What? One of London’s top steak restaurants, Smith & Wollensky hopped across the pond a couple of years ago, bringing with it USDA prime beef and pretty epic puddings. They’ve recently expanded into brunch because they (rightly) think that steak is too good to save for later in the day…
New? Smith & Wollensky opened in London back in 2015 but only launched their brunch towards the end of last year. We headed along one Sunday to check it out.
Where? The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, Strand, WC2N 6HT, www.smithandwollensky.co.uk
On the Menu: Printed on a satisfyingly large and weighty A3 sheet, the brunch menu features all the classics you’d hope to find, with an American slant so think stacks of blueberry pancakes, waffles and eggs and of course a section to the signature steaks. Brunch is served from midday which is just as well for food this hearty – digging into a porterhouse steak at 10am wouldn’t quite have the same appeal. Nine different takes on the Bloody Mary make the cut too, but any drink can be made by the bar on request.
The Look: Smith & Wollensky is all dark wood and emerald green leather with crisp white tablecloths and hits of brass to break things up. The look is sophisticated and smart with a hint of Art Deco thanks to coloured glass windows and two huge murals on the back wall. Parquet flooring and black and white mosaic tiles break up the space, and whilst the room is vast, clever seating divides it up and make it less daunting. We sat in the corner – a prime spot for people watching.
First Impressions: Tucked away just off the Strand, I always envisage Smith & Wollensky a regular haunt for business lunches. Obviously a Sunday would expose a different crowd and as we arrived at midday it was pretty quiet. Not a bad thing – the atmosphere was laid back and civilised, with waiters in cream tuxedos floating around effortlessly. We were relieved of our jackets, seated at the bar and a few minutes later our menus were replaced with expertly made Bloody Marys. So far so good.
What We Ate: An avid egg-goer at brunch time, I was torn. Variations on Eggs Benedict get a lot of air time here, as do omelettes (egg white only if you wish – combine this with the tropical fruit platter and you have a fairly healthy meal). ‘Big plates’ combine eggs with meat (think braised beef hash with fried eggs) and elsewhere on the menu French toast sat alongside pancakes and waffles. Glancing around the room, the pancake stack seemed the order of the day and, piled high with blueberries it was obvious why – no granola or acai bowls here. Solving the meat/egg dilemma we went for one of each, with the thinking you can’t come to S&W and not have steak. After much deliberation we plumped for the Kansas City Cut Bone-In Sirloin 595g, whose half an hour cooking time meant but the time we actually ate, steak was certainly appropriate. Not the cheapest cut, nor the most expensive, at £62 it still doesn’t come cheap. Imported from Nebraska, all the USDA steaks are dry-aged in-house for 28 days resulting in a steak that it tender and doesn’t ooze when you slice into it, whilst a bone-in cut ensures flavour comes from the bone marrow as well as the fat on the opposite side. It was divine; somehow salty, rich, fatty (in the best way) and tender all at the same time and charred as well as pink. The staff are polished in their delivery of each dish, explaining where on the body each cut of meat comes from, and in our case why it was best cooked medium and served without sauces – or mustard if we insisted (we did). The delivery was personable and our waiter impeccable, although perhaps so polished that the next table got the exact same spiel as us. He did however take our order and clear our plates at the perfect intervals and deboned our steak in front of us with impressive ease. Maybe the huge knife was to thank…
A silver tub of crispy French fries was the perfect accompaniment to the steak, whilst strips of crispy streaky bacon were hard to resist, and at £6 actually seemed quite reasonable compared to the rest of the menu. Eggs-wise we plumped for a twist on the classic eggs benedict, Eggs Oscar, even though we were’t sure who or what Oscar was. Chunks of crab meat sat on English muffins, with chopped spears of asparagus and a drizzle of hollandaise. Whilst pleasant it was nothing to write home about, and for £20 you’d expect your yolk perfectly runny and a few more spears of asparagus.
Refreshingly hearty, this brunch is certainly more on the -unch part of the brunch spectrum. Arrive hungry and prepare to eat big, spend bigger because if you’re anything like us you’ll want pudding too. The signature ‘gigantic’ chocolate cake proved too much even for us so we opted for the New York cheesecake which almost defeated us, especially when our waiter came over armed with a mini milk churn of whipped cream. Dolloped onto the plates with finesse and a giant wooden spoon, it was almost theatrical, if a little excessive. Creamy and rich but not too dense, a graham cracker base was authentic although a few more berries on the side wouldn’t have gone amiss.
What We Drank: Bloody Marys kicked us into action, confidently made and poured from shaker to glass from quite a height. Garnished with ribbons of celery and a wedge of lemon, the classic was one of the best I’ve ever had. The ‘It’s Always Sunny…’ was inspired by the Mediterranean and made with gin, olives, and sherry – a bit like gazpacho. Also good, but if you’re asking me, if it ain’t broke… Stick with the classic. Post-feed we opted for a tea and espresso – the coffee was very good.
Go With: Your colleagues, clients or friends with very deep pockets.
Final Word: The brunch was impressive and pretty much what you’d hope for of an American steakhouse. Next time, the pancakes would tempt me and whilst it’s nice to have an excuse to visit earlier in the day I think the real appeal here remains the steak. Save your pennies or wait till payday – whatever you have to do – Smith & Wollensky is worth a visit regardless.