Smith & Wollensky, an iconic steakhouse in the United States, has made the move across the Atlantic and opened its first London branch off The Strand, a few doors down from the Savoy. With a classed-up typical wood-panelled steakhouse interior, a cocktail bar and impressive steak selection, Smith & Wollensky is an all-rounder, suitable for families, dates or, as in our case, a girly catch up.
To begin: what is a girl’s dinner without some cocktails? My muscles were still smarting from a recent workout so I went for the aptly named ‘Pain Nullifier,’ a zingy, refreshing combination of Mount Gay rum, Blackwell rum, lime, orange and pineapple. Jo chose a somewhat sharper Hemingway Daquiri.
We were treated to an amuse-bouche of soy-glazed salmon on beetroot mousse, which was quite delicious, especially as I love salmon and beetroot, though I’ve never had them together in such a combination. Sourdough bread and butter wrapped in special Smith & Wollensky greaseproof paper was also brought to the table. The bread was fresh, with a dangerously crunchy crust.
For the first course Jo went for the Signature Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which was a much better choice than mine of the Seared King Scallops with pea puree and bacon, which were disappointing. The texture was rubbery and it did not taste fresh at all, although the pea puree it sat upon was deliciously light and sweet. The crab cake, however, was impressive – fresh and with well-balanced garnishings, a far cry from the usual breadcrumb-heavy, crab meat-light fried affairs I’ve come to associate with crab cakes.
For mains, we both naturally went for steaks. I opted for one of the day’s specials: a 14oz 24 day dry-aged Scottish Rib Eye, while Jo went for the menu’s 8oz Cajun Filet Mignon. We had sides of Macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables and fries. The steaks were magnificent – they certainly lived up to all the hype. I had the rib eye medium, and it was gorgeously marbled and flavourful – a delightful piece of meat. The only problem was that I could not finish the entire 14oz! Jo’s Cajun filet mignon had a kick to it. It was drier, as she preferred, but in the best possible way – well done yet tender, with a small container of oil on the side for more moisture (though it wasn’t necessary), it was just the right amount of spicy for those who like to live on the edge without burning a hole in their tongue; a delightful kick in the tastebuds. Neither of us felt like more alcohol but Valentine gave us a small sample of a Malbec to go with the steaks for taste, complementing the meal nicely.
As for the sides: I could live a happy and fulfilling life without ever eating macaroni and cheese, but Valentin insisted the restaurant’s speciality side of Truffled Mac’n’Cheese was worth a try, and he wasn’t wrong. The dish I normally associate with grim school lunches and cheap tin cans became a classy affair.
Dessert was a whole other spectacle. In keeping with the American tradition we chose the New York Style Cheesecake and a slice of the Smith & Wollensky dessert chef d’œuvre, The Gigantic Chocolate Cake. Gigantic is not an exaggeration, with one slice, as Valentin cautioned us with what looked like fear in his eyes, intended to feed a family of four! Served with a steak knife, it was not just impressive in size. With a richly creamy yet light consistency, the many layers of cake and cream culminated in a chocolatey delight that was neither overpowering nor too sweet. I was overly amused by the cow-shaped biscuit that accompanied it, and the thick, lightly sweetened cream was heaven. The cheescake’s cream cheese filling was airy and zesty, though the base rather disappointingly damp, rather than crunchy. We also sampled their new dessert coffees. The Nutty Irishman: Jameson, Baileys and Frangelico was a delicious dessert in itself, though the less sweet Bermuda Coffee: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Baileys was better suited to having with cakes.
Smith & Wollensky’s ambiance was just right, and special mention should be made for the music: just noticeable during lulls in conversation but not so loud as to necessitate raising voices beyond what is comfortable, the chilled out all-American blues and Motown perfectly complimented the mood. The prices are not insignificant. The quality of the steaks were high and the chocolate cake was certainly an event, with other dishes varying in quality. If you still need convincing, Sir Tom Jones was spotted there the same evening. If that won’t do it, nothing will.
Price – A not too thrifty £190 for three courses, cocktails and coffee.
Ambience – A crowd-pleaser, caters to all.
Service – Thanks Valentin, we had fun! Highly attentive and well turned-out, well trained serving staff.
Bathroom – 4/5 for cleanliness.
For reservations and further information please visit: www.smithandwollensky.co.uk