After Brasserie Zedel, I thought we might have turned a corner in the ‘restaurant-prices-like-phone-numbers’ debate. A Regent Street restaurant with appropriately sky-high rents and rates offering top drawer scoff you'll struggle to spend £25 a head on. Surely everyone would be onto this?
Now the joint genius of restaurateur team Corbin & King manage this pricing at Zedel with few reservations, lots of tables and very high customer churn, turning tables three or four times a service generating many more, albeit smaller, checks.
So surely, applying that rationale, a similarly ambitious venue next door which has just undergone an equally sumptuous redesign in another vast subterranean space should (if they turn twice in a service) mean that things only cost twice as much? Sadly not. We're back to £100+ a head territory now, as next door neighbour MASH sells steak, and not much more.
The opulent (and obviously masculine) dining room feels designed to appeal to the international expenses crowd: without a view, you could easily be in Dubai, Chicago or Singapore instead of London. Deals are to be done here gentlemen… over steak, expensive wine and casual misogyny. That's a tad judgemental and almost certainly untrue but, being only a Rolex-throw from Mayfair, it is at least plausible.
It has a vaguely Mid West American inspired opulence, though my descriptor is as lazy as the broad theming. Call it essence of robber baron… Thick, plush, arterial-red carpets? “make 'em plusher”. Gilded, glowing fittings? “make 'em golder”. Bulging list of rare American varietals in a leather-bound list? “make 'em rarer, and add a zero on…”
The shock is that it's not American, but Danish. Despite channelling Smith & Wollensky or Chicago Cut, it comes from the land of stripped pine and Arne Jacobsen chairs. The only sign of this Scandinavian heritage on the menu came with a trio of Danish-origin 70 day dry-aged steaks. I'm not averse to the Stilton-like joys of aged steak, but a 45 day aged piece I had recently from the Ginger Pig bordered on overpowering at times, and anything getting close to 70 is going to be considerably and challengingly funky.
Diving straight in, bypassing a relatively uninspiring starter list, we shared a surprisingly petit USDA Prime Porterhouse. It was wheeled up to be carved on a butcher's block. I was hoping for a lot from an expensive if troublesome cut. Advertised as fit for two or three, in truth it was probably only enough for one and a half or two with sides and starters. The problem with porterhouse is that you have two different cuts, sirloin and ribeye, separated by the thick T bone. Lesser chefs risk missing the balance and pushing the sirloin to a med/well, or leaving unforgiving ribeye fat un-rendered. As far as steaks go, this was a good 'un. Rich, buttery and with a decently deep flavour, it did everything a good steak should.
Along with that hunk of prime meat, sides were measly for the price, and fine, generally just fine. Like supporting dancers in a meaty musical. Chilli fries came with a crunch and a crackle of heat, while a soothingly bland mac n cheese ticked our other carby box. You can't object to either, but at £4.50 a pop, I want to have the best darned carbs in the city.
With a cocktail before, a digestif and a one of the cheaper wines (the leathery New World spell book unsurprisingly offered little below £40), we managed to splash £225 for two, certainly more than I'd expected.
Tangentially, I remember being told by the International Man of Mystery, no stranger to the jet set, that this bland luxe internationalism is welcomed by many who spend half their lives in assorted high-end business hotels. “They want reassuringly expensive stuff they recognise, with the odd plain local speciality, because it's impossible to know how an authentic, highly spiced x, y or z is going to go down when you don't know which continent you're on and your body thinks that it's 4am…” With that in mind, MASH fits the bill perfectly. Just don't expect to see me back without the expense account.