The British don’t wear national pride particularly well. Untremmelled it inevitably seems to lead to scenes of football hooligans tearing apart Spanish taparias or else the cabinet agreeing to invade France. But there are rare moments when it just feels good to be British. Like when the queen jumped out of the helicopter at the Olympics, Emma Radacanu winning the US Open or that time that people started hitting golf balls at David Blaine’s Perspex box when he was suspended over the Thames.
And now we can add another: the backlash to Salt Bae. In case you’ve been living under the proverbial rock (salt) for the last month, Nusret “Salt Bae” Gökçe is an ‘influencer’ who just opened a Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London’s Knightsbridge selling gold leaf covered steaks at mind-blowing prices. His signature move (and who, outside of the Streetfighter franchise, has a signature move?) is to sprinkle salt over his steaks so that it catches in his arm hairs as it scatters in the vague vicinity of the meat he’s cooking. Which is fine, any health and safety risk is firmly mitigated by the fact that with now 15 restaurants across the globe, the chances are he won’t be actually cooking your dishes himself. If you’re foolish enough to go, that is.
It was unlikely that Londoners were going to buy into the concept of a gold-encrusted £1,350 sirloin any more than a gold-encrusted £1,350 sirloin deserves, to be bought into and the backlash to Salt Bae has been sweet and richly deserved. Here are some of our favourite moments so far…
The £37,000 Receipt
One outraged customer posted a picture of their receipt on Reddit with the caption ‘That’s just taking the piss’. The spendthrift diner had chugged back an £850 gold covered Tomahawk steak, four servings of golden baklava at £50 a pop and an £18 side of asparagus among other items.
That's just taking the piss...
But the lion’s share of the bill was down to three bottles of Petrus (the 2003 can be bought in the shops for around £2,000 so a nearly five-times mark up probably is still taking the piss) and two bottles of £800 Champagne. Oh and an £11 Red Bull.
The receipt has divided opinion, between those who (rightly) have no sympathy for anyone dropping the cost of a house in some parts of the country and those who use the receipt as further vindication that £12 mash is beyond the pale.
Either way, it seems unlikely the restaurant earned its £4,829.10 service charge…
Jimi Famurewa’s Hilarious Review
As a rule I hate reading bad reviews, they’re usually the result of a one-off bad night for a restaurant or a critic and can have a devastating effect, and right now that’s not really what the industry needs. But I’ll make an exception. The Evening Standard sent their truly brilliant critic Jimi Famurewa down to Nusr-Et, company credit card in hand, to experience Nusr-Et. And it didn’t disappoint… his readers.
It’s fair to say that Jimi wasn’t enamoured. His write-up includes classic put-downs like “Let me just say, categorically, that this is a bad restaurant; a vibeless business lounge of a room where mostly amateurish Frankie & Benny’s-level food is served at insultingly high prices”.
A vibeless business lounge of a room where mostly amateurish Frankie & Benny’s-level food is served at insultingly high prices...
What did Jimi think of the guests? “A predominantly patently wealthy crowd, with a heavy emphasis on bored-looking new parents in matching Balenciaga tops, super-rich kids that always keep one AirPod in, tanned fifty-somethings with the air of suburban hot tub owners and groups of young aspirant influencer girls in swishy dresses”.
He didn’t hold back on the prices, “The bill, with just one bottle of the £65 house wine, came to more £500 for two people. And I can confirm that, if you want to torture yourself in the days after visiting Nusr-Et, you should trawl the online menus at Hawksmoor (or Flat Iron or The Guinea Grill or even Gaucho) and look at what you could have won”.
But he saved his harshest criticism for the food, turning his nose rightly up at the whole-fried onion flower “The centre of it had been cut so thickly that it was still uncooked. So that is basically a raw onion, for £18”, his starter “Beef carpaccio comes as a flayed plate of eerily pink meat, scraped and folded into an unappetising carpet roll at the table” and the “The £100 gold-wrapped burger that — just for sheer mick-taking chutzpah measured against taste — may genuinely be the capital’s worst…a genuinely perplexing travesty of low-grade bun, grimly ectoplasmic melted cheese and a knackered onion-heaped patty”
For balance, rather than lolz, it’s worth pointing out that Jimi did enjoy the steak, describing it as “shockingly good — beautifully charred, capably rested and meltingly tender. But you would hope it would be for that much money.”
All in all, another Salt Bae fail.
The McDonalds Guy
London website MyLondon caught up with a ‘millionaire but not a multi-millionaire’ who experienced the Nusr-Et Steakhouse and was unimpressed.
33-year-old investment bank IT contractor Chiraag Suchak told the interviewer “There was a lot of chat in the WhatsApp groups about the Nusr-Et bills that were being shared, and they wanted to see what the hype was about” and so he popped down to Salt Bae’s.
I arrived at Nusr-Et from McDonald’s...
Suchak ate the fried onion (£18), the asparagus (£18), mashed potato (£12), chips (£10), some non-alcoholic drinks and some sips of his friend’s wine for £150.
And how was it? “The thing is, I wasn’t even that hungry, because I’d eaten lunch beforehand… I arrived at Nusr-Et from McDonald’s.”
To their credit, the MyLondon interviewer does give Suchak ample opportunity to admit that the Maccy-D’s was better and he doesn’t, but he does go on to say “I’ve definitely had better. My friends who had the steak and the golden burger said the same.
“You really go for the experience, the atmosphere, and to get a selfie with the chef. You’re paying to see Nusr-Et and the way he cuts the steak with his black gloves, and that thing he does when he squeezes the burger.”
Jay Rayner’s Kebab
Presumably someone in the financial control department at The Guardian has had a perspiration on since news that Salt Bae was coming to London was announced. But luckily superstar critic Jay Rayner took a different approach.
He used his column this week to sing the praises of a Parsons Green kebab shop, eating his takeaway kebab outside the entrance to Nusr Et.
I'm certain that I am eating better than all the customers through the huge wooden doors behind me, spaffing their sticky largesse over gold-leaf wrapped steaks...
“It’s a ludicrous gesture, but then the Nusr-Et Steakhouse is a ludicrous restaurant, and one stupid turn deserves another”, he writes.
Even Gemma Collins Thought It Was Too Much
When The GC thinks something’s gone too far, you know that there’s a problem. Reality star Gemma Collins took boyfriend Rami Hawash to the Knightsbridge restaurant earlier this month and shared her pictures to her millions of adoring fans.
Though she clearly enjoyed herself, either her inbuilt PR radar started flashing as she stepped too far wide of her down-to-earth persona or perhaps through genuine pangs of guilt, the star started to row back on her Podcast.
“I have to give the ambience of the restaurant, the experience, a 10 out of 10″ she explained, but “The bill was another situation, I was in utter shock. But you have to weigh these things up, the press reported that my steak cost £700, if only they knew.
“I wish it cost £700. It actually cost £1,450.”
“I went a bit over the top, but the only way I can justify it was that I haven’t been on holiday this year”
And she’s turned over a new (gold) leaf: “I love Rami’s steaks the most and I’m going to treat him and me to some gold foil off the internet for £4.99.”
As a bizarre penance she also committed to “give back to the universe” by donating “four bags” of bras to charities for cancer and poverty. So it seems that Salt Bae has at least found someone more ridiculous than himself.
The restaurant continues to confound and fascinate, if you’ve been and loved it or hated it or just been completely ambivalent then please do let us know. For balance sake, we haven’t been ourselves (because ‘hello? have you seen the prices?’) so perhaps it’s, y’know, completely worth it. Perhaps…