'famous' fish fingers, which should have come out of the pan a little earlier, a beetroot salad, which was exactly as it says, but most disappointingly, a Yorkshire Pudding that despite having risen nicely from the pot, was still so dense, chewing was difficult and so dry, even the cauliflower purée it came with barely made it edible.
fish fingers (one each)
Yorkshire pudding and cauliflower purée
Things picked up with the main course. With three at the table, we ordered one large chicken (for 2 - 3 people, smaller chickens for one are also available, and a mid size steak to share. The chicken arrives at the table looking as if it is trying to do a headstand in a bowl of chips and the full leg to foot is left on for theatre. They subsequently offer to carve it for you at the table to make life easier. If this was the sole main course divided between three people you would in our view feel somewhat hungry after as it's not a big chicken, but pleasingly, it is a quality chicken and offered real flavour in the meat as well as a good crispy skin so making it as good a roast chicken as we've yet found in a restaurant. Chips (fries) were decent and the dish came with a pot of gravy so in total leaving us very happy with the chicken part.
Large chicken main with chips
Providing a little less theatre, they offer to slice up the steak too when it arrives at the table, and it too comes with chips with the addition of a bearnaise sauce. We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by how good the steak was and with a moreish bearnaise, overall, we're delighted with the mains. The Tramshed website talks about the steak being dry aged in a Himalayan Salt Chamber for five weeks where 'negative ions from the salt counteract positive ions from the meat' and is sufficiently aware that this sounds a little too close to feng shui to add 'there is a lot of science and technique behind this totally natural process'. Regardless, we really enjoyed the mains and had just a small amount of food left over for which a take home bag was provided allowing us to remember again the next day how good the steak was.
It's the first time we've left a Hix restaurant thinking that a return there is almost inevitable, though our plan of attack on our next visit would be to ignore the so-so starters and go straight to the excellent main courses, again ordering both chicken and the beef. And with the room too quite something, especially the Hirst centrepiece (regardless of whether you like it or not), if you're entertaining friends from out of town, the experience has a sufficient wow factor to leave the restaurant a talking point for some time after. Third time lucky then for a Hix restaurant on this blog.Return to homepage
PreviouslyHix Oyster & Chop House
Hawksmoor's new offerings just keep getting bigger and their fourth restaurant, off Regent Street, seats around 250 people; just to see it is somewhat mind blowing, especially when you think that MASH
has also opened a 350 cover steak restaurant two minutes walk away. Meat eating Londoners, it would seem, have never had it so good. Throw in for good measure an additional couple of hundred seats at Brasserie Zedel
, also close by, and the area around Piccadilly Circus has become the behemoth restaurant epicentre of London.
But while several prominent reviews have already lavished praise on the new Hawksmoor (and indeed my steak at Hawksmoor Guildhall just two weeks ago was, as documented in this blog
, divine), our meal at the new Air Street branch ranged from lacklustre to sadly disappointing. On a table of three, including a prominent chef, we were all in agreement on this.
Key to the failure here was the steak, the very thing that I had loved most about my previous Hawksmoor experience. While the words 'juicy' and 'steak' are essentially bedfellows in the English language, on this occasion, they appeared to have fallen out and be sleeping in separate rooms. Our ribeye steaks (x3 medium rare), while having good flavour, simply lacked the normal juices you'd expect in a quality piece of meat, making the steaks feel dry in the mouth and hard to chew, requiring a good dollop of an accompanying sauce to stand in as a substitute; that is simply wrong.
The more I thought about this however, the triumph of taste at Guildhall, and the down in the dumps experience at Air Street, the more it made me believe that the answer most probably lay in the mathematical concept of 'variance', or what could be described as 'how far things are spread out'. Hawksmoor, through its four restaurants, has around 600 covers in total I'd guess, so serving potentially 1,200 people every day. In turn, they might serve up to 7,000 steaks in a week equating to around three thousand kilos of beef.
The 'average' steak at Hawksmoor is probably, generally, brilliant, but with numbers served so huge, over the course of any week, there will likely be material variation around that average: some steaks perfect (and perfectly cooked), some closer to duds. And while it might not be the case here, logically, the bigger the restaurant, the greater the risk that the average declines, while at the same time, the variance increases as consistent quality becomes more difficult to control.
On our main course, the triple cooked chips seemed stale, the Stilton hollandaise appeared to be a sauce with only trace elements of Stilton, and the steak, as noted, was simply hard work. Maybe it was variance, maybe we got unlucky by eating on a Monday, or maybe it's still too early for such a mega-restaurant to have properly found its feet. The unthinkable is that Hawksmoor has now grown simply too big to deliver the quality it did when it was a single and phenomenal steakhouse just three years ago. Whatever the answer, our meal here was, sadly, underwhelming from start to finish.
(a small part of) the dining room
potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires
Fried rock oysters
Tamworth belly ribs
Grilled bone marrow
Peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice ream
Hawksmoor Jaffa Cake, chocolate, orange & hazelnut
In a game of food-word association, if I said Danish, you might say 'pastry', or perhaps 'bacon', but few I would guess would venture 'steak-house' as their reply. But here we are, Denmark's leading steakhouse house company has opened a 300 cover restaurant in the subterranean space next door to Brasserie Zedel just off Piccadilly Circus.
The name MASH, rather than referring to their love of potatoes done in a certain style, is rather an acronym for Modern American Steak House, and the group behind MASH already operate four similar steak houses under this brand in Denmark. At the time of writing, the restaurant has been open less than a week and we're taking advantage of a 50% off food soft opening offer. While there were one or two service hiccups, nothing major, and overall, for a restaurant open less than a week, it was a pretty good showing by the team. Staff are enthusiastic and attentive and keen for genuine feedback on the operation; many are over from Denmark temporarily to oversee the launch with some even permanently.
glass cases of hanging beef line the dining room
Much of the room is in an art deco style with columns and lighting, while furniture serves up red leather seating and dark wood tables. Given that Goodman were similarly non American aiming for the American steakhouse look, there's some overlap in design, which also extends to the glass walled beef ageing room, though here, it is more of a design feature because with 300 covers (plus another 50 at the bar), they would get through the displayed beef in a single service I would imagine.
the dining room (well, a small part of)
We start off with the MASH hamburger, which comes with chilli fries. On ordering, there's a little confusion by the waitress of how they're able to cook the burger (not medium rare it seems), she suggests rare is possible but we think she meant well. We chalk that to soft opening credit.
The burger is a little underwhelming when it arrives, the bun strangely flat, giving it the appearance of a well filled panini; the density of the bun also doesn't really suit. The patty itself is quite nice, the usual fillers on top and well melted cheese all positives, but we ended up saying overall: this burger would be quite nice at... a stadium... a high street fast food joint... a motorway service station. It is simply not however the quality of a Goodman/Hawksmoor burger that presumably MASH must see as their natural competition. Maybe this is how burgers are in Denmark.
Burger & chilli fries
But it's the steaks that MASH will thrive or die by, so what have we got? There's basically four country offerings: Uruguay (NY Strip, Ribeye, Fillet), Danish dry aged (sirloin, ribeye, long bone ribeye), American (various) and an Australian Wagyu. Interestingly then, no British beef. I think that might be part of their USP, after all, why be a Danish steak house and do exactly what Hawksmoor are doing with their Yorkshire Longhorns.
The Danish beef is dry aged for 70 days and we opt for the Long Bone Ribeye (500g with bone) which is priced normally at £42. Given the 50% discount for soft opening, we also try the Australin Wagyu (200g) which normally is 'reasonably' priced at £50: CUT at 45 Park Lane for this charge £82 for 6oz (170g).
Sharing the two steaks between us, it comes to the table in a pan and both are carved at the table. The Wagyu is so juicy it's like chewing a wine gum, it almost bursts in your mouth. So pretty good and perfectly cooked, but generally we have a preference for dry aged beef. Here the Danish steak is decent, somewhat under seasoned and a pinch of salt added at the table improved it no end. But is it an improvement on British beef though? For us the answer is no, so while good, the most recent ribeye steak we've enjoyed (British beef at Hawksmoor) was in my view better.
bone in ribeye and Australian Wagyu
There's chilli fries that come with the hamburger and twice cooked chips but the chips we didn't like. Dry and without charm, we left them almost in their entirety. This I'm sure will be changed in due course when customer feedback is taken on board.
A side of Caesar salad was uninspiring.
The macaroni and cheese however was very good indeed and we were chasing the last of the macaroni around the bowl. This was the best of the sides we tried.
macaroni and cheese
The regular price of desserts at £10 seems somewhat expensive. Both follow the same formula, a slab of cake paired with ice cream on biscuit crumb. The chocolate dessert, while rich, was not actually that satisfying with the expected intensity from the chocolate absent. Cheesecake was better however but prices do seem too much for a reasonably basic offering.
chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream
MASH cheesecake with raspberry sorbet
With MASH so ridiculously large, even with seating for 300, there's plenty of space. Tables are large and comfortably situated so you don't have to listen to other people's conversations which we also liked. What was really nice (on our visit at least) is that with the restaurant not full, tables that could accommodate four people were laid up for two so you even have a lot of physical table space.
MASH is a good restaurant and they will undoubtedly do well, though filling something so large night after night will test even London's appetite for steaks surely. Admitting too that this is the soft opening, some things will change in time (let's hope it's the chips), though the beef, surrounds and service are good enough to justify this being a quality steakhouse. But in our opinion, the overall offering falls a little short of the market leaders who offer, quite frankly, an experience that would be hard to improve on. MASH might get there in time, but they have a little way to go.
Joseph Stalin, not usually noted for his wit, is reported to have said that the punishment for the crime of bigamy is two mother in laws. While we have certainly enjoyed Hawksmoor from the early days of the blog, we have over the past year become somewhat wedded to Goodman. However, today I again found myself in Hawksmoor (Guildhall branch) and the ribeye steak there was simply superb, as good as any. I fear that I have become a steakhouse bigamist.
Despite recent City redundancies, the Guildhall branch was effectively 100% full for a mid week lunch service and the room buoyant with suits, almost hard to fathom in current times. Tangential to this however, the acoustics are terrible and the noise levels made a regular conversation so difficult you had to lean in to your guest to hear what was being said: that is my sole criticism of the lunch.
It's a mostly similar menu to the other Hawksmoor outlets and it looks appealing in its entirety, with bone marrow, pork belly, and potted beef & bacon with Yorkshires being starters that would all go down exceedingly well, but alas, today, there was no time for long lunches, so straight on to the main event.
My friend and I were of the same mind, a medium rare ribeye with the stilton hollandaise, and to avoid having to choose between beef dripping chips or triple cooked, we took one of each. The cattle breed here is the Yorkshire longhorn and I can't fault the steak in any respect, I think it was a close to perfect as steak gets. It's a steak you end up longing for and almost uniquely memorable.
Which of the chips you prefer is purely a matter of personal preference, though we were again agreed, the skinnier beef dripping chips came out on top having taken on the fatty umami flavour of the dripping, but the fuller figured triple cooked chips were still very good and great for mopping up steak juices or left over stilton hollandaise.
Hawksmoor and Goodman are, in our opinion, the two very best steakhouses in London (and the UK) by some margin. Previously however I considered them like Coke and Pepsi, you strongly leaned towards one or the other, and we have, as noted, leaned towards Goodman. But unable to fault the steak here today, I find myself loving them both, so becoming a steakhouse bigamist no less. And the 'punishment' for steakhouse bigamy being what? Twice as much steak I guess; tasting as good as it did today, then bring it on.
the (somewhat loud) dining room
beef dripping chips
It's a monster drive from Baddidarroch to Edinburgh but I admit it feels good to have the car pointing South again. A last minute change of plan has given us a two night stay in Edinburgh and we both agreed on how to use our new found free evening: steak night. But asking Twitter where to get a good steak in Edinburgh, there was no real consensus. Kyloe was suggested by some and on checking the website it proclaimed itself as 'Edinburgh's first gourmet steak restaurant'. Well, I'm sold then, Kyloe it is.
Located at the end of Princes Street in the Rutland Hotel, Kyloe has taken the steak theme to heart with cow hide seating and, if you like cows, amusing artwork on the wall. Indeed, no one can accuse Kyloe of taking itself too seriously, there's half a cow poking out of the façade of the building while the other half, the rear, protrudes its rump into the dining room. Staff meanwhile excelled in delivering friendly approachable service and made us feel most welcome; everybody smiled too, which can only make the experience more enjoyable. The post dinner comment card invites you to 'fillet in' so this is very much a place where you can let your hair down and have a good time.
The menu is a touch above many steakhouses in the cuts they offer that include amongst others Bavette, Onglet and Feather steak as well as the usual rumps, sirloins, fillets and T-bones, while ingredients are largely, possibly entirely Scottish. The beef is Angus, dry aged 21 days for the most part, though there's a rump steak available that's 45 day aged.
Of course, the challenge they are going to face is in comparison: our home territory of London is now blessed with many a great steak house, and it will be impossible not to compare. That said, prices at Kyloe are somewhat cheaper than what you are now paying in London for the same fare and this needs to be taken in to account.
outside the restaurant
Starters offer a number of decent options and despite scallop overload, Kyloe's offering of Shetland scallops with braised baby gem lettuce, bacon lardons, peas and onions actually sounds reasonably good, but I can't. Local oysters and seafood cocktail are not enough of a test but lobster tempura sounds ideal. When it arrives, it's pretty good, the lobster, from down the road at North Berwick (home of The Lobster Shack
) is of course good as Scottish lobster always is, and the ginger dressing adds a nice tang. If there's a criticism, it's that the batter is just a little soft.
Lobster tempura: North Berwick lobster, pickled vegetables, soy & ginger dipping sauce
Spoiled for choice on the steaks then, but a T-bone is not so often seen on menus, such that I couldn't resist (500grm, £32). Accompanying this were skinny fries and a red wine and Stilton sauce. It was pretty good, my dining companion certainly enjoyed his steak with no complaints. I'd note two things where I thought things could though be a little better: first seasoning, this should have been a lot bolder to really bring out the flavours. Second, possibly being picky here, but it felt that a higher temperature grill would impart a significantly enhanced char to the meat whereas in fact there was little by way of char at all here; I wonder if the charcoal burning Jospers in London have conditioned me towards that extra little bit of smokiness too that's imparted to the meat during cooking. Not to get carried away however, I did enjoy it.
T bone steak
and skinny fries
With a decent house red (£20) and sides hardly costing the earth (£2.50 for most) a full house when we were there testifies to local popularity. Lucky enough to have eaten at London's best however, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that there's a gap in quality between the two, for there is. Kyloe might not care for London is not exactly close by (and so a substitute product), and Kyloe's prices are lower, so if the question is value, the waters are muddied. Relevance can therefore be debated but Kyloe are actually very close to delivering Edinburgh a truly great steak house, they just have to take the final step, but that of course is only if they want to, business is doing just fine as is.
Previously we visited The Albannach
Next stop: Castle TerraceLocation map for Kyloe
In our previous post on Smiths of Smithfield
, we ate in the more casual second floor dining room but for today we took the lift to the top floor for Smith's high end steak offering. On both occasions of our visit to Smiths, we were meeting friends and I have always found Smiths to be good for bringing people together. Indeed, I've been dining on and off at Smiths for more than 10 years now and never have I had anything less than a good time there. But with competition for steaks in London having really increased in recent years ranging from Goodman
to Cut on Park Lane
, how would Smiths fare?
What's great about the top floor at Smiths is how light and airy the dining room is. With windows on two sides and an outside balcony for when the weather is a little nicer, you nest comfortably above the City with an ever improving view of London's developing skyline taking in Smithfield market, the Barbican, the City and the Shard.
The menu is mostly how I remember it though reading a touch funkier these days, but importantly, the steaks are still centre place. I've said before that the holy trinity of steak descriptions has to be country/county of origin, breed of cow and the days aged, and typically the menu at Smiths reads: Hereford Rump, 63 days Dry aged on the bone from Rg Tamblin, Liskeard Cornwall. I like that level of detail. With it too of course comes cost and you should expect to pay around £35 for a steak, prices broadly in line with Goodman.
One small quirk is that when the bread arrives, for a table of three, there's only three individual rolls, each different. Last person to the bread plate then effectively gets what's left, no choice. Butter too comes in a modest portion. For a top end dining establishment, it's a little behind the times here (at Roganic
, three varieties of roll are delivered for each guests; three guests means nine rolls).
The three starters ordered are dressed crab, mackerel and squid. It's been a little while since I ate here last and the kitchen is upping the ante on both presentation and innovation, the crab coming with apple jelly and avocado ice cream while presented on pebbles with edible bread crumb sand. Not my dish and nor did I get to taste it as my friend deemed it too good to share.
My order was for the mackerel and here there was a lot going on with the plate but in a good way, enough to keep my interest rather than it being overly busy without reason. As well as the mackerel fillets there's a gorgeous mackerel pate in a beetroot jelly and more beetroot in other presentations. It's a good and generous starter. Only the squid was a modest let down: nicely cooked it provided an enjoyable first few bites but insufficient variety on the plate however soon led to waning interest.
the dining room looks out over the famous market, and here, the Barbican and the City
the dining room
bread for three was an odd misstep
dressed crab with apple and avocado
squid with green chilli and coriander
mackerel seared, smoked pate, tarragon, candy beetroot
There was never any doubt about what form the main course would take but what exactly to order kept us in lively discussion. We eventually settled on a 63 day aged on the bone Hereford rump steak (Cornwall), and the 'for two to share' 28 days aged bone in ribeye (Devon) with everything to be shared by the table. For sides, we sampled the thin chips, the fat chips, the mash and several of the sauces.
Critically then, how did the steaks fare? Very well. We spent some time later that day discussing them and we all agreed they were very good indeed and any quibbling on the meat was mostly splitting hairs by people lucky enough to have eaten in too many places. We debated the merits of Josper cooking (Smiths does not we believe use one) and the extent to which that impacts the flavour but the bottom line is we all thoroughly enjoyed what was set in front of us.
The chips were good too both thin and fat. The thin chips looked a little pale but were in fact great to eat, and the fat chips were excellent for scooping up the bearnaise and Stilton sauces. For the mash, a heavier hand with the butter would have lifted it considerably and elevate it from the 'too close to what you can make at home' variety presented.
Overall however, all three of us were happy diners.
rump (foreground) and ribeye behind
Fat chips and mash
By the time we got to desserts, the kitchen was really letting its hair down and they delivered something of a wow moment taking us totally by surprise. It was my chocolate ganache that stole the show being something like 18 inches of chocolate loveliness winding its way down the plate. Accordingly, it became almost a journey starting at one end of the plate and systematically eating to the other, with different elements changing the tasting scenery along the way. There's a couple of ice creams including lime and mint, some chocolate crumble for texture, there's avocado jelly and even some basil gel. It made for a really fun dessert and Smiths are to be applauded in my view for pushing the boat out here and making it fun as well as tasty.
chocolate tart and strawberry
coffee and petit fours
The top floor at Smiths has kept true to its traditional core proposition of offering great steaks in a top end dining environment but I like the fact that either side of this with the starters and especially desserts, they are willing to push their own identity into the food. To that extent, Smiths is recognisably the same restaurant as it was in my previous visits but it has also moved forward to make the food just that little bit more exciting, even picking up on (but not over doing) a number of prevailing food trends.
Our criteria then going in to today was to enjoy great steaks with friends in a convivial environment, and Smiths fully delivered on that for us. What's more, they showed us they had a few new tricks up their sleeve too. The result: everybody left happy. What more can we ask? Return to homepage
Not much imagination went into naming 34, its address is 34 Grosvenor Square; such lack of creative facility does not bode well. And the address itself? Well, that too sends a message, for as one London guide says:From its earliest days Grosvenor Square attracted residents of high social status, over half of whom, until well into the 20th century, were people of title. The square has never deteriorated socially.
Are commoners even allowed? Finally, as part of Caprice Holdings Ltd, a group that includes Scott's
less than five minutes walk away where hedge fund managers being seen and being rich seemed to us on our visit there more important than the food served, are we simply in the wrong place to get a good meal?
Fortunately, the answer is no and the best part about 34 is indeed the food. We're pleased to say that 34 is much closer to the wonderful Le Caprice
rather than Scott's, leaving us happy customers indeed.
As you will have already surmised by now, 34 is the kind of restaurant that takes bookings, is the kind of restaurant that has table cloths, is not the kind of restaurant that does sharing plates and is most certainly not the kind where the service staff have tattoos. Simply put, it's the opposite of everything currently trending in restaurant world right now, brave in itself. This alone however is not what endeared 34 to us.
What is also good about 34 (goodness that name nevertheless seems awkward each time I type it) is that it does not carry the airs and graces that you might expect of a Grosvenor Square restaurant. Unlike Scott's, a cover charge was not appended to our bill, the camera did not have staff lathering at the mouth for fear that 'celebrity diners' were being papp'ed, and staff did not appear to have, excuse the expression, a stick up their arse generally. It certainly made the whole experience more enjoyable.
We had heard that 34 was basically a steak restaurant but that is incorrect. Steaks are important for them, more of that shortly, but the menu covers a wider range and the website describes them as 'a meat, game and seafood restaurant'.
Being a 'special' meal for us, we pushed the boat out a little also starting with caviar and a glass champagne, though here they forgot to bring us the champagne and needed a second prompt. One might even take this as endearing for in most other restaurants of this calibre, champagne on arrival is an automatic hard sell on arrival. Given the wine list here, the champagne and caviar combo work out at about the same cost as a middling bottle of Bordeaux, which we passed on, so let's call it even.
Starters are a little of what you expect and a few surprises. There's crab, scallops and shrimp, but there's also mixed sashimi, and fried courgette flower. There's a range of salads too, which we explored with a good old fashioned Caesar and a somewhat more innovative deep fried duck egg, spiced figs, crispy duck tongues salad. This latter dish we thought might pose a risk, we've had duck tongues before but served up by Simon Rogan which is a different matter entirely, what would they make of them here? Actually, they did well. The fried duck tongues bared more than a passing resemblance to pork scratchings though were less jaw breaking so overall pretty good, and the egg nicely delivered up its runny bounty in a crisp shell so again no complaints. The figs gave yet further texture but didn't do too much on flavour, but it's a good starter ahead of steak and I'd happily eat it again.
deep fried duck egg, spiced figs, crispy duck tongues
One 'fat-boy' main and something more reserved also. Steak tartare was first rate, boldly seasoned, as everything here seems to be (something we welcome) but additional condiments are brought to the table in case you want a little more kick; that seems relatively thoughtful.
On steaks, there's a choice of Scottish beef, USDA, Australian wagyu or Argentinian, all aged 28 days, a focus on ribeye and sirloin though other cuts are also available. Prices run about a 10-20% premium to Goodman though not too much of a surprise there. Stated as cooked on an Argentinean parrilla, it was a very good steak, perfectly cooked, great char, good taste leaving me very satisfied with my choice. We were told that the kitchen were out of 'fries' and we agreed that 'chips' would be okay, and okay but nothing more is a good description as these seemed more like plump fries than thick cut chips; maybe their fries are extra skinny when available.
Scottish bone in ribeye
chips not fries
Desserts were a step up from the old English puds offered at the likes of Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse
with plenty of interest. The Fleur de Sel chocolate bounty bombe, a chocolate sphere with coconut ice cream has literally hit a sweet spot with other reviewers but we opted for the Peanut butter crunch bar, a sophisticated Reese peanut butter cup with extras which was a better dessert than many a restaurant manages to offer.
Even ice cream flavours offered something extra with Turkish Delight, Popcorn and Crème brulee amongst others changing up a gear from the norm.
Peanut butter crunch bar
34? We still think they could do better on the name though maybe 34 was also how many seconds they took to think of it and considered that a serendipitous outcome. Prices, well, it's Grosvenor Square and the rent has to be paid. But the place overall offers something unexpected, that is, a more or less relaxed but professional environment with good food, and little complacency given their location. And open 7 days a week, all day, which is fabulous (getting a good meal even in central London on a Sunday is not as easy as it sounds), we would be more than happy to return.Return to homepage
Related links34 website
Want to sit outside while you have a great meal? London's not exactly the al fresco capital of the world but at Canary Wharf, where rents are a fraction of the West End and where its new build status means that pavements are closer promenades, many a restaurant has outside space to allow diners to enjoy the glorious British summer. That said, few Canary Wharf restaurants lay on show stopping meals but one that always does is Goodman.
Last time we ate at Canary Wharf, a bloody great big boat was moored right in front of the restaurant, much to the chagrin of the Goodman's management. Well that boat has gone now... to be replaced by an even bigger boat, a floating 5 star hotel. But instead of lamenting this turn of events, the boat show that is now South Quay at Canary Wharf is in fact another reason to visit if you have even a passing interest in mega-yachts, for there is something truly spectacular on display.
Yes, we will come on to food eventually but part of the fun of Goodman CW is to sit outside and watch the world go by and, with the Olympics in town, so are the world's wealthiest people. Accordingly, billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has his 414 feet yacht 'Octopus' parked up here and it is quite the spectacle. It's the world's 12th largest yacht and the 5th largest owned by an individual. It has two helicopters, two submarines, seven tenders, a basketball court and a swimming pool. If you're interested in owning one, the price tag is a cool $200million.
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to that but for an hour or two you want to eat like a king, you can become Paul Allen's neighbour by pulling up a table at Goodman. Everyone knows the Goodman offering by now but there's a few new things at Canary Wharf so we thought we'd check them out.
On the starters, there is now soft Shell Crab with Lime Japanese Mayonnaise on the menu which was excellent and is not available at the other Goodman outlets. There's also Burrata, Chorizo, Crsipy Olive Bread with Vine Cherry Tomatoes which is in many ways a perfect summer starter with great flavours in all ingredients but especially a lovely sweet acidity delivered by the tomatoes.
On the beef front, Goodman are trialling the Delmonico steak (US corn fed), which is a close cut to the ribeye. Given the huge amount of fat running through the Delmonico, it is very much a guilty pleasure. We also tried the new side of Oven Roasted White Onions which came in a significant quantity (order no more than one for the table) and offered up a delicious caramelised sweetness. And of course we couldn't resist some beef from the home shores, our perennial favourite, Belted Galloway from the Cumbria region.
Paul Allen's $200million Octopus
soft shell crab
Burrata, chorizo, olive oil crispy bread, vine cherry tomatoes
Before: the Delmonico (left) and the Belted Galloway Porterhouse (right)
oven roasted onions
We always enjoy our meals at Goodman and when we want to eat out and guarantee ourselves a good meal, well, we can't really go wrong in our choice here. The Canary Wharf branch nicely provides an additional option to Mayfair or the City branch, and, as we observed last time, the Goodman DNA double helix of fine food and welcoming hospitality is fully present. Co managers Jessica and Giovanni do a first class job in looking after their guests.
Canary Wharf (in every sense) knows it's not Mayfair, but it does offer lots that Mayfair doesn't. With the sun finally shining, it offers the chance to sit outside, watch passers by, and gawp at Paul Allen's mega-yacht. Mayfair or Canary Wharf however, the food is always the same: simply fantastic. Return to homepage