Tag Archives: London

Midnight Steak Out: Good Pun, Good Fun.

2 Nov

Supper clubs and pop ups are a phenomenon that have been bubbling along quietly for the last couple of years, until recently exploding. 2011 is the year of the popup, and not a day goes by without some new pop up appearing on the scene like an unwelcome party guest. Companies have latched onto this ‘hot new thing’ like an old man pawing up a waitress, Similarly, more and more supper clubs are becoming dangerously professional, losing sight of what made them special in the first place.

For at the heart of the supper club is a sense of conviviality born of meeting of unknown people, and entering somebody’s house for them to feed you. The focus should be on good food and new friends. Thankfully this was very much in evidence at the Midnight Steak out, the brainchild of one Amanda Grace Johnson.

A statuesque American lady with a eye for a fine steak and a good nose for wine, the origins of her steak out are simple. It sprung from a BBQ with friends, and has burgeoned into something bigger. Having moved locations numerous times, the venue for my particular encounter was an ex illegal fighting venue in east London.

As I arrived in the pub above said arena of pugilism, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet free Hendrick’s gin and tonic in hand, I soon began to relax. Funny how a drink will do that to you.

Amanda, being a consummate host, introduced me to some of the other guests. We managed to get on exceedingly well, and within five minutes I forgot that I didn’t actually know any of them that well. We were then lead by a team of girl’s hockey players down into a basement.

We opened with a salad of chicory, pear and blue cheese, and walnuts which was a hit with the addition of pear sprucing up what is an otherwise classic combination. Accompanied with some fine wine, the conversation flowed freely.

The steak was sourced from the Ginger Pig, which I saw bizarrely disparaged as the ‘hipster butcher’ recently. Can you have a hipster butcher? Given that it’s run by charming people from Yorkshire, it seems odd. Admittedly it has become the go to name to drop, but only because the meat is of such a high quality. It seems ridiculous that a butcher can become disparaged for doing something too well.

The steak had been bbqed outside on a smoke beast of a thing providing an excellent smoky char. The accompanying celeriac mash was silky and a ideal partner to the watercress and steak. Pudding was a delectable tart topped with a persimmon, a fruit that is always familiar but impossible to name. This was accompanied with some spirits, which helped it slip down nicely.

Suitably lubricated, we all rolled upstairs deep in conversation like long lost friends. Not content with providing food, the evening finished with some music form Amanda’s band, the Silver Jays. Whilst I had to dash off before I would have liked, it was an enjoyable performance rather than simply the result of vanity.

The quality of both the food and the vibe was evident in spades. Whilst the £50 price seems on the edge of steep, this did include three courses and 4 drinks. The next Steak Out is planned for the 2nd of December, and is keeping things fresh with oysters and a roast. Yum.


I dined as a guest of Amanda’s.


Hawksmoor: Serious Steak at Seven Dials

21 Sep

No meat is seen as more macho than steak. Where there is steak you will find men in suits drawn inexorably as if to Helen of Troy.
Yet, this characterisation is a pity for all concerned, especially the women of the world. For a great steak is a thing of universal beauty. Tender, primal. You can tell it’s one of the finer things in life because of how little you need to do to appreciate it. Simply season it and you could eat it raw ( You could eat it without seasoning, but why debase yourself so?). The mere application of a raging heat is enough to elevate it to one of the great foods. Yet tragically, despite having some of the best beef in the world, England has traditionally be seen as lacking a steak restaurant worth talking about, at least in positive terms.

Nowadays London’s pantheon of steak has two main contenders: Goodman and Hawksmoor. Both have slightly distinct vibes but are united by one thing; Consistently providing meaty, rich slabs of excellent steak.

Of the two, Hawksmoor is the slightly punkier younger cousin a fact reflected in its original east London location. As they grow older and more successful they, as is often the case, are moving into slightly more upmarket surroundings, with a branch in Seven Dials and a third planned for the Guildhall.

I made my trip to their slightly swankier Seven Dials location. The restaurant itself is situated in the old Truman’s Brewery, the last remnants of which are the imposing pillars that own the dining room like towering sentinels. The entrance is unassuming but quietly confident and with good reason. From the reception you are lead down some stairs into the bar. This is fitted out like an old school gentleman’s club, all wood and brass. Your face lights up upon entering as you can just tell that everybody here is having a good time. The buzz of contentment hangs heavy in the air.

Doing my best to reinforce stereotypes I had come with three male friends. We began with a round of cocktails to kick off the proceedings. Being stout of heart I went for the infamous Zombie. Consisting of three different rums, absinthe, falernum, grapefruit and lime juice, topped with a Navy Rum float. This is not a drink for the faint of heart or those with a meeting the next day. My decision was justified by the beast that was carried to the table, accompanied by a barman whose “I’m sorry sir, but this should be on fire” ranks as of one of my all time favourite utterances in a restaurant.

We plumped for the express menu (2 courses for £20, three for £22.50), which in my opinion was a steal. The starting salad was well executed but nothing particularly remarkable. If I were going for two courses, I would go for steak and pudding rather than the salad.

After the cocktails and salad we cracked into some bottles of wine, taking advantage of the 5 quid corkage on Mondays. This was only interrupted by the arrival of the main event, 250g of Longhorn rib eye, accompanied by triple cooked chips, the sort that weigh on the mind for days after. The taste sometimes recalls itself to my lips unbidden, causing a smile to break out on my face. Hot, crisp, and all sorts of fun.

The steak itself was everything expected. If my death was to bring someone this much satisfaction I would die at peace. Well-rested after its journey on the Josper, rare but not too bloody. A lot has been said about the Hawksmoor steak, all of it justified. One of the best steaks I have ever had and an embarrassment to so many over cooked and underhung supermarket slabs of beef.

We were originally going to give the puddings a miss, but when it came to it we were enjoying ourselves so much it seemed churlish to refuse. Cornflake ice cream caught my eye, with its echo of Momofuku’s cereal milk ice cream. The waiter told me that it was brought in rather than made on site but that it was still excellent. He was right. Soft, yielding ice cream with crisp cornflake clusters was a perfect way to tend the meal.

At this point I must extend my personal thanks to Will Beckett. Last time I went service slipped somewhat, and he went out of his way to make up for it this time, providing complimentary drink with an unexpected round of cocktails to finish.  I must confess I can’t remember what they were as by this time the zombie and the red wine had their way with my mental faculties. Suffice to say they were of the same high standard as the rest of the meal.

For me, it is no secret why this place is so successful. It does one thing, and it does it very well. Yet what makes it special is that it manages to appeal to both city boys and foodies as well as retaining its trendy east London origins. In my mind, you haven’t had steak till you’ve had Hawksmoor.