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Friday 12 September 2014

Meating in the City at Forge

Name: Forge

Where: 24 Cornhill, London, EC3V 3ND, http://www.forgedinlondon.com

Cost: Starters range from £5.50 to £8.50 while mains are priced from £11.50 for the Forge Burger or a ½ spit roast chicken to £50 for a 20-ounce (567g) tomahawk steak for two with all the trimmings.

About: After a £2 million refit of late Abacus Bar just metres away from the Bank of England, Forge opened in 2013 as a bar and restaurant specialising in flame-grilled meats.

With a zinc bar overlooking the grills, one of those intricate Victorian black and white tiled floors, long wooden tables, black painted ceiling with exposed pipes and cables, Forge has an eclectic style that looked better than it sounds. As most City’s bars and restaurants, Forge is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The menu is a meat lover’s treasure trove, with many items that grabbed my carnivorous attention including BBQ pulled pork with toasted walnut bread (£5.50), the cider belly of pork (£13) or the Coca-Cola glazed gammon served with a spit roast pineapple (£11.50), all to be tried on my next visit. All spit grilled meats are served with thick cut chips, apple and fennel coleslaw, chilli and coriander corn.

On the midweek evening we were there, The London Essentials band was performing, and they certainly knew how to work a room of City midweek diners and boozers into a frenzy, with a medley of hits from Michael Jackson, and Lulu to Dolly Parton.

There is a range of attractions throughout the week to tempt diners in. Mondays see a 2 for 1 offer on meats, on Tuesdays, cocktails are priced at £5 all night. Wednesday sees The London Essentials live band strutting its stuff, while on Fridays, DJs take centre stage to see in the weekend.

What We Ate: On the midweek night we ate there, we were lucky enough to meet Head Chef David Jordan and dine at the 6-seater Chef's Table for a ring-side view of his entire kitchen, including a blazing grill and spit roast.

We kicked off with the 7-hour, Coca Cola-braised Jacob's Ladder - a very tender and flavoursome beef short rib that was sweet and sticky from the Cola marinade, served with tangy mustard mayonnaise (£6).

We also had the tempura soft shell crab (£8.50) - this was crispy in a wafer-thin batter, and served in a tiny deep-frying basket on a fresh banana leaf, with confit new potatoes, and a little dipping bowl of soy and sesame sauce.

But the star of the show was undoubtedly the Tomahawk steak (£50 for 2). A richly flavoured Scottish beef supplied by Fairfax Meadow (David told us that only 16 of these steaks are supplied to the restaurant each week), this American-style cut was grilled, carved for us at the table, and cooked medium rare as requested.

Served with horseradish onion bhajis, a tomato fondue, watercress, confit red onion and thick cut chips, there was a wonderful beef jus to bring out the rich flavours of the meat. The Scotch beef was tender, thoroughly marbled with the softest of fat, and imbued with an unbelievable intensity of flavour from the rib against which it had been grilled.

For dessert, we had the signature strawberries and cream sundae (£6). With a generous serving of strawberries, vanilla panna cotta, vanilla bean ice cream, pistachio praline and cream, this was a tad disappointing as the cream tasted as if it had come straight from an aerosol. Better was a well made pineapple creme brûlée (£6) which was creamy and rich in vanilla seeds with a wonderfully crunchy burnt sugar topping.

What We Drank: There is a range of cocktails from £8.50, and unusually each has a number rather than a name. White wines start at £21 for a Vin de Pays d'Oc Marsanne-Viognier blaned. Entry level reds start with a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo for £18. If you are pushing the boat out, there are some very nice options like a Hermitage from Chapoutier for £100, and Champagnes like Pommery Brut and Moët et Chandon NV for £55 and £58 or Veuve Cliquot NV for £65.

We kicked off with a refreshing No. 61 cocktail, made from Aperol, Campari, Galliano, lemon juice and sugar syrup (£8.50).

To accompany the meat, we opted for a bottle of 2009 Barolo Enrico Serafino (£47.50). Ruby coloured and quite light in density, this had medium red berry fruit, and surprisingly youthful tannins, but satisfying length that stood up well to the meat.

Likes: There is top quality beef here, the menu is small but well executed. Cocktails and wines are well chosen, reasonably priced, and give a good range of options from affordable to modestly splurging. The venue is very convenient for London's myriad City workers, or indeed, only 20 metres from Bank station, for anyone else in London. If you have come in just for a drink, there is the popular option of a Forge burger for just £11.50, which is excellent value for the location.

Dislikes: It’s not really a criticism, but the fact is that Forge is predominantly a drinking spot in the City, with a restaurant tacked on the back. That means that the sounds of drinkers' revelling and music, live or otherwise, can be intrusive if a quiet or intimate meal is what you are after.

Verdict: A buzzing City bar and meat grill restaurant with a well thought-out and expertly delivered menu, I loved the Jacob's ladder and the soft-shell crab, but the Tomahawk steak was a thing of wonder. An excellent value option compared with other steakhouses in London. Recommended.

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