They’ve got the aesthetic. The stripped- back yet not, wood and iron finished, oh where is the brick wall…. ah! there by the bar, cow posters, large letters, visible filament bulbs, and openness of one of the modern food chains sweeping across the United Kingdom. So, when I found out they weren’t yet, I knew that it would only be a matter of time.
Kudos to them, it is what the people want, a reminder perhaps of the noncomplex, a window into a valorised rusticity that is now pop culture. ‘Great food without the fuss’, hmm, have I heard that one before? I’m sure I have, the death knell of the Michelin, the droves of people searching for stylish, sexy, tasty cuisine, that can be visited to impress while at the same time being quite comfortable and affordable in plaid and skinny jeans. Speaking of comfort, I was glad for the cushion atop my stool at Son of Steak, my bum gives thanks.
There is, however, a recognisable line between the austere and the kitsch with these things. As soon as the ostentatious excesses are visible to the practiced eye, when it sees the subtle expressions of insecurity in replicating a formula that is already so successful everywhere else, one cannot help but be disappointed. You like wood and iron, good, warm lighting, great, but why all the cows, the big one out front, and all the writing that no one who is having a good time will bother to read?
I was in good and happy company when I visited Son of Steak, so all this was a mere afterthought. I probably would not have bothered to review Son of Steak had it not been for the potential I saw in the food they served. When it comes to the overall experience there is very little new for me to say, and I am quick to realise that no matter what my opinion is of such places, people will invariably and inevitably find themselves there because of established rudiments that bring in the masses. Steak is just steak for some people, a food that can be cooked without fuss apparently. And with well-sourced, British bred meat, aged for twenty-eight days, a proverbial sweet spot, I am inclined to agree – at least for the most part.
After having indulged in my fair share of retired Guernseys, pampered Aberdeens, Shorthorns and Herefords, and Ayrshires, of every cut you can think of, I’d like to think I know my steak and how I like it. I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy the juicy, unctuous richness of a rib-eye, and I like it medium rare, a scrumptious 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius at the centre after resting, evenly coloured throughout with fat that only requires the daintiest of chews. I also know that if I want this last bit, I must ask for a medium, because while I can concede to a slight overcooking, I cannot stand gristly bits; they make me very sad indeed.
Since this was my first visit at a restaurant in Nottingham that, in my mind, had all the warning signs, I ordered a rib-eye at medium, and crossed all my fingers and toes.
So the steaks brought to our table, including their much-exhorted flat iron, were all pre-sliced on wooden slates and sprinkled with flakes of sea salt. I find that it is usually the case, that in places where meat is sliced in the kitchen before serving, they are either incredibly proud of their ability to exquisitely cook meat or are playing it cleverly safe, making it sure that their cuts are sent out cooked to specification. Knowing the area, the relatively low prices of the steaks on show, I imagine Son of Steak brings in a lot of people that do not really know how to order or eat steak to their liking, and are more inclined to send stuff back than accept what they are given.
Unfortunately, my ribeye was only perfectly cooked at the centre. It seemed that while the chef made an effort to get the temperature correct, the cut itself was uneven, a hill with two descending gradients at the ends of which were almost inedible pieces of grey muscle. I liked the idea behind the scoring of the larger portions of fat to let the excess drain and garner a singular caramelisation, but I am afraid the proportion of fat to meat was such that it did not have enough time to melt on the grill – there was still a core of very rubbery fat. But I will say that the good bits were lovely, lovely meat, so I imagine that mine may have been a one off, an irregular cut they ill-advisedly decided not to fuss over.
I tried a piece of the flat iron off a friend’s fork and was impressed by the tenderness of the steak. Adding on the beef dripping gravy accentuated this flavour, I suppose it is a compliment for me to say that it was not necessary. But when our waiter was taking our plates away, I noticed that her board had pieces of meat that were palpably undercooked and leftover, which begged the obvious question. Great steak is steak that can be eaten start to finish without a single complaint, or a morsel left over. The plates speak for themselves.
The sides were satisfactory: mac and cheese more saucy than cheesy (not in the good way), garlic mushrooms juicy and garlicky as they should be, fried onions a tad soggy for my liking and chips that were a credit to their cook. I was glad that Maddy’s veggie burger was to her liking (and to mine, a rarity), which is more than I can say for the many, many places I have pulled her to.
In the end, Son of Steak assumes the usual just ‘above-average-but-not-by-much’ position, always with good intentions. With an even cut on my ribeye, and few other adjustments I dare say my steak would have been rather nice. I cannot speak for anyone else, especially those too politely British to complain, but perhaps the restaurant was not having their best day. I may visit again in time, but I’m not quite sure.
Location: Trinity Square, Nottingham NG1 4AF