GIles tucks into one of the best brunch menus in London

As we begin to process the past few years, it comes as no surprise that many of us are seeking some form of escapism.

Whether through hedonistic festivals, a trip to the beach or devising yet another excuse for a dinner party, as a nation, we’re on the hunt for experiences that bring us together again and allow us, just for a moment, to forget the quandaries of life.

STK has been selling escapism for years and has been doing so with quite some success. Starting in 2007 in New York by The One Group, the concept has now been rolled out across 8 countries and 24 venues, each has a DJ to create as they claim ‘an infectious, high-energy atmosphere designed to encourage guests to interact and mingle.

Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not usually one to suffer gimmicks so easily…and yet, in the post Covid world there is something alluring about gnawing at a steak, slurping back a cocktail and listening to Calvin Harris ‘Getting All The Girls’ (alright for some).

Because why not? Haven’t we suffered enough the past few years to not deserve some good old fashioned fun? Popping candy, sparklers, servers on roller skates…bring it on I say, nothing’s off limits.

Preparing for what is likely going to be a summer from a Scott Fitzgerald novel (we hope), STK has launched a new brunch menu designed around the concept of bringing the party back into breakfast. We tried at their Strand restaurant.

Bookending the menu, bloody Marys, mimosas, and an ample array of cocktails are too hard to miss. For those looking for cleaner concoctions, zero proof options are available too. Food-wise, still rooted in its American origins, it’s what you would come to expect from a well reputed steak house: bold flavours, savoury-sweet combinations and plenty of protein. 

There are some surprise appearances however. A dainty starters menu with dishes such as Burrata and heirloom tomatoes or jalapeno pickled shrimp, provides some light relief among what is an otherwise rich menu.

Knowing full well what was ahead of us, we treaded lightly on starters with a tuna tartare on avocado and a soy-honey emulsion. I prefer my tartare to be cold and for the flavour of the fish to be evident, not masked by too overbearing sauces or seasonings. Thankfully this delivered on both fronts. 

We also opted for some crispy calamari, hard to go wrong here but some hot sweet chilli sauce and roasted garlic and lime aioli made all the difference.

Taking a pit stop and ensuring we were well oiled for the laps ahead, we ordered some cocktails. An elegantly curated old fashioned with cinnamon and orange peel and a creamy whiskey sour, not on the menu but offered by a forgiving bartender.

For the first round of mains, we got onto the more brunch’ier fare, including a smoked pork benedict with hollandaise and some spicy fried chicken with buttermilk waffles, pickles and coleslaw.

Both dishes were enjoyed however but, and this is probably due in part to cultural differences between the UK and our friends across the pond, they were a little too sweet for our tastes.

The chilli did help cut through the sweetness in parts, but when you pair something like hollandaise with a very sweet maple pork, the juxtaposition is perhaps too great.

Another break with a round of Sassy ciders to safeguard peak escapism, we then dove head first into what STK is famous for: steak.

Going for a fattier cut with more flavour, we ordered a Tomahawk steak and truffle chips to share between us. We were also given a whole host of sauces including chimichurri, barbecue and a glutton’s dream, wagyu beef fat butter.

In short, this was up there with some of the best. It was the kind of steak you rarely come across (or perhaps are willing to pay for). From the moment it hit our tongues, both my guest and I narrowed our eyes and did that strange thing humans like to do from time to time when eating exceptional food: we closed our eyes and moaned at each other.

Tender and incredibly juicy, and neither of us could fault it on any fronts. Paired with a delicious Trapiche Estacion 1883 Malbec, we weren’t in London anymore but somewhere in Argentina with weeks ahead of us.

Fearing our bellies could now be defined by some kind of medical condition, we couldn’t squeeze in any pudding but had we the chance, the bag of doughnuts were advised to be the best.

The entire menu set us back just under £100 per head (excluding drinks), however this did include the Tomahawk steak at £90 alone, so omitting that you get down to closer to £50 per head. For some of the best steak I’ve eaten, it was worth the money.

Looking around the other tables during the meal, I couldn’t help but notice how they reflected ours: a heightened state of happiness. It’s a simple formula: Cocktails + music + delicious food = happy customers. And yet there are many places that get this wrong.

Poor service, unimaginative menus or a lacklustre concept can consign a restaurant to failure.

Whilst the menu wasn’t particularly original, STK delivered the exact opposite. Great flavours, excellent service and most importantly, they ensured my guest and I had some of the best, unadulterated fun we’d had in years.