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Restaurant review: Goodmans, Mayfair - London

26 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London, W1X 1 QH
020 7499 3776
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A Russian backed New York style steakhouse named after a 1930’s jazz legend – Benny Goodman, though I couldn't help wondering why there was no jazz playing. 
 Even the most seasoned diner just occasionally suffers from menu fatigue when presented with too daunting a range of choices and too many decisions to be made, so it was with some relief that I arrived at Goodman’s already knowing what to order: quite simply it had to be the rib-eye. But life is never so clear-cut. What I hadn’t anticipated was the dilemma of 120-day grain-fed US beef from many thousands of miles away v grass-fed environmental footprint friendly British beef dry-aged 28 days in-house - clearly both demanded to be sampled running the risk of quashing eco scruples in pursuit of steak nirvana. Afterall Goodman is one of the most talked about of the new wave authentic steakhouses to open in London, somewhat convolutedly A Russian backed New York style steakhouse named after a 1930’s jazz legend – but there was no jazz soundtrack playing.
In looks Goodman seems frankly more nostalgic than stylish, it rather reminded me of the posh burger places, usually called Joanna’s, I’d frequented on my earliest dates: all dark brown furniture, leather banquettes and wooden floors. No frills design is fine in my books as long as the service is good and attentive (full marks here) and the food exceeds expectations. Starters are undemanding, adding passion fruit seeds besides tomato to a salmon tartare was a rather bizarre and not totally successful experience, turning the salmon greyish and not enhancing its flavour. Better was unravioli with wild mushrooms in an unctuous demi-glace sauce but why was it only vaguely temperate – I like my food served hot.

I’d heard that Goodmans pride themselves on presenting the steaks raw at the table for delection and inspection to get the gastric juices going and aid decision-making. Not so on this occasion. I was disappointed not to be wooed with slabs of flesh at the table and tales of long ageing and to be deprived of the opportunity to revel in the virtues of plump marbling. Or perhaps I was just so deeply ensconced in riveting witty conversation that they wrongly judged I wouldn’t care to be interrupted to discuss bovine anatomy and other delicate issues. Instead, on base contrary instinct I plumped for the USDA prime (ie, the best quality American beef as certified by the US Department of Agriculture) rib-eye, a chunky 400g tranche: cooked rare to medium-rare as requested with a joyous filigree of marbling adding flavour and melt in the mouth tenderness. The steaks at Goodman are cooked in the searing heat of current kitchen must –have: a Josper charcoal grill which gives outstandingly good crust with a swathe of umamu-rich savouriness whilst leaving the steak pleasingly juicy. Sizeways, my US number paled into abject insignificance besides the awesome rib and a half of British grass fed - but why no breed or provenance?- presented to my erudite friend. Though its flavour was good, sweet and grassy, texturally it seemed surprisingly sinewy and rather hard work to eat despite the ultra-sharp and highly covetable Tramintina knives provided. Despite my environmental prejudices we had to admit the US rib-eye far out-tasted its domestic counterpart.

Accompaniments were fine, if not outstanding. Crisp chips properly fluffy within, though not triple cooked and a generous dipping dish of decent bearnaise, asparagus a little undercooked and spinach brought naked as requested rather than smothered in cream and cheese.

Desserts are straightforward favourites too, though the apple tart had rather flabby pastry mitigated by good cinnamon ice-cream.

Considering its Mayfair location, the wine list is not too greedy – with a decent choice of wines by the glass including a good ripe cherry fruit Zinfandel plus iced water was brought as a matter of course. Definitely an experience - well-done with medium flair and a rare dexterity with the Josper.

Around £100 for two including one glass of wine each.
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16 June 2009
By: Sudi Pigott
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