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The Great Steak Debate

The quality of steak available in London has certainly improved tremendously in recent years. I enjoy the Gaucho, Hawksmoor, Popes Eye, Anglesey Arms etc.

Nowhere in London however, can I find steaks of the quality I have experienced in the US particularly in NYC and Chicago. Nowhere can you find a steak with that almost caramel 'crust'.

Why? Why?

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  1. I'm not sure what you mean by 'caramel crust.' Do you mean the color and taste of the fat portion of the steak? It might have something to do with how steaks are prepared in the UK - often pan fried rather than grilled? Maybe it's the way the meat is cut or the cuts used.

    6 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      I am talking about the charring. I am steak that has been broiled at ligh temperature, the surface char will have an almost caremalised 'crust'.

      1. re: loobcom

        On my next attempt to cook a steak in the UK, I'm going to try a cut of Argentinian beef. I had an organic filet steak last night and found it tasteless and awful. I think one thing missing here is the marbling often found in good cuts over in the States. That makes a big difference in the taste. I sure do miss my Weber, outdoor grill!

        1. re: zuriga1

          you generally buy filet steak for tenderness, not for flavour.

          the best beef i've eaten has always been this side of the pond, though. if you truly want delicious steak at home, go to a butchers. top of the line is the rib eye from lidgates in holland park. or try the sirloin roast, with homemade horseradish cream.

          if you want to eat out, try the belgian cote de boeuf at cheyne walk brasserie. superb.

          and as for your weber, try and see if you can grill in a porcelain cooker like the big green egg .. oh my.

          1. re: howler

            I think before getting a weber, I'll have to get a house! I need a translation.. what is the big green egg?? I will try Cheyne Walk Brasserie one of these days.

              1. re: howler

                Aha... now I understand. I never saw one of those in the U.S. and we usually had a propane-fired gas grill. Maybe I could live in a big green egg instead of spending a zillion ££ on a house.

    2. Forgive the intrusion from someone from the States, but I was bored during lunch and decided to see what was cooking on the other side of the Big Blue Pond. :-)

      I do agree with zuriga that it's probably the way it's cooked - steaks here are often seared at a *very* high temperature on the grill or pan (often cast iron), which helps to form that "crust" you're talking about, and then finished in an oven to the temp/rareness requested by the diner. Marinades can also add to the crust, depending on the amount of sugars in the marinade.

      And depending on the temp to which the steak is cooked, it's often called "Black and Blue" for an extremely rare steak - charred crust on the outside, and very red-rare (almost still cold) on the inside.

      You might want to post your "Why? Why?" question on the General Topics board to get an answer, with a pointer link back to this original post. I'm sure the much more knowledgeable folks than I who read GenTopics will be better able to answer your question.

      1. this is getting off-topc ... but ... house prices in london are CHEAPER than in manhattan, pound rate and all. and here you don't have to worry about maintenance, yearly tax, nyc tax and tax when you sell.

        anyway, to keep it food related - i'd highly recommend popeseye in olympia as well - the cooking is variable, but when its on you can get a delish scottish steak. wine list is reasonable too.

        1. The best steaks in London are to be found at the Top Floor of Smiths at Smithfield and at the Arkansas Cafe.

          I haven't tried Hawksmoor.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Tony Finch

            oh god, no, no, no a thousand times no. if i didn't know thorny finch any better, i'd have thought this was a definite leg pull.

            smiths at smithfield is pedestrian at best, and as for bubbas arkansas cafe - sheesh. the only thing worth recommending about bubbas is that he inadvertently led me to an excellent syrian next door - the syrians barbecued chicken, his veggies - especially sauteed spinach - are outstanding. as a matter of fact, cafe meditteraneo became my favourite lunch place in the city.

            1. re: howler

              Finchy, I have to agree with Howler about smiths and bubbas. You should both try Hawksmoor. I visited them for the third time last week and had the bone-in sirloin and it was very good, but nowhere near as good as I have had at any number of establishments in NYC, DC, Chicago and all points west.

              The Popes Eye in Olympia serves good 28 day aged Scottish steaks. I don't know if they are wet or dry aged. I suspect wet. What irks me about eating there is that you come away smelling of steak and chips.

              Again I have to agree with Howler about the Cheyne Walk Brasserie where you will eat magnificent rib served with charm.

              For me the Cheyne Walk Brasserie is the best steak in London at the moment.

          2. My three favourite London steaks this year ( bar those cooked at home ) have been ( in no particular order )

            The Anchor & Hope
            http://majbros.blogspot.com/2006/07/a...

            Santa Maria Del Buen Ayre
            http://majbros.blogspot.com/2006/04/s...

            Hawksmoor
            http://majbros.blogspot.com/2006/08/h...

            All quite different but very enjoyable none the less.

            An honourable mention should also go to Mal Maison which does a pretty decent attempt

            http://majbros.blogspot.com/2006/08/m...

            S

            1. Whatever,I agree with the premise of the thread. Steaks in the States are much better. I have never tasted steak as good as at Peter Luger in NYC or in Doe's Eat Place in Greenville Missisippi

              1. It seems to me that the South American places do the best steaks in London. The Guacho definitely gets tops marks as does Santa Maria del Buen Ayre on Broadway Market in Hackney.

                1. The best steak I've had in London by a mile was at the Ealing Park Tavern. Only been once so can't confirm how systematic their performance is, but am hankering to return.

                  1. I second the Pope's Eye, and agree wholeheartedly on the now-I-smell-like-a-steak premise. It's a flaw. I have eaten at the Putney location in the summer, and they have a garden, so you're not as smelly when you leave.
                    An observation: I think the steakhouse is a particularly North American thing. For me, having a great steak isn't just about the meat (what's that, purists? Yeah, I hear you yelling.)
                    It's also about the ambiance _ the waiters, which in a New York steakhouse always appear to have an average age of 106; the sides _ creamed spinach, anyone?; the wine _ red, red, red; and the room _ clubby, with booths and a great bar for a pre-meal martini.
                    You just don't get all that here, all at once, I don't think.
                    Having said all that, I did once get food poisioning after eating at a Ruth's Chris (my bad, I know) in Cleveland.

                    1. Couldn't agree more

                      The US steakhouse is just not replicated in the UK at all.

                      It is the first sort of place I head to when I arrive in NYC

                      Last week, I was given a post marathon treat of a meal at Keens

                      rather fun and impossible to find in London even though we can now find places serving decent steak

                      http://majbros.blogspot.com/2006/11/k...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Simon Majumdar

                        I'll second Keens. Maybe the best steakhouse in Manhattan, certainly the best selection of scotch.

                      2. Hi Guys-

                        I think that the major difference between the steak in the UK and US is the steroids used in US beef production. I had some amazing steaks in expensive hotels while in Hawaii, and was really impressed at the taste of the meat. Beef in england has become much more disappointing in flavour over the last 15 years. I think that the problem here is that the meat is not hung for anywhere long enough to get the flavour, because customers (usually women) like it to look 'nice and fresh' which means red and bloody- and hence flavourless.
                        Its only when I see a steak which is really dark, with good dark yellow rim of well matured fat that I know it is going to taste right.

                        That 'Crust' which forms on the steak in the USA is because the meat is probably dry aged- (actually called New York aging) there is so little water left in it that it just crusts up making that fantastic tasting seared outside, whilst the inside can be as rare as anything. meat which wet aged will not crisp up like this (prove it to yourself- cool a rasher of dry cured bacon and a slice of normal wet cured or brined bacon and see!)

                        I normally get my steaks from Harrods, Lidgates and a little butcher called HG walter. I think Lidgates Beef supplies its beef when not sufficiently mature.
                        Harrods will, if asked, give you a T bone, or a sirloin which is very dark, well over 28 days (more like 6 weeks)

                        I recently bought a WAGYU steak (japanese style Kobe beef, reared in England http://www.wagyu.net/) from Harrods. it was riducoulously expensive (£40 for a smallish fillet steak). The marbling was fantastic, and the flavour was really excellent. It tasted like I remembered scotch beef tasting in the late 70s.
                        I have some photographs of the meat before and after cooking a video of the steak cooking in my grill pan which I might be able to post if enough people want to see it.

                        On the subject of Steak restaurants, I am strongly of the opinion that PAMPA GRILL in Battersea rise, Clapham is the best. It only serves steaks which are amazing in taste.

                        http://www.mywandsworth.co.uk/wandswo...

                        go there and try- I promise its so good- the only thing (apart from my beautiful girlfriend) which can get me to go south of the river!!!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Brutus

                          I beg to differ with you about one thing. I am far from a beef expert but did live most of my long years in America. The color of the steak has nothing to do with the flavor, as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't even buy a steak that is dark brown. All the tasty ones at any shop are usually red, not brown - which I always considered a sign of being on the shelf too long. You should venture south of the river sometime. There's grass and trees and beautiful things to see and eat!

                        2. I thought that the difference was mainly down to the breed of cattle and the diet (likely to be grain fed in the US, grass fed in the UK).

                          There's also a cultural question - the steak house is an American standard - places here are generally poor imitations.

                          Hawsksmoor is great though: http://londonfood.typepad.com/stuff/2...

                          I'm looking forward to trying out a few steak places on my next visit to the US . . .