Sophie McIntyre is lured to London’s Basque enclave and finds the 14 year old steak they serve is far from any old cow.
In order to take a seat at one of Lurra’s pale Ercol style tables, you have to dodge the enormous glass meat cupboard positioned at the restaurant’s Marylebone entrance.
Having done this, your nose is likely to carry your eyes over to the grill-side bar seating area. It is from this buzzy zone that the memorable scent of seafood and smoky coal billows, instantly conjuring up the atmosphere of a Mediterranean holiday and putting you at ease.
The decor is a tad ascetic – a bit too meeting appropriate. But it is certainly a well-finished and calming space, complete with lots of marble, neat mid-century style seating areas, expansive bookshelves, cooling walls and a courtyard garden surrounded by potted herbs.
We chat to the very smiley waiter who reveals that the pride-of-place meat locker contains a very special sort of steak. The interest of my dining companion, a sceptical Hawksmoor devotee, is piqued.
Upon receiving the menu, we scan furiously for cow. And there it is. One option: Fourteen-year-old Rubia Gallega Galician blond steak, ‘grade 9’ – £71 kilo. So not just any old cow, old cow.
Old cow, or the more exotically titled Basque Vaca Vieja, was introduced to the London food scene, principally by Lurra’s sister establishment and close neighbour on Seymour Place, Donostia, a few years ago and it is a decidedly welcome import.
On the evening of our visit, the Galician steak was only available in 1 kg bone-in slabs. Not an off-putting amount for two rather obscene steak hounds, but a lot for a human, or even two. But it had to be done.
Bearing this in mind, but wanting to sample some of the nibbles (Picoteos and Tapas on the menu), we got tactical and prioritised. We sampled the very special, melty jamon (seriously pleasurable when washed down with a fresh glass of Rose) and the soft and smoky grilled octopus, served with a simple roasted pepper dressing, so as to leave space for the beef.
As we sipped our Rose, we looked over the pretty planter filled courtyard and discussed how agreeable it would be to spend a long lunch working through the expansive selection of Tapas and Picoteos. A brief round-up: under Picoteos, the restaurant lists bone marrow, spiced almonds, strawberry and orange stuffed olives and anchovies. Whilst the Tapas selection included courgette flowers, prawns with ajillo and kokotxas – the famous delicacy of double cooked cod tongue, of course.
After fantasising about an afternoon of Tapas on the terrace, we ordered a suitably robust and spicy red (the wines are supplied by Donostia’s own artisan wine importer before being stored in Lurra’s ageing cellar) and got to the beef.
The old cow: it was very good indeed, leaving my steak-obsessed partner in crime satisfyingly bowled over. It was densely marbled, smoky and intense. And accompanied with exceptional chips. Really, they were very, very good. My one qualm with the steak would be that it was served on a hot ‘sizzler’ style platter, meaning that it kept cooking. Also – it really was two big for two people. Although it may have seemed like it at the time, we were not actually in training for a competitive eating competition.
Aside from the steak, the restaurant also offers a Turbot to share – this is Elkano style, which means grilled in a basket.
If Lurra didn’t look like the perfect place for a meeting, it would make a great party setting. A place to share piles of excellent tapas and litres of wine, before splitting a steak between four or six. This way, you could try a decent selection and leave enough room for pudding.
Although the Tapas and the beef were the main event, the puddings, coffees and cocktails were good, if not spectacular. The ginger mousse was soft and yet fresh and the Espresso Martinis were bang on. Bang on enough to leave us almost believing we were on a weekend foodie break to San Sebastian as we wandered into the Basque restaurant enclave that Seymour Place is thankfully becoming.