Parmesan-dusted chips, rib-eye steak with wild garlic butter and a divine baked brioche with a chive, olive oil and salt dip are just some of the drool-inducing delights on offer at STK London.
Part of a global chain of restaurants with locations in Miami, Milan, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, STK London is attached to the ME Hotel in the Strand and is appropriately sleek, hip and buzzing. It boasts a sizeable lounge bar and adjoining dining room, which on the night we visited appeared to be filled with a mix of after work drink types, businessmen and smartly dressed families. (On Saturday evenings a DJ hits the decks transforming the venue into a dance party, no doubt attracting an entirely different crowd.) The dining room is a glossy black and dimly lit with high ceilings and bullhorns protruding from the walls – a strong statement – while theatrical spotlights dramatically illuminate each table. As we arrive a mix of Muse and Nirvana is playing on the stereo, totally befitting of the restaurant’s edgy-sleek ambience. As a steak restaurant founded in New York, its wine list initially featured around 70% American wines, not that you would know that looking at the vast selection on offer tonight. Recently rebuffed to attract the capital’s wine aficionados, the restaurant has recognised that European diners want more variety from its wine list, which now features wines from across the world and at “prices and tastes for everybody”, explains Samuel Cortez, bar manager and sommelier. We were fortunate enough to sample a bottle of RWT 2011 Penfolds Shiraz (£285), emblematic of the restaurant’s recent partnership with the top-end producer. Decanted by an attentive waiter, this Aussie beauty boasts gorgeous black fruit aromas tinged with blueberries and earthy notes with bold tannins and a long finish.
Featuring both New and Old World wine options, STK’s fine wine list starts from a £140 Pomerol rising to a £5,000 Petrus, with the most expensive bottle sold so far a £1,500 bottle of ‘82 Haut Brion, revealed Cortez. However those on a budget will not be left out in the cold. The restaurant’s least expensive bottle of wine is an affordable £26. “I think what makes use improve is when we talk to guests and listen to them. They say we need more Spanish wines or more affordable wines, or more fine wines. We have different requests. There are some wines that we only stock because some guests come and every few months and they buy the same bottle,” said Cortez. “Some people prefer to spend their money on food rather than wine or the other way around, so we need to give those guests a choice”. Moving onto its cocktails our favourite was the Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan (£15), which comprised Woodford reserve, liquor 43 and antica formula aged for eight weeks in either a French or American oak barrel. Served in a crystal glass, it oozes elegance and makes a pointed effort to appear as the classic cocktail’s hip younger cousin. A special mention also goes to its signature STK Martini (£12) made from a blend of Ketel one, grapefruit, orange sanguine, passion fruit and orange bitters – a well-balanced and fruity-sweet treat.
Turning our attention to the food, our first course started strong with a to-die-for still-warm brioche loaf with a chive, salt and olive oil dip. So simple but completely divine – I could have devoured the entire loaf on my own. Being a Waygu beef virgin, so to speak, I next plumped for its Lil’Brgs (£11) – Wagyu beef sliders with “special sauce” in a sesame seed bun. While not disappointed a burger wasn’t the best way to sample this Japanese delicacy. My other half went fresh picking the tuna Tartare with honey and sesame on a toasted ciabatta (£9.75), which we could not fault. While its menu features plates other than steak such as coconut-fried halibut (£24), and kimichi broth (£15.50), it stakes its reputation on meat. It’s a bit do-it-yourself in that you pick your cut, choose your sauces then assemble your side dishes, but don’t expect to be left with any change. Pushing the boat out, I went for the rib eye steak (£36) with wild garlic butter (£3). We shared sides of Parmesan truffle chips (£4), sautéed greens (£4) and mustard mash (£4), but we could easily have knocked out one of those and still have left full.
For the grand finale, we picked two of the most imaginative-looking desserts on the menu; “lego” lemon meringue pie with lemon curd and sherbet and the STK Snickers salted caramel with roasted peanuts. I particularly recommend the latter, which more more than stood up in terms of style and substance. Overall my experience of STK London was positive. While by no means a budget night out, its cooler-than-cool vibe and central location will attract a captive audience seeking quiet sophistication, cocktails and class. Wine lovers meanwhile will not be disappointed by its vast, yet well-curated list. Save it for a special occasion.
STK London, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R 1HA, 020 7395 3450