It’s National Steakhouse Month and as someone who actually likes steakhouses, his formative dining experience was in one of the first steakhouses, the Tavern in the Town in Croydon, Nick feels the time is right to try one again.
STK (steak, get it) is very much a different kind of steakhouse to the norm. The diners are young and have left their parents at home. The girls are dressed to impress with plenty of skin on display as they wobble about on high heels and the boys take their style from footballers. The smell of Creed fragrance is heady.
It sounds snobby but the fact is the people eating at STK are not foodies, not middle class kids obsessing over trends. They want food that costs a bit more for a special night out, but they don’t want to be puzzling over the menu and eyeing waiters warily for signs of sniggering.
They also want a snazzy modern interior, leather seats, purple and white lighting and banging (as I believe it is called) music as the evening lengthens. It’s a smart concept really and you can’t knock it and it’s certainly busy every time that I go past
STK is an American steakhouse, so they also know their meat and for Steakhouse Month they’ve put on a menu that shows a bit of what they do best and for the fixed price of £49.
My chair is bizarrely lower than the banquette P is sat on, I feel uncomfortably close to the table top, but apart from that I am comfy. The aircon is cold and then hot and then cold again, which is a bit disconcerting but as more people come in it soon stabilises to a pleasant average. I don’t like cold draughts or warm breezes and the girls in STK certainly aren’t dressed for winter that’s for sure.
First up is a plate of STK’s hits - Air dried coffee cured beef with confit cherry tomatoes, broad beans and parmesan mousse STK’s Lil’BRGR with USDA beef and special sauce in a sesame seed bun and Soy cured beef tartare with sriracha and pickled shimeji mushroom.
The beef shows signs of being sliced earlier, it has lost some freshness, but the flavours are rather fascinating with the tomatoes, beans and parmesan all making quite a little carnival on the tongue. The slider is very good, messy to eat but in the way we all like and the sauce I think perhaps has cheese in it. I could have happily eaten a larger version of this guy.
P is not a fan of tartare; it is quite a divisive dish for many. Here the raw meat is properly coarsely chopped and the soy that’s replacing traditional Worcestershire Sauce adds some good umami. The sriracha, once a bit of a cult condiment with the kind of people who like to say ‘amaaaayzing' has quite a kick. P eats a bit and then pushes it aside. Nothing wrong with it but not her thing. I like it a bit but not a lot.
Grilled USDA sirloin steak & braised short rib, burnt onion puree and asparagus, served with a side of mac and cheese sounds a lot to eat. The mac and cheese would be enough on its own and I wouldn’t have minded as it’s really excellent. The elbow pasta shapes are cooked just right and the cheese so tangy and tasty it can’t be American cheese. It’s got great burny bits on top, my favourite bits.
The sirloin steak is not massive, which is a good thing, and has a good crisp sear. It’s pretty bloody (sic) rare though and not medium rare as asked for. I can handle it, but some bits really are verging on raw and that’s a shame as I find the raw bits hard to draw taste out of.
And there is plenty of taste in the meat nearer the surface where the heat has done its work. It’s surprising actually that it’s rare as, in my experience, Americans rarely (geddit) cook steak anything less than all the way through
The beef short rib is certainly cooked though; properly ‘falling off the bone’ cooked so you could eat it with a spoon. It’s got real depth of flavour and is pleasingly moist and not stick in the teeth fibrous as ribs can be when cooked too quickly.
The burnt onion puree is not to my taste; rather too sweet and I am not sure what to do with it really because the USDA steak is good enough to need nothing over it and the short rib is the same. It’s an American thing I suppose, always room to add more.
I add more by having the cheesecake, the New York cheesecake which is tangy and cheesy as it should be and not cloyingly sweet as cheesecake has evolved to be over here. It firm and unctuous. I like the branded chocolate flag that comes with it and the scoop of sorbet too.
It’s a fairly filling meal all told; P swapped out the mac n cheese for truffled fries, but is still feeling like she might need carrying out. The girls at the next table, clearly on for a big night, are having no problem eating plates of steaks, but I guess when you’re young you have the appetite to go large. Plus they’re probably going to dance it off, whereas I am going to slouch in front of the TV, groaning slightly.
STK does what it does well, it’s not a classic steakhouse it’s next generation and aimed squarely at a specific target market. The prices are on the high side, this special deal aside, but that is part of the attraction - it keeps out the backpackers and street food fans.