If you set yourself up as a ‘Steakhouse and Wine Bar’, and if your menu is divided into ‘Steaks’ and ‘The Rest’, you have to be confident in what you offer. Especially when your some of your prices stray into Hawksmoor territory, by common consent one of the very best steak restaurants in the country.
(Note: I know what Giles Coren says about people who order steak in restaurants. I could care less. But not much.)
You might even say you’d have to be bullish.
But then if you previously ran Le Gallois, you’d presumably have the whatnots to back up such claims. Penarth Marina is an excellent spot for a balmy evening; any food tastes better eaten in view of water. The emphasis is on simplicity, despite the sometimes flowery language of the menu. You’re setting your stall out with terms like ‘divine’ and ‘cooked to perfection’ but the word ‘simple’ offers promise. You won’t find ‘turbot gently weeping on a tristesse of cauliflower’ here; still less, ‘tumescence of lettuce’ or ‘foreclosure of rhubarb’: you get a list of steak cuts and sides, and anything else is clearly less of a priority. This is a place which celebrates flesh, and that confident tone can’t escape you as you read about the “extraordinary care” taken in sourcing produce and the “absolute provenance” ensured in the procuring of all their meat.
Anyway. Does Pier 64 deliver? (Please feel free to insert the old ‘no, but it does chicken, pork and lamb’ gag here).
Starters are largely fish and seafood based; a wise touch, given the hefty meat on offer.
Scallops were side-of-a-fork tender, the sauce an acidic balance to the sweetness of the pancetta, tomatoes and scallop; all in all, a very promising start to the meal. (£10.95).
I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to have oysters (£9.95) and they didn’t disappoint. The fact the lemon arrived in a pip-retaining shroud of muslin, rather than the bulldog-clip-type device favoured so often elsewhere, was a reminder of the ‘do it simply, do it well’ ethos. The blushing bivalves went down a treat- so quickly, I forgot all about the proffered Tabasco in favour of the shallot vinegar and the acidity of the lemon.
Mains posed one of those classic dilemmas; since the black pudding and bacon salad was available in both starter and main-sized portions, there was some discussion over who would have what (and whether a roving fork might make its way across the table…) Whatever the upshot, this was food worth the discussion. My wife won out.
Sweet tomatoes, lardons of crispy bacon, soft slices of black pudding, sautéed potatoes, dressed leaves (£12.95) All handsomely crowned with a poached egg which was only too keen to anoint its companions. Wonderful eating.
Nothing was going to deter me, however, from the main attraction. That simplicity of chargilled meat is a wonderful thing to these taste buds. Good meat, cooked well (not ‘well’), with simple accompaniments. Sometimes that’s all you want. And I did.
Bone-in ribeye, coming in at 10 oz, cooked medium-rare. Fries. Béarnaise. (Sides and sauce extra, total £31.95) Sometimes, it’s the simple things which give the most pleasure. But that only works if every element is just…so. The béarnaise has to be wobbly and daftly rich and flecked with fresh tarragon. The fries have to be thin and crisp and properly seasoned. It’s a bonus if any scrappy bits arrive too. The meat has to have a depth of flavour, a juiciness and a bite you only get from well-hung beef.
Safe to say everything fell into place. The salting of the fries seemed slightly overenthusiastic at first but made perfect sense when coated with that exemplary béarnaise. The steak was a prime piece indeed and bore the encouraging signs of having been moved around on the bars of the chargrill: all in all, a deeply savoury experience. ‘Succulent’ would be the word here. See that protruding bone? In less polite company I’d have used that as a handle to scrape the remnants away with my teeth. Then again, in less polite company I’d be running my finger around the sauce dish.
So, all in all, some very good food which isn’t messed about with to its detriment. I’d imagine eating at a waterside table, on a fine evening with the smell of the sea in the air and a glass of Rioja, would be pretty close to perfect. Minor annoyances- I know the listing and charging for side dishes is pretty much standard now, but it does irk- surely everyone is going to want at least one with their meal?- aside, this was a restaurant putting its faith in a high standard of produce, and cooking and presenting it to its best advantage.
Like I said- sometimes you want things done simply. Consider that box ably ticked. Not particularly cheap, but you get what you pay for. You’d have to go far to find a better steak in the area.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.