The Steakhouse to End all Arguments – Smith and Wollensky:
With something of a dislike for crowded streets, my night-time route from Embankment Station to Covent Garden avoids as much of The Strand as possible and takes me along John Adam Street past The Adelphi Building. When I first worked in London, my boyfriend at the time was based there and while my love for him faded all too quickly, that for the stunning Grade II listed Art Deco building, where I’d loiter waiting for him to finish work, has never faltered. It was completed in 1938 and stands in marked contrast to the Neoclassical terraced houses built between 1768–72, by the Adam brothers which surround it. A fitting home for Smith and Wollensky, an American Steakhouse which sounds as if it has been around since the 30s, but which in fact first opened in 1977 in New York, named at random with two surnames picked from a phone book by founder Alan Stillman of TGI Friday fame.
I’d have been very tempted, had the London steakhouse been open in those days, to pop in for a cocktail and a bar snack. But, the London branch, the first outside of the US, opened in 2015 – joining a handful of carefully located American outlets. It’s a franchise, owned by a trio of Irish entrepreneurs, which may just explain the availability of premium Irish steaks on the menu alongside Smith and Wollensky’s better-known offering of USDA prime dry-aged steaks.
We were greeted with a welcoming glass of fizz when we arrived, together with a tiny amuse bouche of crabmeat. Before we could get too settled we went to explore the restaurant, kitchen and ageing rooms. The two dining rooms on the ground and lower ground floor have been beautifully fitted out and look as if they could have been there since the Adelphi was first built. Comfortable leather upholstered banquettes and chairs, dark wood tables, mosaic and parquet flooring. Classical images on the walls and a glitzy brass and mirrored bar make this place warm and inviting.
Not so the meat ageing rooms which were chilly, sealed spaces that might just have been used for a black and white horror film. Large cuts of steak shelved from floor to ceiling and that kind of clunky fridge door where you feel comfier staying on the outside!
In the kitchen we were shown the meat broiler which is used to produce the Smith and Wollensky signature steaks. It was, of course, hotter, fiercer and more powerful than any of its competitors. The proof came later in the eating!
What to pick though? The menu is quite straightforward. A handful of starters, a few main courses and a range of steaks with add-on enhancements and sauces.
A half cold poached lobster as a starter was generously portioned and beautifully presented. Fresh and perfectly cooked, my companion on the right seemed more than happy with his choice.
On the left, the order was based on a recommendation from our charming uniformed server who told us that the Jumbo lump crabmeat was quite special, taken from the ‘arm’ of a very large crab. A massive portion of picked meat arrived – again, ultra fresh and beautifully presented with two types of dressing to dip.
My order of hand-dived Scottish scallops was excellent, with a rich garlic parsley butter, though had I been feeling particularly hungry (or greedy) I might have found the portion size a little on the dainty side.
With our starters, we enjoyed a glass of white Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, Chevalier d’Argent.
For the main course, I picked the special of the day – the Beef Wellington. Ordered medium rare, it was perhaps cooked a little more than I might have liked but the base steak of Irish fillet mignon was so beautifully tender that I saw no need to ask for it to be changed. The pastry shell was nicely flaky and there was an excellent layer of rich mushrooms. It came with a tiny jug of jus too, just in case you wanted something to help moisten the mixture
Meanwhile, my companion to the left had picked the Charbroiled Premium Irish Fillet Mignon with a cajun finish and pronounced it spot on.
To the right, one brave man had picked the house signature dish – a 680g bone-in ribeye which is priced at £72. As he said, someone had to do it. Perfectly cooked, it had an amazingly rich crust which cut into a pink, firm and succulent centre. The Smith and Wollensky USDA prime dry aged steaks are all enhanced by aging in their own store for 28 days – resulting in a rich and intense flavour.
All 6’2″ of him couldn’t finish it though – so the restaurant obliged with a ‘Lucky Dog’ bag to take what was left home. Steakhouse classic sides of french fries, creamed spinach, a beetroot and whipped cheese salad and truffled mac n cheese may just have added to his pain – but there were three of us sharing after all
With our main courses, we enjoyed an unusually substantial Pinot Noir, La Crema, from Monterrey, California. Fruity, with medium round tannins and a complex palate, this wine had a good long finish and worked well with our meaty feast.
After all that steak our lucky dog couldn’t face dessert and opted for a perfectly constructed espresso martini instead
My bananas Foster was fancier than I’d expected but no less delicious for that
While the New York Cheesecake was pronounced deliciously rich and creamy…
We rolled out of Smith and Wollensky happy that we’d eaten well. It’s definitely not somewhere for the faint-hearted, though portion sizes are not ridiculous UNLESS you order a Rib-eye, T-Bone or Tomahawk. It’s the kind of place to go when you are craving steak and nothing else will do. And, when push comes to shove you probably won’t need to order anything else. It is, as has been said before, the Steakhouse to end all arguments.
The Adelphi Building,
Covent Garden Riverside,
1-11 John Adam St,
London WC2N 6HT
*stop press* Burns Night Special *stop press*
To celebrate Burn’s Night this year, Smith & Wollensky have created a special menu that revels in all things Scottish with their American twist.
Executive Chef, Tom Cook has created a three course menu in collaboration with Naked Grouse whisky that will be served 24-26 January inclusive, and will be priced at £55 per person.
Guests will start the meal the traditional way with a noggin of Naked Grouse whisky followed by arguably the most renowned Macsween Haggis with neeps and tatties and a red wine jus. This will be followed by a 225g Scottish fillet of beef and accompanied by pan roasted wild mushrooms, creamed spinach and french fries. The meal will be rounded off by the traditional Scottish dessert of Cranachan.