After a hard days work I met Editor-in-Chief Charlotte for an exclusive sneak peak at the new Steak Master Class offered by Park Lane restaurant: JW Steakhouse. We were greeted warmly with smiles and champagne boats in the bar, before being escorted to the private dining room for an exclusive opportunity with Welsh head chef Paul Hallett. Paul entered the room, with a firm hand shake followed by a short talk about his background and his passion for food but in particular the importance of sourcing well and how crucial fine ingredients are to fine dining. He then brought through a selection of the beef that JW Steakhouse use, briefly explaining about the farms and suppliers but within minutes we were on our feet to examine the meat a little closer and firing more questions at him.
Now, as a butcher myself, I can say that Paul is getting some very impressive beef in – butchers can tell just by looking at the raw product just how moist, tender, succulent and tasty a cut of meat can be before cooking. Of course a poor cook could destroy any piece of meat, but even the world’s best chefs needs decent, well-farmed cuts of meat to work with. It is also essential that the breed of animal is taken into account, and to try and get as much advice as possible; as more often than not the most common are not necessarily the best.
The chef went through each cut on the table in turn, talking us through Onglet to Porter House, Cote de Boeuf to Sirloin. The meat was presented on black which is the most flattering colour to put meat on in contrast with the red. The beef smelled fresh and was aged well. To the touch it was not sweaty or slimy. It was firm, moist, a beautiful burgundy colour and the fat was pure white – all signs of a good quality product. I explained to the Welsh gent a little of what I could see in the beef, where he could improve it and how to tell if something is worth the money or not. We went into some detail about different breeds and farming methods and potential suppliers for the future; until eventually we released him back to the confines of the kitchen where he was going to cook us up a small feast of tasters.
The kitchen team cooked us up a Porter House steak and some Onglet. The Porter House consisted of the thick end (known as the spider due to the finer marbling) of the sirloin and the fillet attached by the bone (a bit like a T-Bone). Onglet comes from the skirt which is by the diaphragm – a personal favourite of mine. The steaks were cooked on a very hot grill. The grill itself reaches temperatures over 600 degrees which is why when you have steak whilst dining out it tastes different to when cooking in the home. The beef certainly delivered in terms of flavour, very juicy and packing a punch in terms of taste – without being over seasoned. If I had to suggest improvements, I would say that the Onglet was slightly too well crusted on the outside even though it was cooked to perfection in the middle. Both dishes were accompanied with bearnaise sauce and enormous home-made onion rings which were a nice touch. We were also recommended a fine Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon to wash it down with which matched the steak very well indeed, highlighting smokey tones in the flavour.
Although we did not have a full three course meal, due to our meeting prior, I felt we got a good feel for the place, although perhaps not in as much detail as the eatery deserved. However, the service was efficient and our server managed to answer all of our questions and if not he successfully acquired the information. I enjoyed the casual, relaxed nature of the atmosphere, and although others might not appreciate the football on the television in the background – one has to understand that since this restaurant is in a hotel, it meets its purpose.
I found the evening immensely enjoyable and I would certainly recommend it; all of the staff were personable, and the head chef was charming. The conversation we shared served as a reminder that good sourcing is essential to good food. Even exquisite food can be ruined by bad ingredients. The Welsh Wonder that is Paul Hallett reminds us not everyone is cutting corners.
The Steak Master Class is priced at £90 per person (exclusive of wines and service) for a minimum of 6 people and a maximum of 8 people.
86 Park Lane
London, W1K 7TL