I recently just started my U.K. posts with an introduction to my stay in Beaconsfield, but, like most twenty-somethings, I was a bit more excited after Mamanie and the rest of my family left to go to the Lake District because that meant I finally got to go into London. Growing up, my dad brought me to London several times to see his family, but I never took to the city. I thought the people were mean, it was kind of boring, and that the London Eye was one of the ugliest things I’d seen in my life; however, when I stopped in last year after my Oviedo program was over, my opinion did a complete 180…except for the Eye thing. If anything, my opinion of the Eye just continued to worsen as I traveled around and learned that basically every city has something that you can go to the top of. It is pretty much guaranteed that most tourists are willing to shell out money to see a bird’s eye view, no matter what that view is. But, ranting against the Eye aside, I really learned to appreciate this city after I hit my twenties.
My last trip to London was full of late nights at smoky hookah lounges, lunches categorized by traditional Persian food or inventive sushi, and, my favorite part, bright beer gardens, but my trip this year was much more subdued. This was mostly due to the fact that my partner-in-crime last year gave birth two days before I landed in Heathrow, but I was also in pretty hardcore grandma mode and struggled to stay up past ten for the two weeks I spent on the other side of the Atlantic. After running around the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Tower of London, all I wanted to do was go to my cousin’s home, eat, watch trashy TV with his wife, and go to bed…so that’s exactly what I did.
Although I did spend quite a bit of time on my own, once Mamanie and everyone else got back from the Lake District, she joined me in London for a day while our family dealt with real life. We, however, pretty much did the opposite of real life and decided to spend part of our day exploring Harrods. Obviously Harrods wasn’t anywhere on my radar when I was by myself because my empty wallet and I were perfectly content to munch on fresh sandwiches and salads at Pret, but I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t looking forward to this
complete little bit of luxury.
We strolled among the purses and bags that we definitely couldn’t afford unless we wanted to blow all our money. After that and while I spent five minutes fawning over a gorgeous rose ring by Dior, we decided we better move on to other sections of Harrods. I’m not even that much of a jewelry person and I was tempted, so I can safely say that Harrods is a dangerous place where wallets are sacrificed to the Gods and bank accounts are depleted. If you do go to London, proceed with extreme caution…which is a warning that I think should be in more guide books…and possibly outside the store itself.
As we took in the various dining options, my grandma, who is never one to pass on a nice steak, said we should eat at The Steakhouse. As you walk up to the queue, there is a small counter and cash register, as well as a selection of raw meats behind the counter where you can see the different cuts through spotless glass. Next to the cash register, you can see what the meats are and the prices per 100 grams of each chunk. After looking at your options, the man behind the counter cuts your meat for you, weighs it, asks how you want it cooked, and then asks if you want any sauces or sides as part of your meal. It feels like a whirlwind process, and we were lucky that there were no people behind us, or I would have felt even more rushed.
We were ushered near the bar area after we ordered and finally got to sit down on some stools and order a glass of wine while we waited. We quickly scanned the wine menu, and while my grandma went with her usual 2010 Argentinian Malbec, I decided to broaden my horizons a bit and ordered the Carménère from Chile. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I was presented with my deep red selection, I was excited to try it. All I can say about it is that there was such a distinctive pepperiness to the wine that it is not a good choice for anyone who likes mild flavors. I really enjoyed it though, and was happy that I broke out of my Merlot shell a little bit. The wine I chose went particularly well with a rare cut of steak, and was great for food. The Malbec, on the other hand, was really smooth and went down easily, so it was a great choice for Mamanie, who is definitely into lighter white wines over any reds.
Finally, after what I considered to be a long wait since I finished my first glass of wine, we were presented with our meals. I opted for my usual Filet, or fillet as they spell it in the U.K., which I know gets ragged on by pretty much everyone in the food industry, but is still my longstanding favorite cut. Admittedly, half the reason why I enjoy filet so much is because of all the interesting rubs and sauces I can get with it, but I do appreciate the buttery texture, too. As always, I ordered my meat rare, which generally means my grandma will ask me one hundred and one questions on how I can eat something so bloody. However, I’m a firm believer that anything more than rare or medium rare is a waste of money because after that point, I’d rather pay five dollars for a Checkers burger than thirty dollars for a nice cut of meat that’s been massacred.
I decided to order the filet with Black Truffle and Mascarpone sauce, which was the best decision of the day. As soon as I saw the creamy sauce, I decided to just
drown drizzle the meat with it. The truffles added a great earthiness to it, and the mascarpone was essential for creating that creaminess that went really well texturally with the filet. Unfortunately, it was really the only thing that completely impressed us during our meal.
Although I adored the sauce, my grandma, who ordered the Bone-in Rib-eye, and I both noticed a bit too much sinew in the meat itself. Now, a little bit of sinew is to be expected with a rib-eye, but I was shocked to discover so much in my filet, especially considering that this was Harrods. The sinewy aspect of the meat was pretty disappointing, and my poor Mamanie looked like she was getting a work out while digging into her lunch. The flavors of the meat were really fantastic and they were cooked perfectly, but the sinew really dampened our outlooks on the steaks.
The one yummy thing that came with the steak besides the sauce was the Tomato portion that accompanied the meat. These tomatoes were bright red, fresh, and flavorful, so they were a nice choice to add both color and acidity to the plate. They were just tomatoes though, and there wasn’t anything really done with them except plopping them on the plate, so I give props to whoever supplied this produce over the restaurant itself.
Since we knew the steaks wouldn’t keep us full, we also ordered the Mashed Potatoes and the Grilled Oyster Mushrooms, both of which were pretty satisfying. The mashed potatoes were incredibly flavorful and had so much butter in them that gravy was completely unnecessary. Unless my mashed potatoes have garlic or some other ingredient, I always want gravy, but these were so nice and fluffy that I completely forgot that I usually don’t eat naked mashed potatoes. The mushrooms were also really satisfying and meaty, and the pesto-type herbs that were sprinkled on top added some salty flavors to the shrooms. It was all very nice as far as sides go, but wasn’t something that I will be thinking about for years to come.
Considering that this was the most expensive meal I’ve ever had in my life, I was really expecting something a bit more. My grandma chose The Steakhouse, but maybe I should have pushed for a different spot because I have increasingly believed that most pricey steakhouses just aren’t worth it. I love a nice cut of steak, but when you look at places like the critically panned Ocean Prime, or even the more well received places like Butcher and Singer, it rarely seems as though the price matches up with the satisfaction you get from the meal.
In an odd way, I’m starting to associate steakhouses with the poorly looked upon 90s-era of food. Cities like London and Philly have such diverse, innovative restaurants that steakhouses just can’t hold their own against them. It might be time for us to spend a chunk of our day with a butcher so that we can create our own fantastic steaks at home and save our dining out money for meals that we really can’t get elsewhere. My meal at Harrods wasn’t wholly disappointing, but the problems that did occur were too big for a place charging premium prices. If I ever do go back to Harrods (read: if I make millions of dollars or marry well), I think I’ll be skipping The Steakhouse and will try my luck with some sushi or one of the other plethora of options in this iconic store.