“Steak is the ultimate comfort food,” once said Tom Colicchio. “Becoming a vegetarian is a big missed steak,” said someone else. Whatever your stance is on a heavy chunk of beef, there’s no denying it’s one of Britain’s best loved dishes. Yet as popular as steak may be, and for all the restaurants in London, it happens to be all too difficult in finding a particularly good cut of beef.
That is, unless you’ve come across Seven Dials’ Hawksmoor. The menu is somewhat limited, with succulent sea bream and luscious lobster, but people who come here only ever really come for one thing – the steak. “The flesh is rosy pink and full of flavour,” says The Independent, while Time Out bestowed its ‘best new restaurant’ award on the steakhouse in 2011.
credit: Ewan Munro
Their secret? Simply put, it’s local beef. Hawksmoor have scouted the likes of Argentina, Texas, Japan and Australia, but according to them, nothing compares to a good cut of British beef. While most beef comes from grain-fed cows, Hawksmoor’s offerings are put on the plate the way nature intended.
Then, of course, there’s Tramshed. While its menu might be even more limited, no one ever came here for a salad. That is to say, if you’ve booked a table at Tramshed, it’s more than likely you already know what you’re going to order.
Like the handful of other good restaurants, Mark Hix has something to do with it, and it’s almost not surprising. The man’s food sourcing skills are second to none, though given the nature of Tramshed, the steak options appear more complicated than they should be – somehow ‘Mighty Marble Himalayan salt dry-aged steak’ doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.
The other side of the river is where you’ll find Gaucho. Almost everything about this establishment is Argentinian, from their wines to their meat. It’s common thought that some of the best steaks come from Argentine cows, and there’s plenty in the way of statement to support the myth.
Chefs will only slow cook over wood fires (never propane), and Argentine cows get so much more sun and exercise that the flavour is ‘kept in’ way before they’ve even reached the slaughterhouse, let alone the grill. In short, the dining experience at Gaucho is hard to beat. That is, if you can put up with the garish cowskin lounge chairs they sit you on.
We’ve seen the best of Argentina, and the best of Britain, but when it comes to good steak, where oh where in London can one find the best from Australia and Japan? Well, since you asked, there is one restaurant that happens to fit the bill. Anthony Bourdain says the Wagu here “is unlike anything you’ve ever had,” while last year it was one of the most anticipated new openings in the capital, if not the country. M Restaurant is spearheaded by former Gaucho MD Martin Williams, a man who knows more about good meat than many a village butcher.
M Restaurant has taken it upon itslef to provide sumptuous cuts of Japanese Kobe beef, even when they’re the first to know the stuff is exceedingly rare, making sourcing it a task even more difficult this other side of the world. But, as Williams will admit, he’s obsessed with it, and even if a single cut entails a £150 price tag, it’s there to stay on the menu.