GOODMAN REDUX: CRISP, WHITE & OUTTA SIGHT
There were only two of us tinkling away in the bathroom of Goodman when I visited last night. Me, doing what comes naturally to a man of my age and the late lamented Bing crooning out a yuletide whimsy through the slightly tinny speakers. However, It had obviously seen plenty of other typically masculine use recently, as the floors were splashed with drunken and ill aimed attempts to hit the urinal and were also littered with enough loo roll to paper a small suburban flat.
It speaks to the fact that the dining room was so busy no one had a second to make a regular check that all was shipshape toilet wise and also to the fact that a lot had changed in the year since DH first visited Goodman in their week of opening.
On that occasion, there had only been a handful of other diners and the large room with its dark panels and bare tables had looked a little forlorn. There was however, real promise in the food and service along with serious intent to offer a challenge to London’s (still) only other steak provider of worth, Hawksmoor.
I have visited Goodman a number of times during the last year, putting it firmly at number one in my list of places to head to when only a slab of meat will do. Hawksmoor still provides some of the very best steaks in town, but now seems to attract a crowd of males who are closer to the day when their testicles descended than Goodman, which attracts a crowd of men closer to the day they have a few kind words spoken over their bodies before being covered in cold earth. I feel a lot more comfortable with the latter and often find myself dipping in for a steak and a glass of wine at the bar when in Central London. When HP asked me where I might like to head for a pre-Christmas supper on him, I had no hesitation in suggesting this Russian owned restaurant on Maddox Street and, HP being, as people have pointed out, a man who likes to order steak, was happy to go along with the suggestion.
Goodman is blessed with one of the best GM’s in town in the shape of David Strauss. Part American, part Brit, David used to head up FOH at Morton’s in New York City (I think), so as HP puts it “He knows from steakhouses” and it was noticeable to HP, who had only visited once since our initial meal how things had changed, not least in the fact that every seat in the place, including those at the bar had a posterior on it, usually ample and predominantly male.
Some things have not changed. The bar still needs work. The staff are great and the list of wines by the glass decent, but if they could knock out a cocktail as well as Hawksmoor, I might ask them to put a bed in there for me. Likewise, as HP looked around, he sighed as he saw plates of fat chips being placed on the wood of bare tables. We all know how HP adores his crisp, white napery and hates big, fat chips.
David was off work on a rare day of illness but had planned a couple of surprises to make our meal a little unusual. First, we were led towards our table. HP began to beam, gone were the shiny surfaces of polished wood to be covered by a freshly laundered and starched white linen tablecloth. HP began to stroke its surface and purr approvingly as we were handed the menus.
Tonight was going to be all about the steak and as HP had already indulged in a dozen oysters at Corrigan’s we skipped starters and chose two steaks from a selection shown to us by our lovely server, Sarah. A kilogram of USDA Bone in rib-eye had a glorious network of marbling and cried out to be cooked medium-rare to allow the fat to melt into the meat. A slightly smaller piece of grass fed Scottish beef lacked the marbling, but showed the benefits of 30+ days of dry ageing and we asked for that to be prepared rare.
When they were brought to our table, both had been cooked perfectly to order. The Scottish beef could have received a bit more of a char on one of the restaurant’s two Josper grills, but the age provided an intense flavour. The star, however, as we expected was the bone in rib eye. The crust added to the slightly mineral taste you get with corn fed beef and as we expected, the marbling of fat had melted down into beefy juices which leaked onto the plate.
As we began to spear slices of steak with our forks, the second surprise arrived. Remembering the disgust with which HP views chips of the fat variety, David had arranged for two bowls of crisp, thin chips to be brought to the table along with our salad and bowls of dipping sauces. HP beamed again, these were proper chips with a crunchy outside and a floury inside and he began to dip them in the sauces, giving particular approval to béarnaise made sharp with vinegar.
It was not long before we polished off the lot and HP gnawed happily at the last scraps of flesh on the bone before turning his mind to dessert. Like their starters, these too are more perfunctory at Goodman. They are not bad, but serve only to warm up and cool down the stomach before and after a huge steak, just as they should. Undue attention to these usually means less attention is being paid to the main event. Oh and yes, while I ate cheesecake HP ordered ice cream and anyone who has anything to say about it can call me up so I can tell them personally to go fuck themselves.
A splendid evening with a couple of excellent surprises. Goodman is now proving itself to be a consistent source of a decent meal in London, all too rare in a year when most of my best dining has taken place outside the capital. However, David may have opened a Pandora’s box as other diners stared longingly at our excellent chips and wondered what the tablecloth was all about. At the very least, if he tries to serve me fat chips again, I will have a screaming hissy fit.
Oh, one final request, me and Bing both ask nicely, can you send someone downstairs to have a look at the bogs? Thanks.