There are no blog posts for MPW Steak & Alehouse as recorded by Urbanspoon but there is a review by Jay Rayner from around the time it opened in 2009: Rayner absolutely hated it. Almost three years to the day since he wrote that review, much that Rayner hated about the place remains intact from the picture of a youthful Marco on the back of the menu to the kipper & whisky pate, still on the menu.
I didn't hate it like Rayner did, rather, I found some things to be rather good and some things to be terrible; where to start?
First off, I should mention that this is the City branch of his steakhouse, there's a King's Road branch too the website informs me. Despite being in the City however, it unusually opens for dinner on Saturdays and Sundays which is a plus and my visit was a walk in early and solo Saturday dinner.
What initially annoyed me is that the menu on the wall outside showed a 3 course fixed price menu (£21.50) which said was available (amongst other times) between 5:30 - 7pm, the time of my visit. I was resolved to have this but when given the menus (1x food, 1 x wine, 1x cocktail) at my table, the fixed price menu didn't seem available resulting in me ordering from the a la carte. I checked the outside board again on leaving the restaurant and only then read at the bottom that this menu was available 'on request' which seemed a little cynical on their part.
I liked the greeting on the door which was warm and friendly and most of the staff also seemed that way. I liked the fact that my glass of tap water was topped up every time it got low but less good, when I asked if the steaks were 'aged', the waitress told me that 'no, they are delivered fresh every day'. The website later informs me they are 21 days aged. Partial redemption however, she did know that they are supplied by Donald Russell butchers which cheered me up a little. Another negative, the music was excessively loud and was a 60s/70s soft rock compilation which was less appealing.
The most adventurous starter of the menu, mackerel and whisky, was so detested by Jay Rayner I simply have to avoid it, but in doing so, am forced into the realms of the also rans; I chose the prawn cocktail. Prices seem expensive with starters in the £9 - £16 range, the prawn cocktail is priced at £12.50.
It was actually quite good however. First off, they avoided drenching it in sauce so that other components could be tasted, some coriander with the lettuce provided a little kick while the prawns were sufficiently meaty king prawns that they needed to be sliced to fit in the glass. I was heartened by this.
For the main, it was a medium rare rib-eye, bearnaise sauce and a side of triple cooked chips.The steak was quite good, had flavour and was cooked as medium rare should be; I'm pretty pleased with it. The triple cooked chips were also good. These were chunky chips, not skinny fries and here, the triple cooked aspect delivered on the promise, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. I've been losing my faith in triple cooked chips recently but this has gone some way to restoring it. Finally, the bearnaise sauce: sadly, this was one of the most bland bearnaise sauces I have ever tasted, worse than bland it was horrible, with only a sickly butter taste coming though.
Food cost for the three courses was £48 before service, so £54 with, broadly a fair price overall. Doing a quick price comparison on one thing that is as like for like that you get on the menus, Goodman charge £28 for a 250g fillet steak, Hawksmoor £32 for 300g steak while at MPW Steak & Alehouse, an 10oz fillet (284g) is £35. That puts MPW about 15% more expensive than its two key rivals but other cuts could be more in line.
My preconceptions of the restaurant ahead of eating there was that it would be cynically expensive and somewhat low quality. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised, though that doesn't extend far enough to displace Goodman as my favourite steakhouse in the City where everything is spot on every time and they know exactly how many days aged their beef is. MPW does however open on weekends whereas Goodman and Hawksmoor (Guildhall) do not which today was important.
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