Vegetarians, avert your eyes now: this blog is not for you. We are talking meat, and lots of it.
The area of Smithfield, in the City of London, has a strong affinity with meat. Not that surprising when you find that it hosts the largest wholesale meat market in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe – a perfect backdrop, then, for a showcase into probably the most favoured and celebrated of meats: beef. Smiths of Smithfield is located opposite the famed marketplace and towers over an impressive four floors. Beginning on the ground floor level, the stripped-back, pewter bar features reclaimed timber, industrial steel and sand-blasted brickwork. Then, the offering becomes altogether finer as you ascend the stairs, passing through the lounge & cocktail bar, private dining room, and dining room, before eventually climbing to the upper echelon (put simply, the top floor).
Arriving early evening on a gloriously sunny day, we were welcomed to the restaurant by social media & PR guru to the restaurant trade, @nataliem100. Having dined in the lower levels on previous visits, I had been unaware of the al fresco hideaway that awaited us on the terrace, wrapping around the dining room and featuring stunning views across the market and beyond to St Paul’s and The Shard.
Leek Potato Soup, Scallops & Black Pudding
Tonight, Executive Chef, Tony Moyse, would be showcasing all things beef, beginning with a lesson in butchery – a carnivore’s dream evening awaited. While chef set up the demonstration table, our taste buds were awoken by canapés: the pork croquettes with piccalilli were to die for. The extremely well seasoned pork had a lovely kick from the bright piccalilli bed it was served upon – my favourite of the canapés on offer. Salt & pepper squid with a sweet chilli sauce, freshly shucked oysters and a creamy leek and potato soup were a welcome prequel to the meat feast we were about to embark upon. The canapés were washed down beautifully by a sparkling wine from West Sussex: 2007 Nyetimber English Sparkling Wine. David Gleave, from Liberty Wines, would be taking us though the wine pairings this evening.
With a selection of knives, a hacksaw and a massive slab of beef at the ready, Chef Moyse skilfully got to work on dismantling the various cuts of beef from the carcass. Within the space of fifteen minutes, perfectly filleted cuts of meat were thrown down on the trays lined up in front of the gathered crowd. Fillet of beef here, ribs over there and a rump slapped down with gusto in the one remaining tray. With Chef Moyse in full swing, General Manager, Joe Nixon, explained that very few restaurants still butcher their meat on site, preferring instead to buy in the meat pre-cut. With Smiths of Smithfield butchering their own meat, they have full control over the cuts of meat and the ever important ageing process.
Demonstration over, Chef Moyse headed back to the kitchen to rally the brigade. First up, we would be trying the beef raw: south Devon beef carpaccio and tartare were served with slow cooked yolk, capers, shallots, gherkins and a ponzu dressing. A lot of ingredients, you may think, but executed perfectly to enable the ever-so-fresh meat to shine through. The slow cooked yolk standing to attention was a fun addition to the plate that I had not come across before. Each course would be accompanied by two wines from David, beginning with the starter: a 2010 ‘La Rocca’ Soave Classico, Leonildo Pieropan from Veneto in Italy, which was a rich golden colour with notes of honey. The other, ‘plexus’ Barossa Valley from South Australia, blends three grapes: Marsanne/Roussanne/Viognier – a lovely white that complemented the steak tartare very well.
Warning: meat envy ahead!
The main course brought with it some serious cuts of meat; south Devon rump from Newton Abbot, organic Aberdeen Angus from the Rhug Estate in north Wales, and Simmental fillet from Warwickshire. Brought to the tables in a procession of platters by attentive staff, the sight of steaks piled high was gobsmacking. Before cameras could be raised in disbelief at the mound of meat on show, the sides followed quickly behind to add to the theatre: fat chips, thin chips, leaf salad and cream spinach were placed in what little space we had left on the table. The food did not stop there, however. Passed around the table was bone marrow butter – a rich addition I added to the rump to melt into the meat. The béarnaise sauce was poured generously to the side, packing a rich flavour to dunk the chunks of meat into. If I had to pick a favourite, the fillet did it for me. Almost purple in colour after being seared and then cut into generous slices, it simply melted in the mouth.
All this red meat needed a strong red wine to support. It came from the 2010 Côte Rôtie, Domaine Francois et Fils from France; a rich and complex mix of blackcurrants and blueberries. The second, a 2008 Barolo, Massolino from Italy was lighter in appearance and taste, making it very easy to drink.
Slowly entering a food coma, the arrival of dessert was thankfully meat-free. Eton tidy, the angelic sister to the Eton mess, was presented with English strawberries, meringue, vanilla ice cream, rice pudding and strawberry tuile. The sweet wines presented for the finale included the 2008 ‘Chateau Laville’ Sauternes from France with notes of sweets, honey and spices. The second, 2011 ‘Cordon Cut’ Clare Valley Riesling from Australia, was a pale golden yellow with a taste of sherbet and ginger.
As the sun set out on the terrace and we rolled back down the 4 flights of stairs to the streets below, passing punters enjoying their different dining experiences on each of Smiths of Smithfield’s floors, I couldn’t help but think if they had climbed just that little bit higher, they would have been rewarded with the fantastic celebration of meat that was taking place on the top floor…
Smiths of Smithfield
67-77 Charterhouse St, London, EC1M 6HJ
Tel: +44 20 7251 7950