As I walked passed the wine bars and brushed shoulder with the pink-shirts on my way to M Restaurant Threadneedle Street, I'll happily admit that I was more excited than usual about reviewing a restaurant and even had a bit of a swagger in my step. A brief pre-dinner menu glimpse made two things glaringly obvious to me: that this was going to be a fine-dining experience that's otherwise out of my current yuppie reach and that nothing quite makes you feel as hungry as the sound of a seared wagyu steak.
The Venue & Ambience
M Restaurant Threadneedle is buried deep in one of the City of London's winding alleyways. Judging from its neighbours - COYA, Le Relais De Venise and Mint Leaf Lounge - you already have an idea of what it will look like before you see the huge business tycoon-esque glass doorway. The first thing I noticed was the venue's elegant colour scheme; almost every inch of the restaurant's body was covered in either matt black, tinted glass or bright gold. With a staircase leading upstairs to a suave cocktail bar, the main seating area jumps out at you, thanks to the bright blue velvet chairs and leather booths spread throughout.
Once I had awkwardly taken off my backpack, silently scorned myself for wearing Adidas trainers and settled into my chair, the grandiose feel of M Restaurant really started to hit. The high ceilings, angular light fixtures and serene mood lightening work with the sleek table settings to give the restaurant an airy, sophisticated feel without being stuffy. Yes, it's a highbrow steak house, but it's friendly and easy-going at the same time. My backpack and trainers felt right at home after a few minutes.
Steak is king here but chefs have clearly widened their net with a few surprising options on the menu. We got the ball rolling with two drastically different starters: the buttermilk fried chicken (£11.50) and the seared diver scallops (£16.50). Boneless and covered in a golden-brown, thick batter, the fried chicken was tender and light but offered plenty of heat thanks to the spice-heavy batter. On the polar end of the scale, the scallops were delicate and smooth. Nicely browned on the outside, the scallops gently fell apart when you sliced through them and had a nice saltiness that was balanced out by the accompanying dark curry smoked cauliflower purée.
The grill section of the menu reads like an all-star line-up, featuring the most sought after steak in the world alongside a handful of locally-sourced cuts. Ignoring the concept of carbon footprints for one second, I only had eyes for the Blackmore Wagyu Grade 9 Sirloin steak from Victoria, Australia (£75), while my companion opted for the USDA Prime Fillet cut from Kansas (£45). The Waygu was unquestionably the most tender piece of meat that I've ever eaten. Perfectly seared, one quick slice through the cut reveals just how evenly cooked the steak was. It was smooth and almost silky in texture, and each bite showcased the natural flavours of the seasoned beef. The fillet was likewise delicately grilled and is ideal for anyone that prefers lean cuts of beef.
Like any good steakhouse, M Restaurant offers a range of accompanying sauces and side dishes, all chosen to amplify the flavours offered by each steak. We chose to top our steaks with Malbec onions (£2), nicely caramelised and cooked in a stong red wine. Similarly, the accompanying sauces (£3 each) were important in taking the meal to a higher level. Much like the onions, the Maytag blue cheese was rich and had an almost sweet flavour, but it was the black garlic aioli that deserves most of the praise. Nicely balancing the natural taste of the garlic with the creaminess of the aioli, the sauce clashed with the smoky hints of the grilled steaks and added a different edge to each forkful.
Of course, the entire meal was framed by incredible sides (£4.50 each). The tripled cooked chips were a no brainer, while the white wine-cooked oyster mushrooms and pan fried broccoli added new textures onto every plate. The mushrooms sadly had a slight chemical taste to them but luckily the bread crumb-topped, al dente fried broccoli made up for any shortcoming. Soft but with just the right amount of moreish crunch, the bowl of diced broccoli was clean within a few minutes of being placed in front of us.
Onto the dessert. Feeling as if we needed to be rolled home, we chose to share an order of the lemon and pistachio tart (£8), a dish we prayed would act as a palate cleanser. Mercifully, it was. The lemon tart had the right amount of citrus flavour to cut through the close mixture without stinging your taste buds and overpowering everything, while the pistachio ice-cream went well with the shards of meringue to add a great texture clash to the dish. It was refreshing and provided a much-needed calm finish to a pretty loud meal.
There's no real secret why M Restaurant Threadneedle Street is such a big hitter. The close attention to detail, the blending of a casual atmosphere in an incredibly sophisticated space, the impressive lineup of international steaks - most of which have travelled more than me - and the balanced menu of dishes that work in any combination are decent starting places. Sort of like a jigsaw where every piece perfectly slots into every other piece, the restaurant charms smiles out of everyone with its Michelin-standard experience without ever making you feel uncomfortable or out of place. Put simply, it's impossibly cool and can rival any of London's fine-dining spots in my book.