Steak has become rather popular, and with it the growth of the steakhouse on the scene. Gaucho and Hawksmoor are both virtually household names, but there are some lesser known ones. On my list for sometime to visit has been La Maison du Steak in Cambridge for example.
The menu entry is simple – “Steak, sides”. The concept for the diner is simple…. but the perfect steak, for any Chef, is an incredibly difficult thing to deliver. Blue, rare, medium etc are all subjective terms. I now ask the waitress to describe the outcome to the Chef and allow him to make a judgement – I am never disappointed. I once also tried to persaude a pub owner to upgrade the quality of his steaks on the menu, only to be told that he was considering removing them all together. Too many being returned to the kitchen for not being done appropriately….. back to the subjective meanings again. The cooking time is short for my perfect steak, requires a temperature of charcoal only a restaurant setting can really deliver and needs to be rested for a good 5 minutes; this requires skill, precision and above all else being very mentally acute – in a steakhouse there could be 10 checks on and a mini production line going where a few seconds inattention results in a large mistake. And that’s all before the provenance of the meat is considered; finding a good herd from a farmer that can be trusted and aging the meat properly are all key too.
Which is why, when I heard of Two Bulls Steakhouse in Hastings, I wanted to visit. The website boasts “we don’t do fancy dining”. And they’re right. It isn’t fancy. That’s a good thing. I’ve been to Gaucho, and whilst the food was satisfactory, the ambiance (and the price) was not to my liking – it was forced formality dressed up as informal. Good chargrilled meat is what brings British families together in our woefully short summers – our perennial barbeques are simple affairs. Two Bulls seems to bring that ethos into a steakhouse setting. The restaurant itself is more reminiscent of a bistro; the tables as close to the formica tables I have previously blogged about as being a sure sign of somewhere special. The wine list is 12 bottles long; 5 red, 4 white, 1 fizz, 1 rose. They are simply listed by their grape, not their country or region. This laissez-faire, informal approach (whilst still retaining the important detail) typifies Two Bulls. The (delicious) Malbec, you would expect to be Argentine at £18 a bottle. It isn’t. It’s French which is a nice rareity – and that isn’t even the cheapest red which was a Tempranillo at £15 from memory.
The service and ambiance is palably frantic – this was in part because I had the table next to the pass with a good view of the kitchen (for which I apologise to my friend as I was transfixed; I also apologise to the staff for interrogating them about what was going on too), and will also be in part because of the pressure on table turn at such a popular venue, but at the same time those observations somehow don’t translate into you feeling rushed.
Anyway, onto the food. There’s an array of starters and the prawn cocktail certainly appeared popular; we opted for a bread board and olives. The olives were bountiful and plump; the bread was clearly artisan, but sliced the same way your bag of Hovis is, which is an interesting presentation. Served with a pile of Maldon sea salt (yes!) and mini Kilner jugs of olive oil and balasmic vinegar and a pile of dressed rocket completed this aperitif. The main course here though is obviously the main event. My friend opted for the slow cooked pork ribs; these were both huge and perfectly cooked to the point they are a masterclass in handling this cut of pig. I opted for the 10oz 45 day aged Sirlion (they offer *just* 21 day aged, or extra aged such as this – the 21 day aged Sirloin was an 8oz at £18, which makes the 45 day one seem incredible value at £22) which was both clearly sourced and cooked to perfection. Sides of homemade coleslaw and creamed spinach were both perfectly executed and decent sized portions. The same side salad from the bread board reappears, still well dressed with the same sesame oil based dressing which is a very nice touch alongside a homemade peppercorn sauce. The home-made hand cut chips were not to my taste. This, I stress, is a personal preference thing. There was nothing wrong with them per se, other than maybe needing, in my view, to be crispier on the outside. It’s their size. Pseudo roast potatoes really. These are not chips; I’d much rather have a handful of skinny fries or “regular chips”…. but just like how a steak is cooked, this is equally subjective sometimes – and in all honesty given the size and the quality of the steak, I challenge all but the hungriest diner to get through them.
Pudding was a banoffee pie. As far as I can tell all their puddings are sharing portions, and was clearly homemade and very nice – served on a bed of chocolate shavings which heightened the decadence. All in all, excluding tip, after that epic mountain of food (and two bottles of wine), the bill was £96. Same thing in Gaucho? Double. Maybe more. To the extend that if you can get a reasonably priced hotel and an advance train ticket and were thinking of one of the famous London restaurants for a visit – maybe think again. Lose a few pounds of pennies in the arcades, stroll on the beach, and wind up here for dinner. All in all, pound for pound, I think you’ll be a lot more content.
P.S I have tried to work in Jess’ three-stage test for a restaurant; how much is it, is the alcohol affordable and what’s on the menu. Well, to be fair, I did bring out the first two – I would suggest that the clue for the third is in the title. Anyway, do check out her blog – and follow her on twitter @FallingJessBlog.
|Restaurant Name||Two Bulls Steakhouse|
|Price Range||£50 a head (Dinner, inc bottle of wine each)|
|Website||Two Bulls Steakhouse|
|Address||61C High Street, Hastings Old Town, TN34 3EJ|