GOODMAN: BENNY & BEEF
Despite the availability of great Beef, London still suffers from a dearth of good places to eat it, particularly in the form known as the Steak House. Yes, I know it’s more of an American institution but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do it properly over here.
The concept, for want of a better word, is pretty straightforward: decent, well-hung meat, butchered into thick steaks and cooked at a fearsomely high temperature for a short time, seasoned generously then allowed to rest…and rest. Served with good chips and some greenery on the side together with some sauces, Béarnaise preferably. A list of classic cocktails – no molecular mixology, please – some beer and wine. Oh and maybe some desserts which will be unnecessary but you’ll have them anyway. Instead what do we get ? Sloppily-made cocktails, underhung , badly butchered beef, cooked with little care, nasty wines and a big bill at the end.
Anyway, the latest place to try and fill this yawning gap is Goodman in Mayfair. It’s part of a big chain of Moscow-based Steak Houses and presumably will make the large number of Russian expats feel right at home.
Before getting intimately involved with large lumps of protein, however, we found ourselves just down the road for a glass or two in Terroirs, a new Wine Bar near Trafalgar Square. Like Steak Houses there’s not nearly enough Wine Bars in Town: somewhere you can go and get a glass or two of decent wine and a bite of something.
Initially, things looked promising. On a Friday evening in a part of London’s West End where most hostelries were mobbed and somewhat rowdy, Terroirs stood out as an oasis of middle-class calm, selling wine and small plates to an older impeccably-behaved crowd. However, the execution, like (it pains me to say) a lot of things in this city, was a bit half-arsed. After spending an age (you really don’t want to know why) getting to a point where we had a carafe of warm white wine, £7.50 plus service seemed a lot of money to pay for some Duck Scratchings that were really Duck crumbs, a few Olives and some anchovies. Getting the bill was pretty tortuous too. Still, it may just have been an off-night and it’s probably the best of a bad bunch in tourist central.
Back to the main event. Before they were open, Goodman, from the outside appeared rather chain-like but once inside it actually grew on me. They’ve managed to get that clubby feel of the classic US Steak House off pat: all dark wood and leather banquettes although some nice crisp white napery would have added a touch of class.
It’s a pleasingly uncomplicated menu with a decent list of starters to distract you while your cow is cooked. HS’s Caesar Salad looked a bit desultory. The croutons weren’t great and I’m not sure what slices of bacon/pancetta were doing in there but he seemed to enjoy it and really liked the dressing. Likewise my Beef Carpaccio which looked like it had been pre-plated but they’d at least allowed it to come to room temperature so that you could actually taste the beef which was decent There was a bit too much lemon but it didn’t stop me cleaning my plate with the excellent bread.
If you’re not in the mood for a steak (and if not, what on earth are you doing here ?) there’s some fish dishes, Burgers, Lamb and the like. For normal people the range of Steaks is actually quite small but we’re told that the list will be er…beefed up later on. For now you get a choice of Aussie or USDA wet-aged beef in 350g or 400g sizes (250g for the fillet). You get to examine the raw material beforehand and it all looked nice and thick and well-marbled.
I was told my USDA Rib-Eye was best cooked medium-rare. As it turned out it was prepared more towards the rare side but was good nevertheless. They’ve got a Josper grill in the kitchen and the result is that the meat gets an almost smoky-tasting char on the outside. That and the extra fat that you get in a rib-eye adds to the great taste as well. Not up there with the best dry-aged grass fed varieties but a very honourable performance.
The Aussie Strip was a decent-looking piece of meat as well. Although requested rare it came more medium done. It too, had the same good char as the Rib-Eye but the flavour didn’t really match – it was comparatively uninteresting to eat. Chips were good and DS was more than happy with his Creamed Spinach topped with Gruyere.
From our choice of sauces the Béarnaise had a good tarragon tang and was suitably wobbly, the less said about the Goodman steak sauce the better (as HS says: a restaurant’s eponymous sauce is something best avoided).
In true Steak House stylee we finished off with some totally unnecessary Cheesecake and Ice Cream (homemade) and apart from some odd-tasting Pistachio it was all very enjoyable and made us feel ever-so-slightly queasy for having eaten so much which is usually the aim of our dinners out.
I don’t think Goodman will oust either of our current fave places for a good steak in the capital: Quo Vadis and Hawksmoor, but given that the staff actually seem to give a damn - as borne out by long discussions with waiter Crispin and manager David – I think they’re heading in the right direction and we look forward to when they get some grass-fed British beef that will be aged onsite in the restaurant’s meat locker.