461 - 465 North End Road, Fulham Broadway, London, SW6 1NZ www.hangersteak.co.uk
Gripes aside, the cooking at Hanger is pretty good on the whole and great value when you compare the cost of eating your meat at one of the brand-name steakhouses in town.
Among the cognoscenti and people who fancy themselves the cognoscenti there are certain truisms concerning your uncle’s favourite dinner – steak. One is: the cheaper the cut, the more flavour. Only oligarchs and those lacking imagination choose fillet.
Meanwhile, persons in possession of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, a well-thumbed copy of the Larousse Gastronomique and Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food opt for some part of the beast that has had to work a bit harder for it supper: the rump, the feather-blade, the bavette, or the onglet.
This leads to a question: why does tastier equal cheaper? The answer must be texture. The good Lord gave us a robust set of teeth and enough heft to make easy meat of a properly cooked piece of steak, whatever cut, but for some reason a piece of meat that slices like butter is prized above all else. Strange eh? You may as well eat a block of Lurpak doused in Bovril.
Luckily for me, because I am a cognoscenti and own copies of all the books listed above, a steak joint specialising in the cheaper, tastier cuts called Hanger has opened in Fulham Broadway. A twenty-minute stroll down the Fulham Road from the poky flat I call home.
The eponymous hanger is a cut of meat so called because it hangs down from the cow’s diaphragm. ‘Mmm diaphragm,’ I hear you say. Well no need for the sarcasm because you might have eaten it in a French bistro, where its labelled onglet, and thought what a tasty and inexpensive cut it is when cooked properly. And you’d have been correct. The other name for it is butcher’s steak, because it was the cut the wo/man in the apron would take home for himself – smart chaps butchers.
Inside, they’ve gone for a utilitarian, lets-get-down-to-business type vibe, with tubular steel chairs, wooden tables and the option to sit up on stools at high table in the middle of the room if you are keeping it casual, or at the window if dining solo (the window seat is prime real estate if you’re eating alone).
The menu promises a selection of snacks; a mix of small plates, some meaty, some fishy and some veggie; and then the steaks, all of which are cooked over charcoal. Their mission statement told me that all the UK beef was grass or grain fed and from local farms, but I’m damned if I know what else you’d feed to cows. In the Archers its either grass or grain?
And the difference between the two is one of the big differentiators for meat-eaters, so why not say so? And where the beef cows are in Fulham? There’s the open spaces of Bishops Park and Eel Brook Common but I haven’t seen any Herefords or Dexters at either recently.
As well as UK and USDA hangers, they had a marinated picanha (rump cap), a rare-breed sirloin (no mention of the breed though), a dry-aged cote de boeuf, which implies the other meat isn’t dry-aged to this suspicious diner, and something called ‘only oak grain fed bavette’.
Bavette we’re all familiar with, but what could ‘only oak grain fed’ mean? Do beef cattle eat wood? I asked both the waiters but received decidedly woolly answers both times. Some internet sleuthing reveals that this is actually UK-reared grain-fed beef from ‘Onley Oak’ farm in Northamptonshire. Interesting.
In the interests of science we ordered the bavette, the UK hanger, both medium-rare and to be preceded by a rainbow trout ceviche, charred leek and chicory hearts, and iberico pork ribs, all from the small plates section. As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad, and the trout, and leek and chicory were both a hit, especially the chicory, which is a delicious and under-utilised veg this side of the Channel. The char bringing a new dimension to it.
Unfortunately, the ribs were hugely disappointing, managing to be bland, greasy and tough at the same time. I was expecting something akin to the ones they serve at Ember Yard with a quince glaze. Didn’t get it though. Still, the radicchio and anchovy they came with was great and any cook who has bitter leaves like chicory and radicchio on the menu is in my good books.
The steaks were, like all the best things, a game of two halves. They arrived on a board, already sliced and with pots of béarnaise and chimichurri for dipping and slathering. The hanger was beautifully charred, crimson in the middle, dense and beefy with only a subtle hint of diaphragm, and a bargain at £15 for 300g of meat. Enough for two if you weren’t feeling too greedy.
Strangely though, the bavette arrived completely cooked through and the colour of my brown school tie on the inside. Like I said, strange. Why would the kitchen send out on the same board two pieces of meat supposed to be medium-rare when one so clearly wasn’t?
When this was pointed out to our friendly waitress, she immediately offered, on the chef’s behalf, a second shot at glory, which we gratefully accepted. By the time we’d worked our way through the hanger, a perfectly pink bavette had arrived from the grill, rested and ready to eat.
And we ate it and enjoyed it. Props to whoever made the chimichurri too, which was the best one I’ve had in London. They sent out a free plate of chips, by way of apology, to go with the too-polite poutine and greens we’d ordered as our sides.
Shamefully, everything was eaten, except the ribs, which left no room for dessert, but I wished I’d left room for that Chinese restaurant classic, banana fritters. Next time, eh. And given I live locally, there might actually be a next time.
Our bill came to £118, which included all that food plus a couple of drinks to start with and a bottle of mid-range South African cabernet sauvignon. But if you were minded you could spend half that and still enjoy a decent feed, especially if you stick to the hanger.