Posts Tagged With: Piccadilly Circus

A steak that would mash your insides: Getting our beef on at MASH

Copyright of MASH. Sourced from MASH website

Copyright of MASH. Sourced from MASH website

Cuisine: American

Address: 77 Brewer Street, W1F 9ZN

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: 020 7734 2608

Website: http://www.mashsteak.dk/restaurants/london/

Pricing: High

Good For: Filling meal, Proper service, Carnivorous eating, Ambience, Smart-casual dining, Place for romance, Quality meat

Well, that was a filling meal. Stuffed right to the gills, rolling out of there like a tubby barrel, groaning at the sides; I’d been MASH’ed.

Let’s rewind a bit. My dad wanted to take me and my brother out for a nice steak meal, and after scoping out a number of different places, finally settled on MASH. MASH, if you don’t know, supposedly stands for Modern American Steak House, but rather confusingly has come to us via Denmark, but fear not – this was a thoroughly American evening.

Your first impression is shaped by the rather spacious and grand lobby you enter at street level, guarded by an imposing bouncer and overseen by an ever-smiling receptionist of sorts. Once she took my details, she informed me that my party were waiting for me downstairs, but what she didn’t mention was that there would be two waitresses waiting there too, greeting me by name and shepherding me to my seat. So far so good.

Your second impression is formed by the cavernous space that greets you as you enter the bar and main dining room. All decked out in Art Deco and illuminated by warm lighting, the area is truly impressive. How did they get such a big basement, with such high ceilings, right in the middle of Soho?? You could spend a good few minutes just looking around, soaking up the atmosphere and imagining you were in 1930’s New York, as smooth jazz tinkled over the sound systems.

Cavernous. Like a cave

Cavernous. Like a cave

Your third impression is coloured by the large racks and chunks of beef hanging to dry in their airing cupboards separating the bar and the restaurant. I won’t go so far as to say that I am astounded and wowed by raw meat (a childhood spent around the wet markets in Hong Kong can have that effect upon you), but I was still fascinated by the way that they were being presented almost like pieces of art. Pieces of succulent, tender, meaty, art……. Ahem.

So, let’s talk food. Let’s talk STEAK. I opted for the bone-in N.Y. strip (approx. 600g), culled from IBP prime, Nebraska cattle. For those uninitiated to what this means, N.Y. strip is cut from the short loin and is a rather tender piece of meat, being from a little-used muscle; it was also described to me by my brother, steak expert that he is, as like the bigger half of the T-bone steak and with a bit more fat to it. And as for IBP prime, Nebraska, “this certified and hormone-free, corn-fed beef is as tender and flavourful as you can imagine”.

Bone-in N.Y. strip. Imagine all of that meat in your stomach. OUCH

Bone-in N.Y. strip. Imagine all of that meat in your stomach. OUCH

As far as I was concerned, it was a wonderfully tasty steak that had no need of sauce. Cooked perfectly to rare, it was extremely succulent and not hard to chew through. But I must reserve highest praise for the fat lining the edges of the N.Y. strip – never have I had fat that melted that easily in my mouth. None of this horrible stringy and chewy fat that I can picture very clearly on that Slug & Lettuce steak a colleague had down in Poole (*shudder*); it actually felt socially acceptable to eat fat this luxurious. All in all, I was very happy with my choice of steak; I think we were all happy with our choices, my brother and my dad contented as they were with the long-bone ribeye (Danish beef, dry-aged for 70 days. 70. DAYS. I did not know you could age beef for that long).

As for sides, I accompanied this with macaroni and cheese (rich, thick and creamy) and creamy spinach (creamy, unsurprisingly). And, since the 600g of steak had quite properly finished me off, all that was left for me to have for dessert was a richly sweet glass of 2008 Patricius “Katinka”, Late Harvest Tokaji. What a perfect way to end an evening of gluttonous steak eating.

Why you gotta hurt me like that?

Why you gotta hurt me like that?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a rather impressive venture, all the way from the extremely friendly staff to the atmosphere and décor and to the well-executed steaks. Rather cheekily, they delivered the bill to us in an envelope labelled “The Damage”, but I think that just topped off what an enjoyable evening it was, where a father was able to take his two darling sons out for a ‘simple’ steak dinner.

Currently listening to: Cancer Bats – Drive This Stake

Categories: American, Steak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find the Jade Door: Chilling out in Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour

Copyright of Opium. Sourced from Opium website

Copyright of Opium. Sourced from Opium website

Cuisine: Cocktail bar

Address: 15-16 Gerrard Street

Area: Chinatown

Nearest Station: Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: 020 7734 7276

Website: http://opiumchinatown.com/

Pricing: High

Good For: Showpiece cocktails, Good cocktails, Friendly conversation, Place for romance, Chic night

“Am having a drink in an opium den”. Not the sort of thing that my mum was expecting when she texted me, asking me to call her regarding Easter Sunday plans the next day… but, well, it was the truth. Sort of.

My friend and I were feeling on a bit of a roll after having dined out in Flat Iron: the night was still young, there was still a lot to catch up on, we weren’t drunk yet… we needed a suitable venue in which to continue the evening’s pleasantries.

And so, upon her recommendation, we decided to check out Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour. It’s located up some stairs behind a plain jade door on Gerrard Street, right in the middle of Chinatown, so I’m sure the various tourists milling around were somewhat bemused to see us meet-and-greeted by the imposing bouncer, and then let into a secret and exclusive world of Chinoiserie and Orientalism.

As befitting a den of iniquity (the dim sum’s influence, obviously), the lighting was dim and moody, but the décor was cleanly presented and well-executed, giving a real ambience of fun Eastern ‘exotica’.

Sourced from Opium website. I felt too shy to take photos when I was there *blushes*

Sourced from Opium website. I felt too shy to take photos when I was there *blushes*

We had some seats by the bar in the Apothecary, facing the mystery bottles lined up along the back, distinguished by the Chinese numbers adorning them. Sitting at the bar afforded us great views of the show that the mixologists were putting on. So, what did we have to drink?

She had the Year of the Snakebite & Blackcurrant, which was rather sweet, masking the potency of the alcohol. With the lemon sorbet whisked in, there was a lovely smoothness to it. Alongside that, I had the Flying Firecracker, a refreshing and slightly tart concoction that came with complimentary gunpowder balls. “What do we do with these?” I asked, wondering whether we really were allowed to throw them around with reckless abandon. The barman proceeded to show us that, yes, we could just lob these around – his fellow barstaff, the waitresses, even some other customers, were victims to the little pop these balls made. Now if only it were a free flow service…

A witch's cauldron of cocktail goodness. Sourced from www.whattickles.com

A witch’s cauldron of cocktail goodness. No way my camera phone will take as good a photo as this. Sourced from whattickles.com

Later on, after having watched several being made and being extremely intrigued, I succumbed to the pressure and had the Opium Cocktail No. 2 as, well, my number two cocktail. This came in a little, smoking cauldron and was accompanied by a tiny bottle of ginseng which would act as a chaser. It was a fascinating sight to see it placed before me, and my friend and I ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we explored every aspect of it. Alas, they did not have guava jam at the time, but I was assured that the next time I came here, I could use it to offset the bitterness of the ginseng chaser.

Overall, it was good evening of convivial conversation and fun drinks in a rather relaxed and cool setting. We even got to try the crab and samphire dumplings (very tasty, slightly unusual because of the samphire, but you can get cheaper and just as good elsewhere), just so that we could say that we came to Opium and did BOTH cocktails and dim sum.

Cocktails and dim sum… it is a winning combination.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. As I was discussing with someone else recently, it is a bit hard to find a relaxed yet cool place where you can go for really good and interesting cocktails and not be drowned out by the loud music or other groups. The staff here were all really chatty and quite clearly enjoyed what they were doing. When you’ve got all those ingredients thrown into the mix, how can you not enjoy yourself?

Currently listening to: Coheed and Cambria – Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher

Categories: Chinese, Cocktail Bar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Ages weren’t so dark after all: Chicken Kiev and other comfort foods at West End Kitchen

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Cuisine: European

Address: 5 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL

Area: Leicester Square

Nearest Stations: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel. No.: 020 7839 4241

Website: http://www.westendkitchen.co.uk/

Good For: Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Quiet meal

It is interesting to see that Chicken Kiev is making a ‘come back’ in London, according to the Evening Standard. Firstly, I am glad: Chicken Kiev was always a favourite school supper of mine, as it combines so many good things – breading, juicy chicken breast, butter and garlic – even if the execution back then was not always top-notch. Secondly, I am somewhat bemused that this dish has supposedly been absent from the West End since the 1970s. Granted, ‘sophisticated’ (as the Evening Standard names them) restaurants may not have been serving it, but I’ve been getting my Chicken Kiev fix for some time now in the West End. Gosh darn it am I being smug.

Welcome to the West End Kitchen on Panton Street.

It’s a small diner tucked away between Leicester Square and Haymarket, and has apparently been serving well-priced comfort food for many, many years now. I stumbled across it with my ex a few years back, when we’d just been to see a film; wet from the rain and desperately hungry, we couldn’t muster the effort to trudge to Chinatown and so we ducked into one of the few open doorways on Panton Street in order to dry off a bit and see what the menu had on offer.

That first time, I had the rather butch Pique a lo Macho (fried beef, chips, egg, sausage, onion, olives, pepper and cheese) that turned out to be a veritable macho mountain of hot and fulfilling food that would have overwhelmed lesser men. That and the friendly and irreverent service was enough to charm us back. Any time we were hungry and in the area, we would pop into the West End Kitchen.

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen - yummy yummy I've got love in my tummy

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen – yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy

And it is through these repeated visits that I came to appreciate their Chicken Kiev. It is a well-made dish: succulent chicken breast wrapped around creamy and rich garlic butter and encased in wonderfully crispy breading. It comes with standard boiled vegetables and new potatoes on a bed of adequately done rice, all of which are nothing that special when compared to the spinach and chicken jus of Primo, but then again you can have a very decent meal here for under £10.

And when you’re hungry and in need of some comfort food, do you really need anything more?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a nice go-to place for a decent feed and you will always find a welcoming booth. And, now that Chicken Kievs are chic again, why wouldn’t want to be flocking down to the West End Kitchen?

Currently listening to: Horrorpops – Freaks in Uniform

Categories: European | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rock ‘n’ Roll Ramen: An evening in with Bone Daddies

Copyright of Bone Daddies. Sourced from Bone Daddies website

Copyright of Bone Daddies. Sourced from Bone Daddies website

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 31 Peter Street, W1F 0AR

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel.: 020 7287 8581

Website: http://bonedaddiesramen.com/

Pricing: Medium

Good for: Filling meal, Buzzing atmosphere, Warmth in your belly, All about the flavour

It was with great sadness that I heard that Melati on Peter Street (not to be mistaken for Melati on Great Windmill Street *shudder*), my favourite place in all of London to get nasi goreng, was closing down. Many was a post-interview lunchtime spent comforting myself with that stunning plate of hot, tasty and spicy Indonesian fried rice with all the trimmings; now, all gone, like tears in the rain.

But it was with great curiosity that I heard that it was to be replaced by Bone Daddies, one of burgeoning crowd of new ramen houses now serving London’s lucky denizens. I could only hope that they could do justice to the site, and judging from the initial feedback, it looked like it would.

And so, I found myself a willing companion to share the experience with me. It was a horrifically cold day and even colder night, and so she lapped up the suggestion of a steaming hot soup of ramen to warm us both up. Speaking of the cold, I hope that Bone Daddies get their door sorted out – it doesn’t close automatically, meaning that I feel sorry for those sat closest to it. Thankfully, my companion and I were sat some distance away, by the far wall.

It is a busy place. They’ve managed to squeeze in quite a fair few tables (too high for short people like my companion and I – dangling legs is not a cool look), more so than Melati ever did – it gives the place a buzz, but it also made it a bit of a struggle to navigate our way around other diners. Being tucked up at one end of the table, we were both unaware of the condiments that were on the other side of a very lovey-dovey couple, whose intertwined hands would have probably made it very awkward to request pickled garlic, the chilli oil etc. We didn’t particularly need them (the condiments, and possibly the PDA next to us too), but it would have been nice to have actively made the choice not to need them.

We ordered the soft-shelled crab and the tender-stem broccoli as starters. The former dish was wonderful – subtly-spiced crispy pieces of deep-fried crab that imparted a certain je ne sais quoi, something akin to smoky flouryness, when I think about it; probably not the most appropriate description, but I guess that just means you’ll have to try it! As for the latter dish, it was pleasing enough – the tender-stem broccoli had that right level of crunch as well as tenderness – but my companion felt (and I agree) that it could have been significantly enhanced with just a bit of a light stir-fry with onions and garlic. Perhaps that’s just our Hong Kong taste buds getting in the way.

Just as we were finishing the crab and broccoli, our ramen arrived with great flourish – her with the tonkotsu, me with the tantanmen. If I were to judge our dishes just by looks alone, then Bone Daddies has done its job extremely well. Just look at the picture of my tantanmen below.

The tantanmen: rich, creamy, brothy goodness

The tantanmen: rich, creamy, brothy goodness

How can that not be appealing? My companion was struck by extreme food envy, which was only sharpened when I let her try some. That first slurp of that thick, creamy soup from the tantanmen is a real eye-opener, what with the spice hitting you, followed by that sweet and nutty sesame flavour, with everything wrapped up in oily warmth. It was delightfully rich and soothing: the perfect antidote to winter chills.

That tantanmen soup really nailed it for me that night. But let’s not forget the other components of the dish. The noodles were well-cooked and added good carby weight to the bowl. The pork mince was lovely in that it just went everywhere, so that nearly every spoonful of soup had chunks of meat in it (alongside the tender slices of pork floating around in there too), giving real texture and bite to the tantanmen. But no review could be complete without a special mention of the slow-cooked egg, with its gooey and golden yolk just begging to be slurped up. And unlike Tonkotsu, you do get a whole egg (result!). I could have probably done with another piece of bok choy, but just having the one piece doesn’t diminish the tantanmen.

As for the tonkotsu, from what I did try, the broth was surprisingly earthy and deep, signalling to me that yes, Bone Daddies probably did boil some pork bones for a good twenty hours. But, as good as that tasted, I think that the mix of flavours in the tantanmen makes it my outright winner for the night.

Bone Daddies provided me and my companion with a wonderful, absolutely filling meal, and armed us with enough warmth in our bellies to protect us from the cold outside. They did their job well, and I hope that they continue to impress.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It was good enough for my brother and his girlfriend. It was good enough for me and my companion. It was even good enough for my mother. Perhaps – just maybe – it will be good enough for you too.

Categories: Japanese | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steak is what we wanted, and steak is what we got: Flat Iron sets up shop in Soho

Copyright of Flat Iron. Sourced from Flat Iron website

Copyright of Flat Iron. Sourced from Flat Iron website

Cuisine: Steak

Address: 17 Beak Street, W1F 9RW

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: N/A

Website: http://flatironsteak.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Friendly conversation, Quality meat, Smart-casual dining, Carnivorous eating, Good sides

Once upon a time, there was an outfit offering steak in a tucked away room above a quaint ickle pub called the Owl and Pussycat, hidden away down a small alley in a distant neighbourhood called Shoreditch. This outfit called themselves Flat Iron, and marketed themselves around a relatively unknown cut of meat called the, er, flat iron. The perfect recipe to remain off the radar and continue in relative obscurity.

Well hello there, Mr Flat Iron

Well hello there, Mr Flat Iron

Pffft. Yeah right. When I did go with friends, it was the last week of their residency at the Owl and Pussycat, and although we were able to waltz in just after 6pm for a table, by the time we left the queue was IMMENSE. Flat Iron had hit upon something golden: a tender, delicious steak at very affordable prices (nearly everyone in our group had the wagyu special, for only £16), in one of the most happening neighbourhoods in London (yeah, I just said happening, urk).

But I’m not here to talk about days of yore. I’m here to talk about Flat Iron’s new base at 17 Beak Street. They quietly opened last week, see, a bit earlier than expected, so I thought that it was the perfect time to rally the troops and organise an outing for some meaty tenderness. One of the troops had been so eagerly awaiting Flat Iron’s opening that he replied to my text before I even had the chance to put the phone down. Expectations were high; Flat Iron had better deliver!

The good delivery started as soon as I walked in the door: with a smile and a warm welcome, I was ushered downstairs to the bar to await my friends and a table, and was pleasantly surprised to find it quite spacious. I hate being asked to wait at the bar for a table, only to find that I am scrunched between the bar stools, the small packed-together tables and busy wait-staff carrying precariously perched plates of food around. Not so at Flat Iron, where I was able to prop myself up at a table and enjoy my negroni and the popcorn that had been popped in beef dripping, all in relative peace and comfort.

It wasn’t long before the others arrived. When Hungry Friend (she’d forgotten to eat lunch – how, I really don’t know) plonked herself down at the table, her eyes popped at the thought of beef-dripping popcorn; and into her mouth they all popped. Thank heavens they’re free and all-you-can-eat, as we must have polished off three cans whilst down there. A friendly note for the Flat Iron crew: starving girls need feeding, and some bar snacks would not have gone unappreciated that night.

But no matter, for even though there were five of us our table was ready within ten minutes and we were guided back upstairs. I suppose the short wait was a result of it being only their second day of being open to the public (and the fact that they have two floors of dining now), but I felt particularly blessed after the queues I’d seen at the Owl and Pussycat. Just as short was the time it took for us to order – with only one main course on offer, do you really need to spend ages deliberating? – as well as get more popcorn for our ravenous Hungry Friend. The amount she devoured was scary.

We tried to take her mind off the wait for our food, but Hungry Friend’s situation was not helped when the kindly staff accidently brought someone else’s order to our table (the spectre of my experience at Patty & Bun back to haunt me?). Although they were quick to realise the mistake, it was still enough time for some salt to be added to one steak, rendering it useless for its original dining destination. So, it had to sit there and wait for the rest of the dishes, taunting Hungry Friend and making the minutes stretch into days. More popcorn and the sympathetic attention of the staff could not ameliorate the situation enough.

Look at those beauties - medium rare flat iron, crispy fries and aubergine bake

Look at those beauties – medium rare flat iron, crispy fries and aubergine bake

So we were thankful when the rest of the food did come. I was concerned that my first dream-like experience back at the Owl and Pussycat would have spoiled my expectations, but I needn’t have worried, as my medium rare steak was glorious: the tender, pink slices that were meltingly soft were full of flavour, so much so that I didn’t feel the need to use any of the sauces our table had on offer. It combined very well with the crispy fries, and even better with the aubergine bake (I forget exactly what was in it) that was juicy and delicious. It was a perfect reflection of that taste experience earlier in the year.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It is a quality steak; it is served at a great price for what it is; it is centrally-located in Soho. Surely that’s a tick list for success? All five of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and left satisfied with the experience, even if there were a couple of service lapses (especially painful for Hungry Friend, as she stared down that lonely, mis-ordered steak that was not hers). These slight lapses, however, I can forgive as ‘early days’ problems needing to be ironed out (maybe with a flat iron?? HA). But with a staff that friendly and attentive, I’m sure Flat Iron will go on to do good, very good. Get in there before the queues build!

Currently listening to: Dem Brooklyn Bums – Guido Slouch

Categories: Steak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments