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Danes raise the stakes - MASH

One of the side effects of the rise and rise of “Nordic” cuisine is that we are all ready to treat the culinary landscape of Scandinavia with a bit more respect. Only a little while ago suggesting that there was good food to be had in Denmark would provoke knowing sniggers and perhaps an off-colour joke about Danish bacon. But this autumn has seen the opening of an enormous and glamorous steak house deep in the bowels of the earth within the same building as Café Zedel. It is called MASH (an acronym for Modern American Steak House) and is the brainchild of a Danish restaurant group called Copenhagen Concepts.
Steakhouses are very much of the moment and many of us will happily enter into a debate about the relative merits of grass fed and grain fed beef; which breed of cattle is best for steaks; and just how long it should be hung for (the advanced level debate being about the merits of suspension by the hip or Himalayan salt ageing chambers!). The Danes, however, are working from a different page of the manual. At MASH you can have one of three Uruguayan corn-fed Hereford steaks; one of three Danish steaks that’s been dry aged for up to 70 days (a record); there are five different American steaks from Nebraska; and a Waygu sirloin from Australia. You may have noticed that the Danish folk don’t offer any British or Irish steaks, and that the emphasis is on grain fed rather than grass fed.
The bar is comfortable and serves a large enough range of sophisticated and carefully made martinis to delight any expert in “see through drinks”. The dining room is large and the Danish staff are both charming and enthusiastic. From the starters the foie gras terrine is more of a parfait but very well made. The steak tartare is exceptionally good – well spiced and sensitively chopped rather than being smashed through a mincer. The fried veal sweetbreads are also competitive.
Thn it is time to turn to steak (although turbot, guineafowl, rack of lamb, sea bream, a burger and a grilled lobster can be found in the small print). The steaks come cooked “as asked for” – a simple thing, but all too often a stumbling block – the American sirloin is notably juicy. The revelation is the Danish steak. Like its brothers hanging in the glass display cabinets, this steak has been hung and dry aged for longer than the norm. The result is an intensity of flavour and an agreeable chewiness. Very good eating. Sides range from good chilli fries to large, heavily battered onion rings, and mashed potato with onion and bacon.
As befits a restaurant group that has a flourishing restaurant called Le Sommelier there is an epic wine list at MASH. Great strength in depth particularly when it comes to the very best America has to offer. This would be a good place to take a wine buff.
MASH is a good restaurant, serving good food, in a good atmosphere. The only reservation creeps up on you when it comes to the somewhat stern prices – the starters are all priced at £10. You could pay £47.50 per person for your steak (Nebraska porterhouse), £30 for a 300g Danish ribeye, or £50 for 200g of Waygu. The clever Danes seem to be setting their menu prices somewhere between Wolfgang Puck’s “Cut” on Park Lane and the rapidly expanding Hawksmoor chainlet. But the long-dry-aged Danish steak is a revelation – real flavour, well worth trying, well worth splurging.

MASH, 77 Brewer Street, London W1F 9ZN (020 7734 2608)

Charles Campion - Thursday 22nd November 2012

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