Steak, seems to be everywhere in London these days. Unlike some food crazes however, this one is here to stay. Along with a Renaissance in burgers and street food has come a metropolitan fascination with all that is cattle. Big name restaurants including Hawksmoor, Gaucho, Goodman and Barbecoa have blazed a trail to the char grill, paving the way for a capital bouef bonanza.
It’s a man thing. Am I right? I’m right. Trust me on this one. Guys feel manly eating steak and burgers. Girls follow suit and peck at the odd pattie or slice through a filet, but only as a means to being in with the in crowd. It’s a sort of beefy Johnson-envy type thing. *ducks volley of missiles* but when you think about it it’s pretty obvious really. Man created cattle over a period of centuries, starting as far back as 10,500 years ago with a bunch of aurochs – a wild version of today’s dopey, domesticated doe-eyed heifers. So now it’s in our DNA to feel like we deserve a good old ribeye or sirloin after those centuries of pastoral graft and husbandry.
Historically I’ve never been a huge fan of “the steak” and generally go poultry or piscine, however I’ve recently been lured in to experimenting with slabs of the good stuff and have actually rather enjoyed it, not least of all when visiting MASH, the latest Danish import to bluster on to the restaurant scene. MASH is an acronym for Modern American Steak House, in case you were wondering.
Occupying the site that was formerly The Titanic bar and grill on Air Street, the imposing facade makes quite an impression. Check your coat and a whirpool of stairs delivers you down to the grand sweep of (yet another) entrance where smiling damsels line your route through to the high ceilinged theatrical bar and restaurant. Palatial super-restaurants, can strike you as being instantly impersonal; those cavernous interiors seeming to accentuate movement and noise. Think of places like Quaglino’s, Skylon, Aqua Nueva and any of the Uberstaurants that battle with the luxury of space, it’s hard to imagine what can be done to detract from the void. MASH has an abundance of welcome distractions and visual delights, including display cabinets of sides of beef and hams, floor to ceiling wine cabinets, booth and banquette seating arrangements and a central bar with a comprehensive U.S. meets European cocktail list. I plonked myself there and downed a New York sour (when in Rome / London / Denmark / America – delete as appropriate) made with Buffalo Trace bourbon and a port float. Glided down a treat.
We were taken to our panelled booth and in fairness, it does start to feel somewhat US of A at this point, with an abundance of dark wood and red leather. I can’t even begin to talk about the wine list because I’ll be here for a month of Sundays. It’s vast! Reams of vino and bubbles from most if not all of the main wine countries grace this epic 25 page almanac and bottles are available in sizes ranging from 70 ml up to a Jeraboam. Can it be a well chosen list with such an extensive selection? I have no idea but probably yes, as the company is founded by Copenhagen concepts’ the same brains behind Le Sommelier in Copenhagen, a brasserie renowned for rustic French fare and fine wines at competitive prices.
Steak is sourced from 3 countries – Paraguay, Denmark and America and they go to great lengths to explain that the US beef is corn fed, with no hormonal growth accelerators. The Danish side is dry aged so we took the long bone and the US Bone-in Ribeye for comparison, of which there was virtually none. The Danish was packed with deep, rich umami flavour and succulent right the way through. Nebraska prime whilst not bad steak per se, couldn’t compare in flavour or texture. Sides were bone marrow, fries, creamy spinach, fried jalapeños. We took a combo of bearnaise, pepper sauce and red wine sauce. None of the dishes are individually outstanding bar the Danish steak, however it all came together very nicely and felt like proper, hearty, robust and manly tucker. Feel-good food is perhaps the aptest axiom.
An after-dinner cocktail entitled “Lakri-Licious” was another highlight if you like licorice as do I. Licorice infused white rum, Heering coffee liquer, Galliano, lemon and chilli. A serious taste sensation.
In the end it’s the atmosphere as much as anything that gets people coming here in droves. By the time we left our table the restaurant was buzzing and everybody seemed to be having a good time. Attentive service seemed to be in abundance. All in all, they’ve played it safe – kept it simple and added some flourishes. A reliance on great location, grand architecture and bloody good steak, wine and cocktails let’s face it, is a tried and tested recipe for success.