Famed steakhouse Smith & Wollensky opens in London

It’s been a while – so I’m pleased to say I’m back in Covent Garden. Not a moment too soon.

Tonight I’m testing out the freshly opened Smith & Wollensky (six weeks old on the night we went). The name is said to have been selected randomly from a list in a telephone directory in 1977 when the Smith & Wollensky brand was created and their first restaurant opened in New York City. There are now nine branches across the States and it’s certainly about time that one opened in London. And where better than in Covent Garden, just off the Strand?

A £6 million refurb has transformed what used to be the Department of Work and Pensions offices into a stylishly welcoming establishment that simply oozes class. Plenty of leather and wood and gleaming parquet floors. Just walking into the room made me feel happy.

Ordering is pretty much a no-brainer here – it has to be steak – they are all USDA prime, dry aged and butchered on site. The two signature steaks on offer are the 24oz bone-in ribeye and the 21 oz New York cut bone-in sirloin. Today’s specials also included a tempting T-bone and the piece de resistance – a 42oz Porterhouse steak (meant for sharing). Wow!

But first starters and it seemed logical to gravitate towards the shellfish section in anticipation of such meaty mains.

Half a dozen plump oysters were served with lemon, vinaigrette and tomato sauce. Wonderfully fresh and flavoursome. I love oysters, they feel both indulgent and light and healthy at the same time.

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A platter of oysters to tuck into

Jumbo shrimp were served simply cooked and peeled with dipping sauces.

shrimp

And here are our juicy steak choices – the signature sirloin and signature rib-eye, both done medium rare. Delightful.

sirloin

The most perfectly cooked sirloin

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The signature rib-eye just about fitted on the plate

There’s a lovely selection of sides to accompany your steak. Fries were crispy outside and soft in the middle and served wrapped in paper in this lovely little basket.

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Steak and fries…a match made in heaven

And then there’s the legendary creamed spinach.

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Beautifully creamy spinach

I walked past the cheeseboard on my earlier explorations so that was firmly lodged in my mind as dessert. A lovely selection of French and English cheeses, I tucked into a combo of goat’s cheese, cheddar, Epoisse and gorgonzola, elegantly served with tomato chutney, quince jelly, grapes, celery and biscuits.

cheeseboard

A great selection of English and French cheeses

Today’s pudding special was summer pudding – a long time favourite. Packed with berries it has that beautifully unique tang and was served with extra fruit and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Dessert heaven.

summerpud

The ultimate in summer puds

cheeseplate

My cheesey selection

I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the establishment before sitting down to dinner, which included a visit to the cold room and the kitchen. Not often you can say that! It’s great to get the whole picture. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the amazing Porterhouse steak, just waiting for some intrepid steak-eater to order it. I should have put something else in the picture for perspective – this fillet looks tiny but it’s actually a large one, it’s just being dwarfed by the Porterhouse which is giant!

porterhouse

Little and large…fillet and Porterhouse

The cold room was packed with tens of thousands of pounds worth of steak, quite a sight to behold.

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More steak than I’ve ever seen in one place

A night out at Smith & Wellensky is a special one. You feel wrapped in tradition and love – even though in reality you’re in a brand new restaurant, it feels like it’s been there forever, the service is wonderfully warm, the decor is beautifully elegant and the ambience relaxing. And of course you couldn’t go to a better place to get your steak fix. This is the real deal with broilers equipped to cook about 140 steaks at once…now that’s a lot of steak!

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The welcoming bar is calling me

Smith & Wollensky is at The Adelphi Building, 1-11 John Adam Street WC2

Our newest local in Sea Point: NV-80

It’s always a joy to have good restaurants on your doorstep. And in Sea Point in Cape Town, the main road is buzzing with a range of places to eat. Five minutes walk away from where we’re staying is a newly completed shopping centre called The Point. Gleaming tiles and shiny windows welcome you and there are plenty of shopping opportunities, most significantly one of my favourite shops in the world – Dischem. It’s a discount chemist (South African shops often have the most literal of names, just so you’re not confused about what’s going to be on offer). I can (and do) spend hours in there and never come out empty handed!

Almost directly opposite the wondrous Dischem is a sparkling new restaurant called NV-80. Our friend Heath, who lives locally, described it as having the best steaks in Cape Town, rather a large statement and one that simply had to be put to the test.

It’s called NV-80 after the Goncalves brothers Naldo and Victor (NV, see) and 80 is a reference to the 80s when the duo began in the restaurant business. The venue is sleek and contemporary with a lovely, large balcony.

The Thursday night we dined there, the place was heaving. Obviously this new addition to Sea Point’s restaurantland has been enthusiastically welcomed by the locals. As well as all manner of steaks, the menu offers a range of seafood and salad dishes.

Large, juicy king prawns came in a delicious sauce of chilli and garlic – the sort of sauce you want to spoon into your mouth when the prawns have been polished off.

prawn starater

Stunning prawns make this starter a delight

A large plate of carpaccio came scattered deep fried shallots and parmesan and drizzled with truffle dressing.

carpaccio

Tender carpaccio to savour

Bearing in mind that we were here for a serious steak sampling, most of the table tucked into steak in various forms. It’s aged Chalmar beef – choose your cut and how you like it cooked and a glistening (and substantial) steak is placed in front of you.

ribeye

A substantial piece of ribeye

There’s also an impressive range of seafood available like this lovely platter of prawns.

prawn mains

If steak’s not your thing, tuck into seafood

And then there’s the sirloin on the bone. Amazingly flavoursome and tender, the ultimate carniverous treat. Okay, it’s rather large but no one said you had to eat it all at once. When I’d had my fill, I happily carried the remains home and in fact I’m having it for dinner tonight in a spicy Thai salad I’ve created (watch this space for the recipe).

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Sirloin on the bone, a serious treat for meat lovers

You’ll also find tasty salads for the non-meat eaters, like this caramelised pear and gorgonzola combo with honey and mustard dressing.

salad

If meat’s not your thing there are tasty salads to tuck into

I was also aware of the freshly shucked West coast oysters on offer. I’m thinking of a Champagne and oyster extravaganza on the balcony for a lunchtime treat. You’ve got to plan ahead, that’s part of the pleasure of eating, after all.

Welcome to your new Sea Point home Naldo and Victor. And thanks Heath for the local knowledge.

NV-80 is at 76 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.