The steak game in London is a bloody one. Artisanal butchers such as The Ginger Pig are consistently listed as some of the best in the world, and in an extremely unlikely reversal, the French are now purchasing Eurorail tickets for gastronomic visits to London for our steak – touted by top Parisian butchers (Yves-Marie Bourdonnec) as being superior to Gallic cuts. Hawksmoor and Goodman are crowding in from either side, whilst smaller purveyors such as Flat Iron have made good beef accessible to the average Londoner. So it takes a bit of soul searching for a new steakhouse to find its place in such a crowded and cutthroat market.
M, spearheaded by former Gaucho MD Martin Williams and launched just off of Threadneedle Street in The City, is a next generation steakhouse that knows how to corner a market. When British beef is so good and every restaurant and its mother are selling USDA prime cow, why not look to greener pastures? And with the lifting of a 13-year ban on Japanese meat, why not put Kobe in the limelight? But the buck doesn‘t stop there. M Grill sources the best cuts of beef from six different nations: France, USA, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan. It also hedges its bets with a more health conscious twin restaurant occupying the other side of the dining room: M Raw, which serves tartars, tiraditos, sashimi, cured and smoked fish and meat, and salads.
M is a massive undertaking. Not only does it comprise of two separate restaurants, but there‘s a giant mezzanine housing a cocktail lounge, DJ booth, a generously apportioned PDR overlooking the grill, and even a recondite after dinner den outfitted with a sleek silver and black foosball table and Bang & Olufsen soundsystem. The basement boasts a number of private dining rooms and events spaces ideally turned out for corporate soirees. On the ground floor there‘s a capacious walk-in aging room adjacent to the main dining area, which often plays host to masterclasses. An open plan kitchen extends back from the dining room, outfitted with both charcoal-powered Jospers and traditional wood-fired parillas, and overseen by Jarad McCarroll, who formerly manned the grills at the celebrity-heavy Chiltern Firehouse.
Before taking our seats we made a quick pilgrimage to the bar. The cocktail menu was overseen by the excellent Lance Perkins of The London EDITION and was impeccably calibrated for the City palate. The M Martini, mixed with Belvedere Unfiltered vodka, Belsazar dry vermouth and a grapefruit twist was a skilful reinvention of a classic, with a whiff of rawness that really came through from the vodka. The Unami was a touch more subtle. Japanese Hibiki whisky is shaken with single grain Haig Club scotch, then mixed with a frothy blend of plum juice and soya milk, before being poured into a Japanese tea cup.
With appetites piqued by the cocktails, we were seated in the shadow of the meat display. Our starters were served with celerity. Sweetbreads were only slightly unctuous, the fat packed with saline flavour. Jarad demonstrated his delicacy with ingredients by offsetting the meat with walnuts – a nice textural juxtaposition – and goat‘s curd – a canny foil in flavour. In the end, we opted for a gigantic USDA ribeye on the bone, its deckle rendered beautifully in the smoke of a Josper grill. For those looking to tighten their belt a bit, there‘s an extremely reasonable and delicious rump fillet for £20. We complemented this with emulsified brown butter and a black garlic aioli. Both were delightful with chips.
We also ordered humita, a Native American dish of masa and corn prepared in a tamale and topped with a smooth amalgam of goat‘s curd and crème fraiche. We were lucky enough to sample a couple slivers of black breed Kobe fillet steak and Blackmore Wagyu sirloin, which were almost certainly the best mouthfuls of steak we‘ve ever tried. It‘s difficult to describe but you can see why they match caviar and foie gras in price point. Steak of that calibre is a difficult act to follow, but the desserts were a nice full stop to our meal – a flavour packed dulce flan with coconut crumble and a sumptuous salted chocolate tart with butternut squash ice cream and a chestnut puree. So, how do you chart a successful course in London‘s turbulent foodie seascape? Martin Williams seems to have found the way.