“Simply The Finest Steak” at Beef Restaurant Kenilworth
Beef Restaurant Kenilworth, Philippe Boucheron visits A Beef Eaters Paradise; “It simply must rank as one of the very finest steaks that I have ever eaten.”
It takes the farmer the best part of two years to raise the beast, the butcher 28 to 30 days to get it ready for the kitchens, and then less than ten minutes for the chef to cock it all up. That, sadly, is the story of far too many steaks. But not at Beef, in Warwick Road, Kenilworth. This is a restaurant dedicated to top quality beef, not the remnants any old tired-out cow, but the very best from Scotland’s Aberdeen Angus, America’s finest USDA and the sublime Japanese-style Wagyu from pampered hand-massaged bulls.
Beef is the brain-child of Michelin chef-patron Andreas Antona, whose first restaurant, Simpsons, was just down the road. The new Simpsons in Birmingham is a Mecca for gourmets who enjoy the finest wines and foods prepared, cooked and served in the traditional style. Beef takes Andreas back to his childhood roots where he cooked steaks and chips in the family’s West London café. “Of all the ingredients in the world, beef is the one for which I have the greatest passion”, he told me when I lunched at Beef the other day. “There is a beef revival going on”, he explained, “with New York style steak houses leading the way”.
All the meat at Beef is cooked over charcoal, no gas, just natural charcoal. This gives out a tremendous temperature that can seal, sear and cook meat to perfection. Chef Iain Miller is an old Andreas hand who cooked with him at the original Simpsons, and then stayed on as Chef with the new owners when it became Le Petit Gourmet. He enjoys the natural effect cooking over charcoal, but warns that it can be difficult as the heat tends to remain in the centre.
Being so close to the International Exhibition Centre the restaurant attracts hungry carnivores from all over the world. They can choose their cut from a chilled display cabinet and then tell the waiter how they want it cooked. Iain has found it difficult at times to understand exactly what a diner might require. “After all”, he told me, “an American ‘rare’ is not the same as a Frenchman’s, let alone an Australian”. So now the waiting staff try to add the nationality of the diner on the check so that the kitchen can get it exactly right. But, of course, that is precisely the kind of detail that you would expect in an Andreas Antona restaurant.
Simple rustic wood-planked walls decorated with stylised steel long horn cattle heads, rough brickwork at the ends, and oblong tiles on the floor, chefs block style tables and simple chairs, all combine to give the atmosphere of a typical New York Steakhouse. The menus, with wine list on the reverse, are also simple and although you can run up quite a bill if you want large cuts of Wyagu, you can have three different cuts of steak and chips, with all the trimmings, for just £12.00.
Starters are also simple. At a recent lunch my colleague ordered a Lobster Bisque while I chose hot smoked salmon. The bisque was the very essence of the crustacean, while my salmon – smoked in an Australian smoker – and served with a perfect Hollandaise sauce was superb; crisp with a touch of smoke on the skin and all pink and pretty inside.
We were very extravagant and shared a Côte de Boeuf, that we asked for rare. And it was. It simply must rank as one of the very finest steaks that I have ever eaten. Burnt on the outside and all pink and succulent within, packed with that indefinable Aberdeen Angus flavour and accompanied by a Béarnaise sauce that cried out for chips to be dipped into it. And what chips they were, stouter than those shoelace-like French fries, but not yet the full finger sized beauties, cooked – as all chips should be – in beef dripping! Side orders of creamed spinach and a wedge of Iceberg lettuce with a Gorgonzola dressing completed our beef banquet.
We drank small 125ml carafes of an excellent Rioja Crianza and an Australian Pinot Noir, selected from a most comprehensive list offering all the wines by 125ml, 250ml and half litre measures as well as by the bottle. This is a most excellent idea and allows diners to match wines to their choice of food instead of having to compromise, or worse still, drink what the fancies!
If after a feast like that you can tackle a dessert then you are a better man than I am. But purely in the interests of my readers, you understand, we shared a Rhum Baba and a Prune & Amagnac Ice Cream. The Baba was soft sponge packed with rum flavour, but the ice cream was definitely on the naughty-but-nice side of things. Finally the coffee. Just one word describes it – excellent. Strong and full of flavour.
Beef is the ideal British interpretation of a proper New York steak house. Andreas and Iain have got it absolutely right, and I would not be surprised if over the coming years we see more Beefs being rolled out across the country in Birmingham and maybe even London.