Name: Smith & Wollensky
Where: The Adelphi Building, Covent Garden Riverside, 1 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HT, http://www.smithandwollensky.co.uk
Cost: At dinner time, starters range from £7 to £19, salads from £10 to £12. There is of course a wide selection of steaks, including British rib-eye at £38 for 400g, the tomahawk 1kg steak to share at £74, and Beef Wellington with porcini cream sauce at £39. The USDA prime dry-aged steaks come in at a higher price point, include a sirloin at 395g for £48, and a T-bone 700g steak for £78.
About: Located on the south-side of the Strand by the Savoy Hotel, the Adelphi Building in which Smith & Wollensky is situated has been extensively redeveloped.
The building, once a drab Westminster Civil Service office block, now hosts the first UK branch of the American steak restaurant, Smith & Wollensky, which opened in 2015.
Constructed with a great deal of care to create a 1920s feel in keeping with the building's exterior, the restaurant has wooden floors made from recycled railway sleepers.
There is bespoke artwork on the walls, and the seating is a mixture of soft red leather banquettes and jade-green leather chairs. I loved the gorgeous selection of art deco lights, and the bar and serving areas all topped in white marble.
The restaurant is huge, set over two floors with more than 300 covers. Since Autumn 2016, it features a fully licensed bar in the basement which is a great spot for a glamorous cocktail, with or without dinner.
But what drew me to Smith & Wollensky was their legendary top quality steaks, hailing from across the pond. Pride of place goes to the USDA prime steaks from corn-fed American cattle, imported then dry-aged for 28 days in-house.
I was given a pre-dinner tour of the kitchen and chiller room, and saw for myself the huge chunks of USDA and British meat dry-aging there. It’s a huge cost for the restaurant to age its own steaks, but this guarantees diners at Smith & Wollensky that every steak they eat is dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days.
In addition to USDA beef, there is also a comprehensive selection of steaks from British and Irish grass-fed cattle, as well as seafood and lobster platters.
What We Ate: We shared three starters – the hand-dived Scottish scallop with garlic and parsley butter was meaty and delectable with the herbed butter topped with shavings of lemon zest.
Their signature jumbo lump crab cake was equally good – with a generous ratio of crab to other ingredients, it was again meaty and full of flavour. I just wish I could have had another one!
The yellow fin tuna tartare was delightfully fresh, served on a base of cucumber, lemon, avocado and wasabi. It came with a sweet citrus ponzu sauce, and topped with a lotus root crisp.
We wanted to try a like-for-like comparison of USDA corn fed and Irish grass-fed beef, so went for the USDA 28 day aged T-bone steak 700g (£72), to compare with the Irish tomahawk (1Kg, £74).
The Irish beef was flavoursome and tender, accompanied by a perfect hollandaise sauce – rich, velvety and with refreshing acidity.
The USDA T-bone steak though was in another league – intensely marbled and with a remarkable depth of richness and flavour. This was the best steak I have eaten in years. I am told that it was aged for 33 days, rather than the usual 28.
To accompany, we struggled to make a choice as the options all looked so good, including the very tempting lobster mac n cheese, but we decided against it as we were eating enough steak for 4 people!
We settled on an utterly delicious truffled mac n’ cheese (£10), some divine creamed spinach (£10), crispy French fries (£4) and pan-fried field mushrooms (£5). I thoroughly enjoyed them all.
For dessert, we shared a refreshing coconut and passionfruit mousse, with tarragon poached pineapple (£8).
What We Drank: The wine list has a strong focus on American wines, and particularly on full-bodied red wines. There is a very large selection of first-growths from Bordeaux as well. The entry level white is a Touraine Sauvignon at £34, while there is a Mont Rocher Carignan red from Languedoc at £28.
Before dinner, we had the two house special cocktails (£16 each). These were super-sized, triple-measure American-style Martinis and Manhattans. The Manhattan was a mix of three parts Bulleit Bourbon, to half parts each of sweet and dry vermouth, with a drop each of Angostura and Peychaud's bitters.
The Martini was marvelously dry, with 75ml Tanqueray gin to 5ml dry Vermouth, stirred.
With our starters, we had a bottle of Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc from Napa Valley (£95) which was elegant, rich and creamy, with lemon, vegetal and mineral notes.
To accompany our steaks, we shared a bottle of The Federalist 'Duelling Pistols', from Sonoma, California (£95). This blend of Zinfandel and Syrah was a massive, powerful wine with rich cherry fruit, sweet cedar and vanilla notes, a good grip of balancing tannins, and an admirably long finish.
Likes: Gorgeous 1920s Art Deco interior, great location on quiet John Adam Street just behind the Savoy Hotel, huge wine list, and the best steak I’ve eaten for a very long time. Friendly and knowledgeable service.
Verdict: Smith & Wollensky is my steak house of choice in London right now. I cannot wait to return for more of their 28-day aged USDA T-bone steak, the truffled mac n’ cheese, and the super-sized Martinis. Very highly recommended.