Being just a stone's throw from One New Change, the stealth like shopping centre that hosts Jamie's disappointing Barbecoa and shortly, a new Gordon Ramsay outlet, it seems like restaurateurs have re-discovered the City pound. To be fair, The City has not been entirely without good restaurants let alone steakhouses: for those in the east, there has been Hawksmoor (Spitalfields) which we rate as excellent as well as Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse (not yet tried), and for City workers everywhere, multiple branches of the chain Gaucho where to be fair, we've enjoyed some good meals.
But when it comes to the title of best steakhouse not just in The City but in London, who is the winner? Given our experience to date, it is in our view a close run thing between Hawksmoor and Goodman with.... Goodman inching ahead to take the title. Both places share similar characteristics including a comfortable eating environment, friendly staff and great tasting food but Goodman delivered for us today a small but perceptibly better experience overall. Among the many caveats that must be applied to this most personal of opinions is that we need to eat at Goodman several more times before we can make any comments on consistency for today was our first visit; we do however very much look forward to ticking that particular box.
So where shall we start? First, the venue itself offers spacious and comfortable dining in what could probably best be described as a classic but classy steakhouse style: dark wood panels, dark wood tables, brown leather chairs etc. And on a minor table point, they also had decent red wine glasses in which to serve decent wine (which is not true of all of their rivals).
The staff too were excellent. Our waitress, Rachel, was friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic and added another layer of engagement to the meal. General Manager James Gannon was wonderfully welcoming while Head Chef Olly generously gave us his time to talk about the 'Goodman way' and even allowed us to poke our head into the dry ageing room - a sort of beefy paradise, heaven for beef eating foodies, hell for veggies no doubt.
We also were shown the Josper oven where at temperatures between 400-800 degrees, the steaks are turned every 30 seconds to keep the juices inside. Olly tells us that it takes six months to fully train staff in its proficient use; we're not surprised. Just standing in front of it it, the heat is fierce but the promise of a good steak is almost tangible in that smoky heat.
The tiger prawns tempura (with mango, avocado and Cajun mayonnaise) were also fabulous, a light crisp batter coating a crisp succulent prawn. Calamari was good but didn't hit quite the same highs as the previous two seafood starters.
The slow cooked pork belly was interesting. Having been marinated with apple before being slow cooked, the flavours were right there but it had dried out a little giving us mixed feelings but ultimately meaning that the dish fell short.
Comparing all three, it was the bone in UK steaks we preferred, possessing as they did a more intense flavour, a reflection of the dry ageing process that concentrates the flavours into meat sealed on one side by bone and on the other, a layer of fat. To be fair, they were all good and it wasn't the case that had we ordered individual plates rather than shared, anyone going for the USDA steak would have major envy, they wouldn't, but the bone in was better in our view. Between the Belted Galloway and O'Shea's? Very little to choose between, both superb.
Sauces of Bearnaise, Pepper or Stilton were all good but a deep flavoured and appropriately sharp Bearnaise was the star here. Chips were crispy soft and moreish while a side of spinach creamed with Gruyere cheese was again, right up there with the best of its kind.
Overall, the main course steaks, sides and sauces were a huge hit.
Hawksmoor and Goodman are sufficiently close to make it a matter of preference in choosing between the two. If Goodman can deliver on consistent quality (and there's no reason to doubt them here), then for us at least, we have a new go-to steakhouse. Goodman, stand up and take a bow.
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