Goodman Mayfair


Some twelve years ago, I went to a steak restaurant. Not any steak restaurant, obviously, but one of particular note. It was in the early days of the steak revolution in the UK; Hawksmoor in Covent Garden was the talk of the town, Wolfgang Puck had not long opened Cut on Park Lane, grill specialists Blacklock hadn’t yet fired up, and European offerings Macellaio and Sagardi’s sights on the UK were a mere glint in their founders’ eyes.

In this environment came one that had their own take on proceedings, and one rooted in the fundamentals. Their emphasis was on provenance, with the now-de riguer chalk board showcasing cuts of day, and dry-ageing their stock in-house so chefs could keep a keen eye on what could be served, and when. It was an approach to husbandry that continued after the farm, to the plate, as it were.

That restaurant was Goodman Mayfair, and last week, after a month in Dry sans-sugar/fat/fun Veganuary purgatory, itching for a top flight steak, a gallon of fine plonk and enough cheesecake to sink a battleship, when it came to a venue for lunch there was only one place I had in mind.

Evidently, much of London’s cognoscenti had, too. The lunch sitting was absolutely packed. From its unobtrusive entrance on Maddox Street, that classic chophouse interior hasn’t changed a jot, as if it were a matter of weeks since I’d been, it came flooding back as I passed the table I sat at previously, where Jonesy and I chewed the fat in the early days of the Arb. That chalkboard is still there, the dark wood and brown leather, the black and white photos. There’s something rather comforting about how familiarity wraps its reassuring arms about you as you enter.

In the years since I last visited, however, one striking aspect leapt out at me on this occasion. Goodman’s approach to wine is far beyond that I’ve experienced at other steak houses in the canon. Gone is the cliché of red meat and Malbec; in a carefully curated wine list there is a Petrus exclusive, if you fancy parting with £3500 (and people do) with your porterhouse. But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, among its California ‘collection’ there are bottles of Screaming Eagle, should you wish, at a healthy £4500 a pop. If the availability of wines of that calibre are present, then that gives you some indication of the quality of the steak.

This wine list is down to the collaborative talents of the sommelier, Alice, and Shane, the buyer, who happened to be lunching when I was there. And far from assuming that the list is all down to them, there’s a graceful humility when it comes to taking recommendations. We opened the batting with a glass of Illumination sauv blanc, not his selection, Shane advised, but a recommendation from a diner, he freely admitted. It’s this sort of relationship with their clientele that makes Goodman persist, and persist with gusto.

For the choice of tipples on offer, I was pleased to see another favourite is positioned front and centre; with delectable starters of a ‘surf’ variety, spicy Gojuchang tempura king prawns, truffled scallops the size of golf balls and an unctuous creamy burrata, we tucked into a minerally Vergelegen. It appeared indulgent on ordering, but this collection opened the batting memorably, whetting the appetite and leaving plenty of room for the main event.

That centred around the chalkboard. While the a la carte is a veritable manual of cuts and classics, the board was what drew our eye. And I’m no philistine when it comes to fine steak, I know the nuances and technicalities around dry-ageing, drawing out moisture, and the benefits of good ‘marbling’, but it still mystifies me how the cuts and various parts of the animal display their virtues. Thankfully, we have instruction on hand from our erudite waiter, and given the provenance of the beef in the drying fridge downstairs, we elect for a sort of Pepsi challenge, testing a Hereford wing rib against a corn-fed bone-in rib-eye from the States.

It stands to reason we should have all the sauces, in classic steel gravy boats, triple cooked chips, of course, creamed spinach and – a new one on me – Josper roasted onions. Caramelised onions will hitherto never do. This spread, filling the table, frilled the centrepiece of a platter of steak, cut and arranged around the bone on a weighty branded platter. To the credit of both producers, the wing rib and rib-eye were hard to favourite, bar a subtle sweetness to the American corn-fed cut. Emboldened by a punchy Rubeira del Duero, both were stand-out steaks, succulent, tender, as chargrilled a pleasure as any of their peers – and a mighty way to close the curtains on a month of abstinence.

Over a decade on, it seems the steak revolution is still maintaining a head of steam. Even in the face of challenging press and increased plant-based consciousness and environmental pressure – well-managed meat, incidentally, is demonstrably better ecologically than many of the prevailing plant diet movements – the likes of Goodman and its ilk continues to beat the drum for that definitive death row favourite, truly excellent steak and chips. And, remarkably, the Mayfair original is still only one of three in the group. Now, doesn’t that tell you something?

Goodman Mayfair, 24-26 Maddox St, London W1S 1QH. For more information, including details of selected wine lists and Napa Valley wine dinners, and for bookings, please visit