Do you ever take yourself too seriously? Give a situation too much gravitas, or get really wound up over something stupid? Then something happens which puts everything in perspective and makes you laugh at the inanity of it all? I find myself in this situation occasionally, and hilariously recently.
Picture the scene when recently en route to Racine in Knightsbridge for the Steak Frites tasting evening, I got trapped underground courtesy of the central line. For 40 minutes a fake bouyant promise was issued over the tannoy “the central line is currently suspended but will be on the move soon”.
After 40 minutes, fit to burst with frustration, I left and made my way using a hodge podge of buses and tubes. Arriving exactly 40 minutes late and very flustered, I burst into Racine, trying to appear as calm as possible, and announced quietly to the maitre d’ that I was here for Steak Frites.
Yes, steak frites, it’s on here tonight.
Yes, it’s a group thing, in a private room maybe?
At this group table?
I looked. There was noone there. It didn’t make sense, I was 40 minutes late.
I looked around again and then with horror realised that I was at the WRONG restaurant!
I whispered, I’ll just ring my friends and see where they are and stepped outside, had a good chuckle at what had happened, and exorcised myself of any remaining stress and bother. I arrived at Racine seconds later, fresh and very late at the Steak Frites tasting two doors down at Racine.
Steak Frites tasting? Yes. I should explain that. The brainchild of Daniel at youngandfoodish.com, it was an evening dedicated to exploring steak frites, three cuts of steak with matched wines (if you chose to include them), onglet, fillet and côte de boeuf. The steaks were from the esteemed O’Shea’s Butchers in Knightsbridge (happily they’re Irish too) and cooked for us by Henry Harris at Racine. I’ve blogged about Racine recently, and if you’ve read that you’ll know I am a big fan already.
I had missed the appetiser – thank you Transport for London – and arrived just as Henry was running through the menu. I hadn’t missed any steak, I could relax. Daniel was determined that the wines should be served as they would be in a French bistro so we had some light red wines to accompany, there are further details on these on his blog.
We started with Onglet aux Échalottes, a cut of steak that’s located near the internal organs and so carries a taste not too dissimilar to liver and kidney. Traditionally a cheaper cut, and one that requires more care and attention, it delievrs superior flavour to lots of more expensive cuts, and is terrific value for money. Even if you don’t like offal, and I accept that some don’t, I don’t know how anyone could dislike this. Served in a light veal reduction, it packed so much flavour into every bite and served rare – the texture was superb. Served with those lovely little bone marrow toasts that Racine do so well, it was heavenly.
One plate of steak down, two more to go, and these were main course sized! Next was the Filet au Poivre. All steak fans despise fillet. Personally, I think there’s a place for it, it’s just a different cut of meat. From a part of the animal that isn’t put under much strain, it’s not tough like some other cuts. As it’s very tender, male fans of the steak often dismiss it as a girls cut (I won’t even start on this!), but this was very, very nice, served with a pepper crust and melt in the mouth tender, with a terrific cheesy mash, how could you not like it? If it’s a girls cut, I am very happy to be a girl. There were protests from the obsessives, “it is delicious but it has had a flavour lobotomy”. I found the dish as a whole gorgeous and elegant and would very happily eat it again. In fact I will.
Finally came the expected piece de resistance, the Côte de Boeuf. This should have been the star of the show but the onglet was such a picture of perfection that it couldn’t live up to it. Henry agreed that the onglet was some of the best that he had had, and that perhaps, as it had packed such a flavour punch, it should have been delivered last. Ihad very high expectations and it didn’t live up to them, particularly after the first two excellent plates. The frites and lightly dressed salad were wonderful though. A fellow diner pronounced that the salad had definitely been picked that day, and he would know as he used to pick salads for a living. The bearnaise was sensational Henry confided that he adds a lot of water and reduces the sauce significantly to get the sweeness of the vinegar but not the acidity. I will play with my recipe and aim to replicate something approaching it.
We finished the meal with vanilla ice cream with hot Valrhona chocolate sauce. Simple and rich, this was a fitting end to a fantastic steak indulgence. It was interesting to hear Henry’s take on his chocolate sauce. He uses Valrhona as he says that the product is always the same, Valrhona are like whiskey blenders, which for a cook is fantastic, as you can always be assured of delivering the same product. I accompanied mine with a black coffee, I was so full and sleepy, I feared that I would not last the journey home without it.
I believe Daniel will be running more, do go if you get a chance. It’s £75 but I think this is a very fair price for an evening of this calibre. He is also running other evenings where he seeks out the best burgers in London (Burger Monday), and the best pizzas (Pizza Tuesday). I love his purist quests and hope to join on more soon.