28 USDAys Later! | Smith & Wollensky, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HT
Nothing creates more excitement than a US restaurant opening in London. Think what happened when Balthazar, Shake Shack and Five Guys came over. People go nuts for it, like we’re not doing things well enough on our own? London has some of the best restaurants you could ask for, not to mention variety. No offence America, we love you and your food and we’d happily live in your country, if only we could.
The latest import from across the pond is Smith & Wollensky, hidden away just off the Strand in the beautiful Adelphi building. It looks like it deserves better – pride of place in Mayfair or Covent Garden perhaps.
As we’d expect, the service was super-friendly from the moment we walked in, we were led to a table with our backs to the room which was a bit of a shame, but we had two huge monochrome art deco artworks to look at (not to mention each other).
A Brasserie Zedel-style yellow glow casts over the restaurant, I don’t like this kind of light, it’s cold and more importantly, makes my pictures look terrible. But what they’ve done with the place is lovely, beautiful geometric flooring, green piped luxurious banquette seating, art deco touches and a long gleaming gold and black bar.
The menu’s on one of those massive A3 sheets of card that is impossible to put anywhere without it getting in the way/knocking something over/covering your entire face. But the good thing is it’s short and concise and includes easy to choose wine by the glass, saving you sifting through the 15-page wine list.
As always we had cocktails to start, I just had to have the Piña Colada-esque Pain Nullifier (£13), I haven’t seen a drink so aptly named for me since Neck Oil beer. Ade had rather refined Manhattan (£16) which I stole sips from once I’d finished mine. His Manhattan was a minefield of choice. First decision, Bulleit Bourbon or Bulleit Rye. Next dilemma, Regular, Dry, Extra Sweet or Perfect. And finally, Lemon Twist, Maraschino Cherry or Both… If you are wondering, he had the Bulleit Bourbon with the ‘perfect’ mix of dry and sweet vermouth and a cherry. One of the best Manhattans he’s had and one that he tried to slowly sip till the end of the meal, little did he know I was helping him out. [I do now – Ade]
Seared king scallops with pea purée and bacon (£18) was a bit steep for a starter and to be honest it was nothing amazing, this combo is usually a sure-fire win but there wasn’t enough bacon to boost the scallops. Ade went for the Burrata and tomato salad (£10) – a good size fluffy dollop of cheese with a variety of different coloured tomatoes, very finely sliced with a balsamic dressing. He loved his soft centered creamy cheese, partly because it reminds him Puglia but mostly because he doesn’t have the share it with me!
Steak is expensive here, you think Hawksmoor is pricey, we had the Signature Rib-Eye 24oz (£65) to share. The cheapest cut is the Sirloin 14oz (£42), but it is 28-day aged USDA prime meat sourced from a couple of farms in America’s Midwest. The steak is carved in front of you on a little table wheeled out by a poor self-conscious waiter. There are some other reasonably priced main dishes like New season lamb rump with courgettes and roasted cherry tomatoes (£24) or the Wollensky’s butcher burger with steakhouse fries (£16).
The meat is good, really great quality and a punchy flavour, it tasted like no other steak we’ve had before, seasoned perfectly and cooked just as we asked (medium rare). We wanted to try all the sides but opted for the Hashed brown potatoes (£8 for two to share) as we don’t often see them on menus in London. It’s not hash browns as we know and love them, more like bubble and squeak (not our new kittens who share the same name).
Sautéed spinach (£4) was a must because it just goes so well with beef and Pan-fried field mushrooms (£5) which I wish Ade hasn’t ordered. They were great but mushrooms are too much like steak for vegetarians, not enough contrast.
I’m glad we didn’t go overboard with mains, because if you come to Smith & Wollensky you have to order the Gigantic Chocolate Cake (£15). It’s a bloody massive indulgent multi-layered cake with a glossy ganache and a little cow-shaped chocolate biscuit.
Oh and the waiter shoves a steak knife through it before it’s presented to you. They do stress just how big it is before you order and give the option of bringing the rest home in a rather fine doggy bag. We did just that, drawing out the S&W experience with chocolatey leftovers the following night in front of the telly. Shame I couldn’t enjoy another glass of the suggested drink pairing – Quady Starboard 2011 Port (£11)
We certainly felt like we’d been somewhere special (which you’d hope for at these prices). The warm service led us out of the door and back onto The Strand like a hug goodbye. We liked it here a lot and we’d be back in a flash, if only we were richer.
The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street,
London WC2N 6HT
Telephone: 020 7321 6007
Book a table online
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 12pm – 11pm
Sat: 5pm – 11pm Sun: 12pm – 6pm
Nearest station: Charing Cross (3 mins walk) Embankment (5 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Smith & Wollensky, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.