When Jay Rayner reviewed the opening of Smith & Wollensky’s operation in London, he summarised it like this – “This US business has swaggered into London like it thinks it’s the bollocks. The description is almost right, if you remove the definite article before the reference to testicles. It is about as shoddy an operation in separating people from inexcusable amounts of their cash as I have seen in a very long time.”
I doubt if Rayner would have a different view of the operation on its home turf. Take high menu prices – the cheapest steak is $46. Add tax and a 20% tip and you are about to embark on an eye-wateringly expensive meal. And that’s without drinks. Our bill will head north of $260 for the two of us, for to courses.
There’s salads to start. The house one is iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, croutons and chunks of bacon. On the other plate, a wedge of iceberg and a couple of thick slices of beef tomato and the same chunks of bacon. OK, this is all fresh and crisp and the big chunks of bacon are much nicer than the usual little slivers you get.
For the steaks, we went with the fillets (or filet mignon, as Americans oddly call it). Now , it’s fair to say that I don’t often order steak – there always seems to be something more interesting on the menu. And I rarely order steak when visiting America. Whilst it’s usually very tender, I find the meat underflavoured. But, if you’re in a steakhouse, you’re ordering steak. So, the fillets come. One plain, one “au poivre” (or “peppered”, as it might be less pretentious to say in an English speaking country). They are, indeed, very tender and accurately cooked to medium rare. And, yes, they are underflavoured. Except for the peppered one, where the spice has been overdone so that it catches slightly in the throat. There’s a baked potato and asparagus to share.
As mentioned earlier, we don’t bother with dessert.