STK London, 336-337 The Strand, London WC2R 1HA
On paper STK was everything we dislike in a restaurant. Starting with the name. There must be a few dodgy keyboards out there in the restaurant world at the moment that are missing their vowels. STK is an American import, with restaurants in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas and Miami.
But the main thing that put us off (but also intrigued us at the same time) is the whole ‘female-friendly’ ethos that was in their Twitter bio (this has since changed). On the website they have the tag-line ‘Not your Daddy’s steakhouse!’ I am female, although I think my brain is actually about 60% male, and the last thing I want to hear when I go to a restaurant is that it’s female- friendly. Plus there is a DJ. In a restaurant. This I really wasn’t sure about either.
So we went along, leaving our minds wide open and our pre-conceived ideas at the door. Firstly, we were blown away by the hotel where STK lives, the new ME London on the Strand. A stunning space, firstly there are bars throughout, even in the Marconi Lounge lobby. The interior design is so clever, polished steel rods weave their way through the bar and represent radio waves that Guglielko Marconi is famed for. The hotel is also adjacent to the recently restored Marconi House that was the former home of the BBC and where their first radio broadcast took place in 1922.
The entire hotel is spectacular, especially the atrium reception, reaching up into a sharp point with an odd but wondrous projection of jellyfish onto the walls. Behind every door is the unexpected. The Italian restaurant Cucina Asellina which we peeped in at is bathed in amber lighting, it looked lovely and oh so inviting. The Radio bar on the top floor has panoramic views across London, with beach style seating, we’re longing for the summer so we can take full advantage of it.
And then there’s STK. A buzzing space, not at all like we expected. We ordered a cocktail at the bar first, alongside a bunch of rowdy city boys out for a birthday celebration. An English Rose - Tanqueray, martini, pear, rosemary and lemon £11 for me and an off menu Cognac Sour for Ade. Cocktails are priced from £10, wine from £5.90 a glass, champagne from £9 a glass and beer £4.80 a bottle.
As we sipped our drinks we took in the decor. Dark almost black wood, a marble bar top, more polished chrome and cream leather seating – more bachelor pad than girls boudoir. Lighting is soft and some of the pendants look like illuminated balls of frosted ice.
Swarms of staff were ready to catch your eye at the slightest glance. If you like people watching, then this is the place for you. It seemed everyone was looking at each other wondering who they were, if they were famous, or how much money they have. A few confused looks were cast our way.
The seating at our table was curved booth style so we could sit alongside each other. Being the affectionate pair that we are, it made a refreshing change to be so close without a huge barrier of a table between us. The way the tables are arranged make it feel like some kind of stage, designed for checking people out. Oversized vases of blossom create a summer garden feel, not clubby as I dreaded.
The DJ doesn’t come on til 8.30, that’s when the music’s cranked up, before that it was at an acceptable level. Apparently they have diners dancing on the tables some nights, obviously not on a Tuesday though. We heard a musical mix from The Jackson 5 to Prince via Nena (of 99 red balloons fame).
As everyone knows, you can get a good inkling as to what the food in a restaurant will be like by the bread. The bread at STK is a shiny brioche roll residing on a board, with melted cheese oozing down the sides, served with a gorgeous chive dipping sauce.
Our waiter was one of those friendly, happy helpful types that makes all the difference to a meal. Explaining how much steak we should need, and recommending wine and sides. I made sure he knew we didn’t want any teeny portions. But I certainly didn’t need to worry on that front.
We shared a couple of starters, the Prawn rice krispies – shellfish bisque with coriander £9.75 just because it sounded unusual, albeit slightly gimmicky, although not a patch on the gimmicky dessert that was to come.
The Lil’ BRGs – Wagyu beef with a ‘secret special’ sauce £10.50 for three were a must. We lost our Wagyu virginity twice in one night at STK, as we also went for Wagyu steak for our mains. After two years writing our blog we thought it was about time we tried it.
The burgers were amazing, the patty sandwiched between a multi seed topped bun. Pure melt in the mouth deliciousness, cooked to perfection, my mouth waters when I think back to it. The Prawn rice krispies were not for me, the broth too rich, so Ade devoured it instead. He loved the texture of the crumbled prawn crackers and how they made the bisque bubble.
Then the steak arrived, cooked exactly as we requested, medium rare. A rich flavoursome meat, with a texture so soft, almost like jelly. Minimal chewing is required with this variety, completely different from the Danish dry aged steak we’d had at MASH the week before. There was a fair amount of fat but this only added to the flavour. We loved the side of Yorkshire pudding and onion sauce £3.75, can’t believe we haven’t seen this as on a menu until now. Even the humble Crushed new potatoes & olive oil £4 were delicious, just as much effort had gone into them as everything else.
Ade’s Macaroni cheese £5 scored top marks, but then his favourite at Heliot is created by the same head chef Barry Vera. The cheese more pungent than any other he’s eaten, one of the drawbacks of sitting so close to each other.
For dessert there was only one option – A taste of the Fairground – Doughnuts, chocolate peanut popcorn, toffee apples, marshmallows, candy floss and a Lemon posset with strawberry jelly and gin granita £8.50. Wow. Genius idea, a real showstopper, we marvelled at it for a long time before digging in.
I can’t remember the last time I felt as full as I did after we’d finished, no wonder it’s made for sharing. My full tummy was reminiscent of when I was a kid and had eaten too much jelly and ice cream at a party (or when we were first let loose on an all you can eat buffet in Vegas). By now the place was in full swing, even the waiters were having a little boogie at the tables to the music.
Going back to the female-friendly aspect, ironically the toilets are down three flights of stairs. The least female-friendly thing ever, especially in heels, a full belly and a head fuzzy from wine. Plus the room was filled with about 70% men, not many ladies to be seen.
So, we came along expecting to be unimpressed, but instead we fell in love. STK is a much welcome addition to London. Yes it’s all a bit blingy and full of celebs (we only had Danielle Lloyd on our visit though). But don’t let that put you off, it is actually light-hearted and dare I say it, fun. We felt like we were a million miles away on holiday Vegas especially with all the older gentlemen with their much younger lady friend dinner companions.
Now they have dropped the dreaded ‘female-friendly’ words from their Twitter bio, maybe it will attract more average folk, like us, who simply like a good time with great steak and service. Let’s hope so…
336-337 The Strand, London WC2R 1HA
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7395 3450
Private Dining and Events: +44 (0)20 7395 3444
Group Reservations: +44 (0)20 7395 3444
Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday 12pm – 12am
Thursday – Saturday 12pm – 1am
Sunday 12pm – 11pm
Nearest tube: Temple, Covent Garden or Charing Cross