Once again I find myself face-to-face with my sworn enemy: steak. Don’t get me wrong, when steak is cooked properly, it’s literally a food that’s descended from the heavens. But too often we’re forced to put up with medium rare pretending to be rare; with cuts of meat that are just too darn chewy – and if that isn’t a national crisis, I don’t know what is. So it’s with anticipation in my heart and a rumbling in my belly that I approach SMITHS of Smithfield, the trendy after-work bar that just so happens to specialise in steak.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Just a stone’s throw away from Smithfield Market and in the heart of Farringdon sits SMITHS of Smithfield. The venue is set across four floors: the first is a wide space with exposed brickwork, vents and metal pillars adding an industrial touch, whereas the long wooden tables and open kitchen helps solidify it as an after-work social space. On the first floor is the SOS Craft Market, named so because you can pick from a list of 60 craft beers. The space is a lot more relaxed than downstairs, with an intimate layout composed of soft, cosy booths.
Finally, upstairs hosts the open-plan dining room, which trades much of the metal of downstairs for wood panelling and several pictures of cows (your dinner) adorning the walls. There’s also a balcony terrace, making an ideal sun trap whenever it’s not raining. Each floor offers a different atmosphere, so if you’re after a refreshing craft beer with your mates after work, the ground floor is your place, whereas the first floor is for a quieter night, with an older crowd to match. The dining room is the least rambunctious, but it still offers that lively, post-work buzz that permeates the whole venue.
The Food and Drink
My friend and I, one pint down and raring to go, decided it was time to face the meat. There’s a certain expectation with a steak restaurant that sits so close to Smithfield Market: the place is renowned around the capital for selling meat, and with them supplying the restaurant for some of its dishes, it occurred to me that maybe the steak I’ve always dreamed of was within my reach. Before we dived into our meaty challenge, we whet our appetites with starters.
My friend is a sensible person and ordered the duck spring rolls at £8 which came with spring onion cucumber and hoisin sauce, whereas I, a man seemingly running on testosterone and a distaste for his own liver, opted for the BBQ ribs (£9.75). The duck rolls were fantastic: while the portion only offered up two rolls, they were packed full of delicious fresh duck, and the hoisin was the perfect accompaniment. The BBQ ribs arrived as a fairly hefty portion of spare ribs – but luckily my appetite meant I devoured it in no time, especially with the help of the wonderful roast chilli sauce. We ordered a lovely bottle of ‘G’ Garganega (£22.50) dry white wine to wash everything down.
Pleased with the appetisers, it was time for the main event. Both of us have a basic knowledge of steak, but when we hesitated over which cut of meat to choose from, the waiter offered his help. This was a delightful surprise as the man really knew his stuff, and recommended which cut works best with the way you like it cooked, and why it works that way. Thanks to him, my friend ordered a 35 day aged 12oz rare breed rump (£28) cooked medium-rare while I opted for the 7oz rare breed fillet (£32) cooked rare.
My friend’s rump was the ideal shade of red, it remained on the right side of chewy the entire way through the cut and it genuinely couldn't be better seasoned. SMITHS of Smithfield bolted out of the gates with this steak and the rump was so wonderful, it made me wonder: was it actually a mistake to order the fillet? Would I be perpetually haunted by food envy?
Absolutely not. This was one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was so good that my adjectives are turning old fashioned: I chewed, confounded with the tenderness of the meat. I sat flabbergasted with how they cooked it in that rare sweet spot – bloody and pure, without becoming blue or stealth-medium rare. I was agog with every single bite being as rewarding as the last. I finally remembered why I love steak so much.
SMITHS of Smithfield clearly exists as an after-work hotspot, from serving breakfast to the Smithfield market workers to office workers thirsty for a pint in the evening. It’s a fun venue with a decent collection of craft beers and three floors for you to hang out in. But if you’re a meat lover, it offers one thing that’s hard to come by: amazing cuts of steak, cooked exactly the way you want it. For your post-work boozing, it’s a good spot, and if you’ve got that steak craving, i've been hard-pressed to find better.