Friday, 1 May 2009

The Establishment, Battersea

I was deliriously excited when I saw The Establishment, the gastropub in Parson's Green, had opened a branch on Battersea Rise, not five minute's walk from my house. Deliriously excited because if there's one thing this area needs it's somewhere decent to eat - if your best local restaurant (notwithstanding the excellent Donna Margherita of course) is a Strada then something needs to change. And also because when I visited the Parson's Green branch last year I enjoyed very much - I was served a nicely made martini and a lovely pork dish and left a very happy chappy indeed.

I don't know whether it's pandering to a different locale or just a desire for a change of direction from the guys behind The Establishment, but whereas the menu at Parson's Green was firmly British gastropub, in Battersea they seem to want to be known as a steakhouse, with a special box on the menu listing the cuts of beef (sirloin, T-bone, etc. and whole rib for 2) and proudly proclaiming the 45-day dry-aged product. Well, good luck to them, but I was pessimistic. I have yet to find anywhere in the UK other than Hawksmoor that really do the US-style steakhouse concept any justice. Good quality meat is simply not produced on the scale and to the same level of consistency here as over the pond, illustrated by a recent hugely enjoyable evening at Hawksmoor laid on for food bloggers where we got to try 17(!!) different cuts of steak from all over the country, and where out of only 2 or 3 really good cuts my favourite turned out to be the one they had on their menu already. Those guys know what they're doing.

But more on the beef later. First of all I had a small bowl of shrimp (the British type, as in tiny prawn) and potato salad. The potato was lovely and fresh and the salad was dressed well, but the shrimp tasted of nothing - a real shame. My dining companion that evening, none other than author and food blogger Simon Majumdar of Dos Hermanos, did much better with his Chicken Liver & foie gras parfait, which had a lovely light texture, deep flavour and served correctly at room temperature.

For the main course, I thought it would be fun to have a whole 26oz rib between the two of us, and we ordered it rare. The breed used at The Establishment in Battersea is Aberdeen Angus. There is a very good reason for this - it's consistent in terms of quality, reasonably priced and the supply is plentiful. Unfortunately it doesn't have a great deal of flavour, and although the meat that arrived was cooked very well, with good seasoning and a nice crispy char from a hot grill, the flesh inside was watery and tasteless. It was also very sloppily presented. Compare this similar cut from the Horseshoe in Hampstead Heath last year: that offered at the Establishment:

It's a terrible photo (it was almost pitch black in there) but you can hopefully see what I'm getting at.

I know it seems like I'm whingeing (because I am), but if anything the mediocre beef was just a vindication of my prejudices rather than a shock or disappointment. Aberdeen Angus is a perfectly good breed for burgers or pub steaks, but I have a distinct feeling the choice of that breed was made for commercial and practical reasons rather than flavour. If you have that little faith in your public that you think people won't pay more than £15 for a sirloin and don't know any better, then fine, see how you get on. But thank God there are places in London where flavour, courtesy of gorgeous dry-aged Longhorn cattle, comes first. Listen to me - I'm turning into a beef geek. Hawksmoor, I blame you.


The Establishment on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

Is Hawksmoor paying you per mention?


Chris Pople said...

Grim: Haha! They're not paying me, but given the amount of times I've had lunch and dinner there over the last few years, I'm pretty sure I'm owed some sort of frequent visitor discount...

K said...

Have you tried The Bountiful Cow on Eagle St, near Holborn station? I paid my first visit to Hawksmoor yesterday and had the Bone-in Sirloin - delicious, and I couldn't walk straight afterwards - but I think the BC gives the same bang for less buck (esp. if you go to their website and print one of their coupons).

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

I think you would now be able to eat up all the Hawksmoor steak that you left behind on your plate that evening! I certainly could!

Gastro1 said...

Aberdeen Angus or Black Angus is the perfect breed for beef and it is produced not only in Scotland but also Argentina and Ireland for example.

Like everything just calling a cut of beef Aberdeen Angus is not very helpful . I wish Butchers and Restaurants would be more specific about the provenance in terms of country , region and if possible the farmer.

I know a few restaurants like Hawksmoor , Maze Grill and Smiths do
as well as top butcher's like Allen's , Jack O'Shea , Harrods and Lidgates do too.

As to all supermarkets the less said about the poor excuse for beef (in fact all meat) they sell the better. Everyne s guilty here Waitrose , Tesco , Sainsburys et al.

Of course when it comes to flavour , texture etc it's down to your personal taste - I much prefer grass feed beef to say the USDA Corn Fed variety that predominates in the US - saying that my two favourite steakhouses ar probably in the US - City Grill in oston and Peter Luger in Brooklyn New York.

In London I have never had anything better than Jack O'Shea's Black Angus Sirloin , Rib Eye or Onglet and McDuff Fillet from Allen's of Mayfair.

Specifically in terms of Hawksmoor I wish they sourced their meat more widely as don't think The Ginger Pig is that stellar and certainly not for it's beef.

Hollow Legs said...

Gastro1 - are you sure you aren't being paid per mention for Jack O'Shea...?

Chris Pople said...

K: It's on the list!

Gastro1: Thanks for your comment. I realise Aberdeen Angus is just a breed of cattle, but it's also one which doesn't have a great deal of flavour. I've tried AA from lots of different suppliers including JOS and I still can't get anything close to the stuff they serve at Hawksmoor.

Out of interest, I have it on good authority that Hawksmoor hoover up so much of the Ginger Pig's good stuff that what is left to purchase in the Borough Market and Marylebone shops are of lower quality. This is probably why you weren't too impressed - I wasn't either when I bought a steak from Borough.

Unknown said...

Wow the picture of your meal at the Horsehoe is amazing - will have to go back and read that post. Sad that your local did not live up to your expectations.

FatBanker said...

I really like your blog, and it seems that we live scarily close to each other! I haven't tried The Establishment yet, but surprised to hear that you don't rate some of the other places in the area: La Pampa Grill? Lola Roja? Buona Sera?

Chris Pople said...

FatBanker: No, it's strange but I don't eat out around here very often. I've never been to La Pampa or Buona Sera but have heard decent reports on both. Lola Roja I have been to and really enjoyed it, but it was years ago, before I even started the blog!

Lucy said...

All this food remined me a lot to the trip I did last summer! It was great, in Argentina I stayed in a downtown buenos aires hotel and the food there oh my god it was amazing... the asado (that's the way the call de meat) and the cakes with dulce de leche, I have no words!!