Looking at the website for Sophie's before my visit in order to book a table, I discover that it is a no bookings restaurant (silent scream). Only when I read that the restaurant seats 220 do I cease to care for a table surely seems guaranteed. Also catching my eye is the boast that 'our giant martini's (sic) are legendary' - so many things to worry about in so few words. The menu too is reasonably extensive which might or might not be a good thing.
Entering the restaurant, it is pretty huge, and despite my visit running in to late (Sunday) afternoon, the restaurant remained impressively full, with new customers still coming through the door at 3pm. Menus are in large card format though mine was dog-eared in the corners and marked with both biro and some food stains. It probably should have been in the bin rather than given to customers. For pre lunch drinks we ordered G&Ts but were not asked if we wanted water or given a wine list - perhaps they don't have one. Napkins are of the light paper tissue variety and seated three tables from the door, mine wafted on to the floor each time the door was opened. Tables generally are also quite close and the (normal sized) waiter couldn't squeeze between ours and the one behind us without banging my chair which became a little tiresome.
On food, couldn't really resist seeing what they would do with 'Traditional prawn cocktail' while my friend asked for a green salad with the dressing on the side. The prawn cocktail was entirely as described, ie, traditional, though to be fair, was actually fine enough in being what it was. The large prawn on the side (a nod to the avant-garde perhaps?) nevertheless came shell on and with no finger bowl provided, left my fingers smelling of prawn for the rest of the meal. The green salad was fresh and fine.
For me, with an extensive range of main courses offered, I felt in some way spoiled for choice though I was here for the steak challenge so I thought I'd better. Now, assuming that the cut of beef is a given, Goodman et al have raised the game several steps further by providing the holy trinity of description: country of origin (especially USDA versus other), the breed of cow (always welcome to see Belted Galloway on the board) and how many days aged the beef is (28 or perhaps 60 day). On the menu, I spotted none of this; on looking at the website later, I note they say 'Great British Dry Aged Steaks) so maybe this was somewhere on the menu and I missed it, but for a restaurant that wants to offer the best steaks, in London, it's a glaring shortfall unless the beef really does do the talking.
I opted for a bone in sirloin medium rare. It came with a strong char on the outside, cooked about right inside, but overall, failed to leave an impression on me. If I had never had a Goodman steak, maybe I'd be saying something different but I have. 28 day aged Belted Galloway from Goodman is in my view the gold standard and if they want to trump the competition, a better quality steak is needed, it's as simple as that. Sauces are not offered at the time of ordering, and again, while not clear from the menu, it actually came with bearnaise which was in fact quite good. A bottle of Sophie's steak sauce was also brought to the table (not tried). A hastily ordered glass of red wine came in a funny little glass that basically said "we're used to breakages and this glass is either too tough or too cheap for us to worry".
Situated in the heart of theatre land/Covent Garden, the location is perfect for visitors to the capital. Furthermore, for what most will want pre/post theatre, visitors will come away happy with their choice. However, from giant Martinis to the dog-eared card menu, everything here suggests boisterous youthful restaurant rather than top end steakhouse. It is therefore what it is, and as the old expression goes, 'you pays your money and you takes your choice'. Personally, I'd rather dig a little deeper and go to Goodman who do actually do (in our opinion) the best steaks in London.
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Sophie's Steakhouse website