Eat Here: Manhattan Grill, West India QuayBy Alicia Grimshaw
I really like steak, I mean really like steak. If ever the question of ‘if you had to live on a dessert island and had to eat one meal’, what would it be question ever came up, my answer would be steak every time. I’m not a snob about steak – I just like it cooked to my liking, flavoursome and accompanied with a good sauce. Back in the day when I first discovered steak my mum use to tell me off for lathering my sirloin with tomato ketchup, I didn’t understand at the time – but emptying a bottle of heinz over this beautifully cooked meat was indeed, sacrilege.
Since moving to London back in January I’ve been on the search for a good steak, sure you have your chain-restaurants or the menus that includes an obligatory steak dish at the bottom – but I wanted something more. I wanted a menu that celebrated these delicious cuts of meat, making them the main event and not some shoddy after-thought and at Manhattan Grill that’s exactly what you get.
West India Quay isn’t necessarily the place I first think of to house a decent steakhouse, but thanks to a snazzy makeover, West India Quay has surprisngly become a foodie destination with the harbour side a melting pot of different restaurants. If you haven’t already been, you really need to go.
If you aren’t familiar with Manhattan Grill, here’s what you need to know. Headed up by Mexican born chef Damian Trejo, Trejo earned his steak stripes at a steakhouse in Tabasco State, where the speciality was USDA prime beef – this man knows his meat. Trejo has prepared his speciality dishes for the world’s biggest stars including President Barack Obama (whose favourite dish is steak, surprisingly) and the Dalai Lama. I can’t compete with Obama on the star status, although I did stand next to him once at Madame Tussaurds.
Manhattan Grill: The Drinks
Fine steak wouldn’t be the same without a well-matched red wine accompaniment, and Manhattan Bar & Grill offers an extensive list prepared by the world-renowned Baron Rothschild Estate. Their wine list includes bottles of smooth Burgundy to crisp Sauvignon, from South Africa, Chile, Argentina and France. If, like me, you like wine but picking one is like picking your weekly lottery numbers their waiters are all expertly trained and are on hand to suggest a wine to go with your chosen steak. If in doubt, let someone else decide.
If you’re after something stronger, they have a dedicated G&Tea bar creating cocktails with inventive ingredients and mixers and if you’re not the biggest gin fan they also rustle up some pretty super classic cocktails. Their Mai Tai is one of the best I’ve tasted – no fancy garnish, no edible flowers – just a well made cocktail with ice. Simple.
Manhattan Grill: The Food
Enough talking drinks and the setting, let’s get down business. The food is superb and I don’t use that word lightly. The one thing that outshines other places is the simplicity of the menu. There’s no endless pages, 15 different cuts of steak or something that reads like a GCSE science exam and that’s its best feature.
For starter, I recommend the pork belly – served with mustard cabbage and apple sauce puree. The top layer is crispy but not overly done, cut into the pork belly and you’re greeted with melt in the mouth meat that isn’t tough or dry. As daft as it sounds, it’s just right. The cabbage and the sweetness from the apple sauce is the perfect accompaniment and the sauce doesn’t detract from the star of the show that is the pork.
The waiter suggested for us to order the scallops and my companion nodded enthusiastically. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen eye to eye with fish – the taste and texture just isn’t for me but when in Rome I had to get my knife and fork stuck in and try them seeing as though everyone harps on. The black pearl scallops were served on a bed of pea puree garnished with bacon crumbs – a lot of flavours that actually worked. Scallops are rich and three was just the right portion size for a starter. Reluctantly I took a bite and was surprised – I actually liked it, I’d go so far to say I enjoyed the scallop. It was seared beautifully and the bacon crumbs added an extra crunch to the dish.
Now for the main course. As aforementioned, the menu is concise – pick your steak either USDA or Scottish Angus and your cut or if you’re one of those people who comes to a steakhouse and ‘doesn’t fancy steak’ (shame on you) no fear as they serve chuck steak burgers, baby back ribs and corn fed chicken. Their steaks are all grass-fed, Gold Label, pure-bred and are dry-aged for 28 days to ensure maximum taste.
I ordered the Sottish Angus fillet steak cooked rare. There are many things that I don’t enjoy in life; daytime TV, bootcut jeans and people that wear football shirts when they aren’t watching a football match, but what I don’t enjoy is an overcooked steak. At Manhattan Grill they cooked it just right – it was underdone to the point of blue or just slightly overdone verging on medium rare – it was absolutely spot on. The meat was tender, a butter like texture and best of all it wasn’t chewy. You could taste that it was an excellent cut of meat. There was no need for a steak knife as the meat didn’t need to be hacked apart, it just fell apart.
A steak is nothing without a fine selection of sides and at Manhattan Grill, they certainly don’t forget about the supporting roles. The sweet potato fries are crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle and their mac ‘n’ cheese comes in a delicate pot filled with a gooey cheese sauce topped with a crisp layer of more cheese. Another favourite is their bourbon peppercorn sauce – it isn’t overly boozy and isn’t as peppery as your classic sauce, perfect for dipping your steak and sweet potato fries into.
Pair a nicely cooked steak with a well chosen wine and you’ve really hit the jackpot.
Manhattan Grill: The Verdict
West India Quay might not be the destination of choice, but Manhattan Grill certainly should be. The restaurant boasts an impressive cocktail of great food, service and knowledge. Manhattan Grill is thee place for a steak. Order one of their well-made cocktails, a steak and treat yourself to a dessert. If that isn’t a slice of heaven, then quite frankly, I don’t know what is.