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Steak and more at the Grill, Smiths of Smithfield:
Nearly twenty years ago John Torode, of Masterchef fame, opened a large and at the time, quite unique restaurant in London. Smiths of Smithfield, looking directly out over the famous meat market quickly became very popular. One of the first all-day venues with a menu built around British meat and a stunning New York warehouse styled interior in a striking Grade II listed building. It was, at the time, the height of innovation and dining at Smiths was something very special indeed. There was a casual cafe on the ground floor, a mezzanine bar, Smith’s Grill on the second floor and a stunning third floor fine dining restaurant
By the time I first reviewed the venue in 2013, Torode had departed and the three and a half floor building had gained a reputation for using the finest, rare breed beef, properly aged and carefully cooked. I can remember enjoying a splendid lunch on the top floor and an excellent range of cocktails and bar snacks in the mezzanine bar.
The competition for good steak-houses has intensified over the last few years which makes the job of Smiths Grill a lot harder. There are plenty of places to choose from in London today – from Hawksmoor to Macellaio RC, all serving properly aged and carefully sourced meat. Smiths was bought some eight months ago by Youngs and has just reopened after a refurbishment. It still looks much the same – and I was keen to go along and try the food for myself.
We arrived on a Monday in July, one of the hottest days of the year, at 6.30 pm to a nearly empty restaurant. Perhaps not surprising given the extreme temperatures – although every floor of Smiths was beautifully air-conditioned. A table on the 2nd-floor grill, looking out over Smithfield, was a lovely place to sit and we ordered a glass of prosecco while we checked through the menu wondering what to pick for our review.
There’s a good range of starters and we felt spoilt for choice. In the end, my companion ordered the Devon crab and Markham Farm asparagus salad with citrus dressing, while I opted for the classic Seared Cornish scallops with smashed new season peas, smoked bacon loin crumb and lobster sauce
Perfectly cooked scallops were beautifully complemented by the buttery lobster sauce and I enjoyed the crisp slice of bacon, though I’d hardly describe it as a crumb. The smashed peas were fresh and sweet, although I felt there was one tablespoon too much on the plate.
My companion loved her crab dish with its piquant citrus dressing and was impressed with the use of the brown meat on a croute of bread.
For mains, we decided that one of us needed to try a steak. I ordered a fillet steak, which comes with triple cooked chips and a sauce of choice. My personal favourite is Bearnaise. Here, there seemed to be something of a lack of tarragon, though it was pleasant enough.
The 28 day aged Scotch fillet steak served was closer to what I’d describe as a fillet tail than the normal fillet mignon. And, I was slightly concerned by the strange char. It was nicely cooked to order, well rested and the meat was buttery and tender. But, I’m so used to meat cooked on a Josper now that I missed that distinctive charcoal taste. When I mentioned that to our waiter, I learnt that there was a Josper in the kitchen but it wasn’t fired up. Perhaps that’s the catch with dining out on a Monday?
Triple cooked chips were spot on and we shared a pleasant side salad.
My companion fared rather better with her slow roast Creedy Carver duck leg with spiced lentils, spring greens and a black cherry sauce.
The lentils were perfectly cooked and the duck was tender and flavoursome. Sauce, while rich and well balanced, lacked much cherry. Personally, that’s exactly how I would have liked it…
When it came to dessert, neither of us were hungry. We agreed to share the Cambridge burnt cream while my companion ordered an espresso martini (which she was impressed with!)
The custard was nicely set and the caramel topping fine and crunchy. We did question the slices of what appeared to be tinned pear on top though – neither seasonal nor pretty nor necessary.
Throughout the meal, we enjoyed a bottle of Chilean Merlot. The wine list starts at £26 and there’s a reasonable selection available by the glass. Service was exemplary – we were charmed by our Portuguese waiter who went out to the way to make sure we were comfortable. All the food arrived promptly and was freshly prepared.
Now I feel I need to go back if only to check some of the detail which I want to believe was down to dining rather early in the evening on an extremely hot Monday and to order one of those espresso martinis for myself!
Thinking of trying yourself? Why not pin this post for later
Smiths of Smithfield
67-77 Charterhouse St,
Disclosure: We dined as guests of Smiths of Smithfield. The content of this review is editorially given