Meat & Wine: A Mini-Review
Meat & Wine is one of the restaurants in the Ch'ien Men 23 complex (also home to Maison Boulud and Sadler's). It's part of a South Africa-based chain of restaurants (that is now run from Australia) that serves an impressive array of dishes that include a few South African specialities (boerewors, biltong, etc) though the majority of the dishes would be familiar to diners from anywhere in the West.
The dining room is nicely decorated, simple, with an open kitchen in the rear. Service is friendly, though, as is typical in Beijing, it's clear that, no matter how well the staff have been trained by the restaurant owners, the fact that most of them have never actually dined in a similar restaurant makes their approach very awkward and intrusive when it need not be.
The menu includes a couple of set menus for RMB 388 and RMB 588 (if memory serves), each comprising three courses and offering a choice of two dishes for each course. There are also sampler platters to be shared by either two or four diners, giving people who are new to the restaurant an opportunity to try out a broader range of dishes than would otherwise be possible. The night I was there, we were four people, and two of us had the RMB 388 set menus while the other two shared the platter for two (though, interestingly, after the third of us ordered that platter for two, the waitress still asked the fourth diner what he'd be having...). Although we expected the sampler to be enormous and difficult to finish, it was in fact just the right size, offering enough of everything that it included to afford a decent sample, but not so much that you wound up feeling like you'd overdone it.
The wine list is very sizable, and includes a good range of South African wines (though no Shiraz from SA for some reason). However, the wines are surprisingly expensive, much more so than in other restaurants, though the wines are generally of a very high calibre.
We really enjoyed the meal, and would go again, though now that we have sampled a bunch of dishes we'd probably order a la carte in the future. If you go, the steaks (there are several types) are among the standouts for me, along with the salt and pepper fried calamari. And the molten chocolate cake was a pretty darn good way to finish the meal.
I love Meat & Wine, its a pity that more people haven't taken notice of it. The steaks are great, I've yet to have anything that I didn't enjoy, and service is excellent. I absolutely love the boerwoers appetizer, though its definitely meant to be split by at least 2, if not more. The molten cake's realy good, they also do a top creme brulee. The wine list, as noted, isn't cheap, I don't think they have a bottle under RMB330 (US$48), though the markup on their wines is a lot less than what you'd usually see at other restaurants, plus the manager/sommelier's recommendations have always been spot on.