★★★★ | Smith & Wollensky, London
Smith & Wollensky is a New York institution and has found it’s way to London, and it’s thriving. It offers all sorts of steaks, and it comes with a price. Expect to pay no less than at least £75 per person – this is a place where definitely how the other half lives. Their steaks are perhaps the finest in the UK, in a restaurant that’s elegant and that defines the word fine dining. The minute you walk into the restaurant, which is just a few minutes walk from Charing Cross Station and right off the Strand, you will encounter a lovely classy restaurant with incredible art deco decor – it’s got a New York feel, with white tablecloths, very classy pictures, and spotless throughout, with a bar that’s very inviting. It’s a place to definitely impress, either your boss, your girlfriend, or perhaps your mom.
Smith & Wollensky may be a once in a lifetime dining experience for some (or most) but it’s perfect for businessmen (company credit card) and those wishing to splurge on a nice meal. The cheapest steak on the menu is an affordable £39 (the Premium Irish Fillet Mignon) – but it’s a tiny 225g. The 400g Rib-Eye steak is a better option at only £42, but the better selections are, of course, the priciest. Another Premium choice – the Tomahawk (1kg and perfect to share) is £78, while the USDA Prime Day-Aged Steaks – and other selections – start low (Sirloin 395g) at £49 and go up to the 700g T-Bone at £78. On the night we went to the restaurant, it was a Monday night, and it was obviously a slow evening as there were only a handful of customers in a place that seats 340 people in both it’s upstairs and the cavernous space downstairs. Lucky for me they had my favorite steak – the chateaubriand, and it was cooked to perfection. It was recommended by the very friendly and very knowledgeable Sabina who said it was big enough for two, but I ate the whole thing, with the excellent Béarnaise sauce giving it a nice flavor. My dining companion had the Kansas City Cut Bone-In Sirloin (595g at £64) and it was delectable, delicious and extremely tasty, and again cooked to perfection. Both of us had never actually tried this type of meat before – now we are both huge huge fans. Smith & Wollensky steaks are charbroiled in one of their four grills, and they employ a full-time butcher where most of it goes through a careful dry ageing process for 28 days to ensure you get the tastiest, freshest meat in town.
Smith & Wollensky offers up a handful of starters, but knowing that we were going to have a meat feast, we went for salads. I had the wonderful Iceberg Wedge, which is exactly what it says on the tin, and it was draped with lovely blue cheese dressing, tomatoes, and extremely delectable bacon lardons (strips). At only £12, it was worth every bite. My dining companion had the Wollensky Salad (£10). It came with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, potato croutons, bacon lardons (yummy again) mushrooms and topped with delicious dijon Vinaigrette. The salad was not sexy, but it was functional.
The main courses don’t come with sides, so of course you would definitely want to order starch and vegetables to accompany your meat dish. You’ve got your choice of French or Cajun Fries or Whipped Potatoes. I had the Baked Potato – perfectly cooked, with butter, bacon bits, cheese, and sour cream, all on a bridge dish! But I would highly recommend the Hashed Brown Potatoes. If you’ve ever been to America you know that the hash browns there are shredded potato cooked on the grill, and the portion at Smith & Wollensky was gynormous and excellent. A must! Also on offer is Truffled Mac ’n’ Cheese and Onion Rings. In the vegetable department, order the Mixed `Vegetables – you name the vegetable – it’s in this dish. All the sides are smartly priced between £5 – £10 pounds each.
Smith & Wollensky has a too big to mention wine list, but the waiters will recommend the best type of wine to accompany your meal. They also have an excellent drinks and cocktail menu. We had the Old Cuban (Havana Club 3, Lime Juice, Mint Leaves, Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV Champagne, Sugar Syrup) and the Stage Three Dacquiri (Havana Club 7, Koko Kanu, Lime Juice, Nutmeg & Vanilla Syrup, Chocolate Bitters). They were both very good but it was the Old Cuban that was more refreshing, lighter, and a bit more flavorable.
The dessert menu really has to be mentioned. There is what they call the ‘Gigantic Chocolate Cake’ – and it is gigantic. It’s actually enough for four people. Moist chocolate layer cake brushed with Baileys Irish Cream, chocolate mousse and covered with dark chocolate ganache at only £18 – it’s practically the best deal on the menu and it’s the richest, guiltiest and best pleasure in town!
There’s really a whole lot to mention about Smith & Wollensky besides the food. As mentioned, the decor is abasolutely divine, the downstairs area has the feel of being in another country (Paris, or perhaps the dining room of the Titanic), and there are three private dining areas for group or company bookings. Smith & Wollensky sits in the Adelphi building on the very quiet street that is John Adams Street, so there are no loud trucks, or lost tourists or selfie takers walking by. It’s secluded enough to be out of earshot of loud traffic, yet it’s just one minute away from major transportation – ideally centrally located. Adelphi translates to brother in Greek, and it was three Adams brothers (John, Robert, James and William) who orignally built the surrounding area in 1768. And close to 250 years, it’s still an elegant area where Smith & Wollensky comfortably resides.
Smith & Wollensky is also running a promotion on their Tomahawk steak. Guests can tuck into the monstrous Tomahawk Steak – a juicy challenge for even the most committed of carnivores – served with French fries, creamed spinach, mushrooms and a bottle of Viñas del Vero, Cabernet/Merlot – perfect for two to share – at just £95! Also, keep your eye on Travelzoo and Living Social as Smith & Wollensky does put on offers that are excellent deals. A recent one included the Chateaubriand with cocktails each for two with four sides at a very cheap price of £45. But don’t let the high prices put you off – Smith & Wollensky can be an affordable place to eat, whether for dinner, lunch or even weekend brunch (which includes not just steaks but also french toast, pancakes, eggs and waffles). And Smith & Wollensky will also be serving an amazing three course Easter Sunday Menu for only £59.00 per person. Elegant food at elegant prices – well worth every penny!
Tel: 020 7321 6007
The Adelphi Building
Covent Garden Riverside
1-11 John Adam St
Monday-Thursday: 12pm – 10.30pm (last orders)
Friday: 12pm-11pm (last orders)
Saturday: Brunch: 11am-3.30pm (last orders); Dinner 5pm-11pm (last orders)
Sunday: 12pm-4:30pm (last orders)
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.