A restaurant not sourcing meat from its host country is rather off-trend, so this was indeed completely new
Opposite Mark Hix’s Brewer Street gaff in Soho you’ll find Mash. On entry you descend down a grand, swirling staircase, down and down deeper and deeper, dodging tube trains, then deeper still as you push through the London clay, then further into the depths of the earth where molten rock flows as rivers, then, just as you manoeuvre around Jules Verne’s discarded vessel, you come to Mash which stands for Modern American Steak House and is owned by Danes.
I have rarely descended so deep to have a steak although I did come here before when Marco Pierre White occupied the site and called it Titanic. As every writer, including now this one, cannot resist pointing out, Marco’s Titanic sank. Its shell, its glorious Art Deco hull, remained, waiting for an intrepid explorer to attempt to re-float the stricken vessel.
The Danes promise to offer ‘something completely new’, and as I like completely new somethings I was excited to say the least. This promise, however, on their website, does come with a clue as to what this completely new something might be when they add: ‘The idea is to deliver an authentic steak dinner with lots of flavour served in very nice designed surroundings [sic].’
Wow, I thought, that’s new. If you’re a caveman. Actually, possibly not if you're a caveman because eating authentic steak dinners with lots of flavour in a nice designed surroundings (have you seen those great cave paintings in the Cave of El Castillo from 40,000 years ago?) is par for the course. So maybe if you’re a vegetarian who eats badly flavoured food in shit surroundings then, boy, are you in for a new experience.
I took my seat in a nice booth admiring how terrifically high they can build ceilings at this depth. I had walked past a rather big and equally forlorn bar on my way. Forlorn in that it was empty of people. Still, the restaurant part seemed busy.
Immediately in attendance was Joel, who hails from Colorado and who looked after us with a professional keenness that every waiter should aspire to.
He helped me through the wine list as I explained that I what I really wanted was a perfumed and floral wine with a tad of sharpness to refresh the palate at the start of the evening. Such solace, I said, I could only really find with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. So he got me a Gruner Veltiner.
Then discussion about the steaks ensued. Joel explained how the place offers meat from Uruguay, Denmark (which was being dry aged in glass cabinets not far from where I sat), America and Australia. So not Britain. A restaurant not sourcing meat from its host country is rather off-trend, so this was indeed completely new.
As to the steaks, we could indulge in a merry taste-the-difference exercise as we explored the differing flavours and textures between the same cuts of meat from animals raised in different countries.
I hadn’t indulged in such a fancy parlour game since 1787 when a maiden aunt suggested we hunt for thimbles in the scullery, so I was game.
Starters included a decent bowl of deep fried squid with chilli and lime – it came as small roundish lumps in unexciting batter but I liked and devoured it nonetheless. There was also a plate of charcuterie where salami and ham was mixed with foie gras, which seemed unusual. Actually it was completely new in a sort of underwhelming way, the newness of it, that is, rather than the flavour of the individual cuts of meat and foie gras, which were delicious.
Then came the steaks. A New York strip and a Danish ribeye. Joel carved them into half-inch strips and they were cooked to perfection. Charred without and pinkish red within. I played along with the parlour game, eating one and then the other, chewing and chatting away and totally forgetting which was which.
One of them was tender and juicy and sweet and meaty. And so was the other, except one was a tad sweeter and juicier than the other. ‘That one is definitely a tad sweeter and a bit juicier than that one,’ I said to Joel waving vaguely in the direction of both of them. He nodded sagely.
Saucy and chippy
There was a delicious béarnaise sauce – eggy, creamy – as well as a rather too sweet and cloying thyme and garlic jus. I couldn't taste the garlic, but got the thyme.
And there was a green salad and the worst plate of chips I’ve had in years. You know those thinly cut, golden ones which are crispy on the outside, fluffy within? Well, they weren’t those. They were those ghastly, faux burnt brown things churned out by some food factory which taste of sweet fake char, have no crunch and are inedible.
Matching terrible chips with wonderful steak was a completely new experience. Definitely worth a detour to the centre of the earth to experience.