There is a danger of this blog becoming a litany of my friends’ incompetencies. Last week I blogged about dear Joe’s trouble in differentiating between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern, and today, I have a similar story to tell. I invited Tom (formerly Japan Boy, here) to be my plus one for the launch of Smiths, Spitalfields, the sister restaurant to Smiths of Smithfields. He promised me, that after arriving 40 minutes late to a previous review meal, that he would be on time. He called me at 6.30, the time he was meant to arrive, to say that he was on his bike and about 10 minutes away. Fine. He called me again about 15 minutes later to say that he was having trouble finding somewhere to lock up his bike. I told him not to worry, I was happily waiting outside (which he thought was odd as he had just been outside), and put the phone down. I then had a flash of realisation and rang him back up:
‘You’re not at Smithfields market are you?’. ‘
‘Um, you’re meant to be at Spitalfields market’.
‘Where the f**k is that?’
He cycles past the Smithfield Smiths everyday, so I think on getting the invitation (which, just FYI, I had sent in full, and does say SPITALFIELDS very clearly on it. *cough*) he had just assumed it was there. Another 15 minutes later he arrived, rather sweaty and pissed off. By this time I was already two glasses of Prosecco down so was able to see the funny side.
Another glass of bubbles for me, and a BOB (Smiths own ‘Best of British’) lager for Tom later and we were able to relax. Smiths, Spitalfields is a similar all-day dining restaurant spread over multiple floors as the mother version, only without the fine dinning at the very top. The ground floor is a bar and burger sort of area, with a very masculine feel: lots of black and red, chunky furniture and industrial fixtures and fittings. It felt fun. We were offered canape sized portions of the menu – the veggie burger, eggs Florentine, Thai beef salad, and mini burgers were all well executed, if not anything to jump around in excitement about.
However, once we migrated upstairs I definitely felt an itch to jump. We were invited to watch a butchery demonstration. A massive (and I mean massive) bit of cow was laid out, and the chef took us through where all the different cuts come from. It was interesting seeing how the number of portions you can get of a certain cut determine the price of the steak – the sirloin is much smaller than the rump, and there are only two Chateaubriands (which come from near the head) in a cow making it the most expensive cut. The cow itself was from south Devon, where the lush grass, of a similar quality to Ireland’s, makes for very flavoursome meat. Smiths also hang their meat for up to week in-house – the loss of moisture intensifies the flavour of the meat. I asked how much this bit of cow would cost wholesale (not for any mercenary reasons, but just out of interest), and was told it would be about £500.
Once fully butchered the chef took some of it away to cook for us. And this is where the jumping comes in. The rump was exceptional, but I am struggling to think of a piece of beef I have enjoyed more than their sirloin. It was stupidly tender, and served perfectly rare and juicy. We were also offered pork belly, wild mushrooms on toast, salt beef croquettes, a squid dish, and hot smoked salmon. All were exceptional. I don’t think simple British cooking gets much better.
The focus on beef obviously puts Smiths in the same pen as Hawksmoor (review here), and while I do prefer the Hawksmoors’ sexy and elegant interiors, when it comes to the quality of the beef I think Smiths might just nudge ahead. The top floor of their Smithfield restaurant serves at least five different cuts and breeds of cow at anyone time. They are serious about beef, but for whatever reason have, I think, gone under the radar of many meat-seeking Londoners. I hope that with the renewed enthusiasm behind the Spitalfields site, they will come out from behind the heifer of Hawksmoor and develop their own devoted following. They really do deserve it.I was invited to the launch party of Smiths, Spitalfields by the restaurant. Many thanks for their generosity.