At a time where everyone in the developed world seems to be leaning ever more towards a plant based diet, I’m not afraid to admit that I love a good steak. That wasn’t always the case – I never used to like it when I was younger – and despite loving steak, I don’t think my parents have ever been to a steak restaurant (so obviously I never went as a kid!), under the impression that they’re just so overpriced and simply not worth the money.
That’s not to say I don’t love cooking vegetarian meals – I’m far from the belief that a meal is not complete without meat, and I love experimenting in the kitchen to create exciting and alternative dishes which in many cases (often unintentionally) are vegetarian. When it comes to a truly special meal or a special occasion though, I really believe that it’s hard to beat a piece of meat of the highest quality.
When I came across STK I was so excited to take my mum there for a belated birthday meal. I know she cooks and enjoys steak regularly at home but I desperately wanted her to have the full steak experience, and to show her that if you find a top restaurant it really is worth the extra money, no matter how ‘wonderful a steak you can buy and cook at home’.
STK is one of eight in a group of restaurants, brought to London by New York operator’s The ONE Group, combining the modern steakhouse with a fine dining restaurant for an experience like no other.
The interior is incredibly sleek – there’s no doubt that it’s the kind of place you’d bring someone to impress them. A well-lit open bar is positioned in front of the entrance, with tables both to the left and right, the right side illuminated in pretty purple-ish low lighting with wooden tables, leather booths and giant vases of stunning flowers. Both their cocktail and their wine list is extensive, but with neither of us being big wine drinkers we went for cocktails which were just as stunning as the restaurant itself.
After being shown to our table, bread was brought over almost immediately. At many restaurants I almost don’t dare to think about the possibility of bread as I just get too disappointed if none appears! I needn’t have worried though, because this one was perfect! A warm brioche with a melted cheese topping and the most delicious vibrant green garlic butter for dipping, all sitting on a beautiful wooden STK branded board. Of course being the carb queen I dived straight in there, and with my mum worried about fitting in her starter, let alone her main (understandably as she has the world’s smallest appetite!), she let me polish it off – of course I didn’t need telling twice!
Steak of course features, but surprisingly doesn’t dominate the menu, with a huge variety of fish and alternative mains appearing alongside their chosen selection of USDA prime beef available in a variety of cuts and weights. Other options include lamb, cod, boar, veal, monkfish and salmon, there’s a ‘raw bar’ and even a unique range of salads which feature ingredients ranging from cornbread to crab, poached pear and chicken popcorn (not all together obviously!).
The hardest decision for me was choosing a starter – every single one sounded perfect! Tempura sea scallops sit alongside soft shell crab sliders on the menu, but there are also incredible vegetarian options such as fried Burford brown egg with porcini custard, veloute, ossau iraty and crispy chestnut bread! Choosing accompaniments to your meal doesn’t get any easier – their steak ‘toppings’ include smoked bacon and blue cheese, crab cakes, king prawns and grilled lobster tails.. and then there’s the sides! Alongside steakhouse classics like mac & cheese and French fries, they offer parmesan truffle chips, lobster mac & cheese and a pancetta potato mousseline! Luckily there are plenty of incredible cocktails (and more bread if you ask nicely!) to keep you going whilst you decide!
After much deliberation, we both went for steak. It was a close call for me, but I rarely have steak and I didn’t feel like I could go to a top steakhouse and order fish! I went for medium and my mum chose medium rare but the meat was so incredibly that I honestly would’ve eaten it cooked any which way! The knife slid through the meat effortlessly and the whole piece was so perfectly plump and juicy with a paper-thin crust on the outside providing a whole new level of texture. I enjoyed the slightly charred crisp outside as much as I did the soft, pink tender middle – I truly couldn’t have imagined a more perfectly cooked steak. And amazing a steak as I’ve had in the past I do often get the odd mouthful where there’s the tiny big of gristle but this entire 300g slab of meat was flawless. With your steak you get a complimentary sauce. I’m not too bothered about sauce as I’m usually happy with ketchup (don’t judge me!), but we were both keen to try something different. We went for their STK Bold sauce – a spicy take on their signature STK sauce, which is both sweet and a little sticky. Perhaps one of those times when being adventurous doesn’t quite pay off as it was a little sweet for my liking, but I’m sure I’m in the minority with my general dislike for sweet sauces (on a savoury meal!) – sweet chilli has to be one of the most popular sauces going! They also offer BBQ and red wine sauces alongside the more traditional Béarnaise and peppercorn options.
I chose a lobster tail as a topping, which came drowned in gloriously garlicky butter. Knowing that my mum wouldn’t be able to manage any sides, I took my pick of my favourites (she did tell me to – I’m not that mean!), deciding on two absolute steakhouse classics – parmesan truffle chips and mac and cheese, as well as a cauliflower dish which came with dukkah and honey butter sauce.
The mac and cheese was huge! It came in a rectangular skillet, layered more thinly than others I’ve had before, which meant extra surface area for bubbling golden-brown cheese on top! The pasta was cooked al-dente and the sauce was thick and creamy – the whole thing was just as dreamy and indulgent as you’d hope from a mac and cheese. The macaroni pieces were smaller than usual too, which just meant each mouthful was the perfect balance of pasta and sauce. The chips were chunky, with crispy outsides and fluffy middles, stacked up in a similar skillet and dusted generously with parmesan. If I’m honest I didn’t get even the tiniest hint of truffle though.. they were wonderful chips but the promise of truffle did leave me slightly disappointed. The cauliflower was never going to beat the carby-delights of the other sides but it wasn’t far off – no mean feat for a vegetable! Cut into tiny pieces, the beautifully roasted florets sat in a deliciously buttery sauce with a subtle hint of sweetness from the honey.
Wonderful as their mains are, STK has so much more to offer. Their starters were possibly the highlight of the meal for me, with unique, innovative dishes executed to perfection. Often at a fine dining restaurant you’d expect stingy portions too, but not here. Roasted octopus came two ways – thick chunks and thinner tentacles, fried until golden brown and crispy. On the plate were at least five or six sizeable pieces, a far cry from many high-end restaurants where you’d be lucky to get more than a couple of slithers. Roasted perfectly until they were tender, they were arranged beautifully on a vibrant yellow chickpea puree, studded with green olives and sundried tomatoes – the perfect starter.
Soft shell crab sliders too were generous – fried until golden brown in a beautifully light tempura batter before being sandwiched with wasabi remoulade and pickled ginger in a glossy brioche bun. I was desperate to try these despite being a little apprehensive about the addition of wasabi (as not only do I dislike it, I find it tremendously overpowering!), but the flavour was subtle and complimented the crab perfectly. They could’ve definitely lost the mayo, but that’s my personal preference as I’m simply not a fan of the stuff!
Overall I was seriously impressed with the whole STK experience. From the wonderful warm brioche to start to the incredible quality of every dish we had it was pretty hard to pick faults with almost any aspect of the meal. The waitress could’ve perhaps been a bit less pushy when it came to ordering more drinks, but the service as a whole was great, with the chef even coming over part-way through the meal to check that we were enjoying everything! My mum may not have managed to make space for any of the sides but with starters that good and meat so incredibly soft and tender, it’s safe to say that I have most definitely convinced her that as good as steak can be at home, nothing beats a top steakhouse for a special meal!
Link to their website: http://togrp.com/venue/stk-london/