Our Jason (who could very well be the protagonist in a film about a genetically engineered super organism designed to eat beef and practice Wing Chun…) is sent down to Smiths of Smithfield’s new site in Cannon Street to see what all the steak and all the fuss is about…
In A Word:
The obvious: meat eaters with a penchant for beef, but specifically British beef prepared mainly in the traditional British style.
Lucky expense-account-wielding individuals, those wining and dining a client – and/or looking for somewhere between ‘super premium steakhouse’ and ‘high street steakhouse’
City of London work parties and impromptu after work functions/pub crawls. It’s convivial but slightly formal – keep your shirt on, but pop your collar…
Who is ‘Smith’ and what’s he doing with that steak?
The original Smiths Of Smithfield on Charterhouse Street was established in 2000, right across the road from the famous Smithfield Market. If you’ve been there, you’ll have seen it – occupying various floors of an entire building, and with a sign out front that proclaims ‘SOS’. We’re still not sure who Smith is but he’s here and he’s trying to corner the market on rare breed British steak.
The restaurant has been working with Smithfield’s meat suppliers for 17 years, focusing mainly on high quality British meat. Historically, Smithfield Market has been trading meat since 1868, was once a place where jousting tournaments were held, and is where William Wallace (not a known beef eater) was hung, drawn and quartered (and presumably not on a market day…)
After nearly 40 years of abandonment, the site was refurbished by the Smiths team with architects Wells Mackereth. After building up the brand on Charterhouse Street, the Smiths folks decided to spread their wings/tendrils into the rest of the city – recently opening this new, smaller site right opposite Cannon Street station, which is what you can see here.
Once owned by John Torode (he of Masterchef fame who opened the original site in 2000), Smiths is now the property of a somewhat mysterious Cypriot investment group. Some of Smiths longer term customers mourn this change, since we haven’t had the chance to go back in time and try the food back then,
Smiths haven’t pushed the boat out too far, dividing the premises into a bar area at the front and restaurant at the back. in the bar area. The bar is frequented mainly by the suited and booted local population, Dipping into the current trend for ‘industrial chic’ (exposed pipes on the cieling – I actually had one drip a little oil onto my laptop whilst I waited, for what that’s worth). The red tiled logo on the wall is perhaps meant to evoke the ambiance of a butcher’s, swhilst tools and a few long tables in the middle give the place a more informal feel.
Step through into a restaurant area where you shall discover an almost diner-esque design, frosted glass, an open kitchen, enclave-esque, large circular tables dotted about the perimeter. Not so minimal-industrial, the place is more furnished – walls are dotted with cow themed art and what you could call more…formal seating arrangements.
In the two times I have visited, the place has never been heaving – though I have yet to arrive on a Friday, and it is relatively early days for this location.
Steak is what Smiths do, and steak is what Smiths focus on. The menu is quite typically that of the Modern European steakhouse, though more affordable than some of the competition (even considering the location).
I’m not able to tell you much about Smith’s drink selection (I’ll explain later) but a cursory look at the bar suggests a somewhat stripped down menu that focuses more on wine above everything else, alongside some craft beers and a few cocktails. That said, the menu stipulates that you can ask to see the ‘full list’, and the selection behind the bar appears substantial enough to give you liver cirrhosis from a distance, so let’s take that with a grain of salt (and a lime…?)
Braised Pork Cheek, Apple & Cardamom Puree
Lean, flavoursome, tender, creamy zesty sauce and in just the right quantity to encourage the appetite.
Octopus Carpaccio, Passion Fruit Dressing
As you’d expect, a variety of very light textures interspersed in a distinctively tangy passionfruit sauce. A new take on octopus, novel, but not that great…
Best served medium rare, given the density of this meat, where in the past these T-Bones have been a bit of a ‘jaw work out’ this was one of the easiest-to-eat steaks I’ve had. I’m not sure why, but they got all the flavours from the bone locked in and the texture wasn’t like rawhide – this is a first for me! As it’s 1kg, it’s designed for sharing…unless you are feeling brave, and/or have tomorrow off work to hibernate and digest.
Not as much cream as I am used to, but this made it slightly easier to eat, and still delicious. As much as I usually have creamed spinach very thick and heavy, I do find myself getting a bit sick of the whole bowl half way through, where as this one I could get through quite easily. Maybe this is how creamed spinach should be? More spinach, less cream…?
Garlic Field Mushrooms
Not too oily, absurdly rich in garlic and concentrated mushroom flavour. A tiny portion, sadly. These were spectacular, some of the most densely flavoursome mushrooms I have ever experienced!
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Ice Cream
You should always ‘seal the deal’ of a great meal with a show-stopping dessert, and for me this certainly lived up to my expectations – the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve had so far. This is one of my favourite desserts next to the traditional warm chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. Everything the sticky toffee pudding should be. Highly recommended…
Mars Bar Cheescake, Valrhona Dark Chocolate Sorbet
I watch Jack eat a cheesecake with Mars Bar in it. The next 5 minutes or so are marked with enthusiastic eating and endless references to his childhood in the early 90s. This only ends when the cake disappears. From where I am sitting, this looks like a success…
The next time I’m anywhere near Cannon Street I’ll be back here for sure. And the next time I’d like to really see what their drinks menu is like – the day of my visit I am running a fever, which prevents me from really experiencing the many, many alcoholic delights of Smiths!
To really compare, I’d like to see how it stacks up to its older, taller and more established sibling in Smithfield. Scuttlebutt says that Cannon St. venue has a while to go yet, but if this is early days then this is a spot worth a reading on every steak fiend’s radar.
Considering the fact that I can’t think of any strong steakhouse competition in this Smith’s immediate geographical radius, if they can survive those brutal City operating expenses, there could be a big future ahead for Smiths…
Let’s see what the future holds.
The Walbrook Building, 99 Cannon Street, EC4N 5AE
020 7251 7950