July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Beast!
It’s a great name for a restaurant and not unsuitable for a dungeon-like space where you first gorge on bloody steaks and then rip apart crustaceans with your bare hands.
Beast is brought to you by the owners of Goodman -- some of London’s finest steak restaurants -- and Burger & Lobster, a mini-chain with a simple formula of a 20 pound ($34) menu with a single choice of dish at its heart.
That simplicity is refined at Beast, where the price is 75 pounds and you get both steak and Norwegian king crab. There is no menu and there are no starters other than snacks such as vintage Parmigiano Reggiano served with Nocellara del Belice olives, marinated artichokes and balsamic onion.
You sit in a basement at huge communal tables so wide that it might be easier to communicate with your date via e-mail (if you can get a signal) rather than attempt conversation by that old mouth-to-ear method. It’s difficult to play footsie unless you are a basketball player and your date is a model. (It might work if you are under the table.)
Beast feels like one of those Henry VIII medieval banquet halls where people throw rolls and flirt with the serving wenches. I don’t recommend this at Beast. There is no bread and staffers have a right to a workplace environment that is free of harassment, hostility and intimidation. And airborne food.
Fat and Rich
The steak is USDA bone-in rib eye and sirloin from Alaska, corn finished for about 150 days, with very high marbling. It’s cooked on a parrilla grill and brushed with rosemary butter. It’s fat and rich. I like fat and rich, though I do wonder if more health-conscious diners would appreciate the combination.
My feeling is that the presence of smoked heritage tomatoes and dressed green salad, and the absence of fries, makes it OK. But it’s not an epic steak. It’s not the knockout meat you can get at Goodman, or Hawksmoor or CUT, at a price. It is a steak you might hang out with to get your hands on the king crab.
The Paralithodes camtschaticus red king crab was introduced to the Barents Sea by the Soviet Union in the 1960s to provide a new catch for its fisherman, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. Beast obtains its haul from Norway King Crab AS, based at Bugoeynes, in the Arctic Circle.
They are caught only by small coastal boats and make it in less than two hours to a small packing area, where each is individually inspected for quality before being given a personal identity badge with bar code. No wonder that it’s expensive and rarely seen in London restaurants.
Sweet and Soft
The crab is sweet and soft and so fresh, you might imagine yourself out on one of those small fishing boats if you weren’t sitting underground listening to amplified music and to your fellow diners attempting conversation across the table.
The crab is served with sweet-chili sauce and garlic butter. You have the option of seasonal vegetables if you are feeling peckish, which is unlikely. Dessert is lemon mousse with meringue or berry cheesecake.
While the wine list isn’t cheap, it’s not greedy either. The Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir, for example, is 50 pounds and the Schug Carneros Chardonnay (also from California) is 68 pounds. If you enjoy good wines and are making a night of it, it’s easy to end up with a bill of 150 pounds a person.
If you are cheap or sober, 100 pounds should cover it. I can’t see how this much food at 75 pounds a person can work for lunch and I am not sure it succeeds early in the evening, either. Show up at 6:30 p.m. and you may find yourself sitting alone on a bench in this room, lit by dozens of candles.
Goodman is already looking at the possibility of featuring options other than the full Beast Experience.
The older I get, the less interested I am in communal revelry. But the food and service at Beast are of the high standard you can expect from the Goodman group. Executive Chef John Cadieux is a man you can trust with your dinner, or lunch. So if you are up for this kind of thing, I am happy to recommend it: Feast at Beast. Rating: 7/10
Beast, 3 Chapel Place, Marylebone, London, W1G 0BG. Information: +44-20-7495-1816 or http://www.beastrestaurant.co.uk/.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines)
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