Ben Walker feasts upon Chateaubriand, cognac and thrice-cooked chips at The Grill on the Alley
Inconspicuously tucked away, The Grill on the Alley welcomes you with a 1950s-style bar, lots of dark wood, mirrors and endless bottles of liquor. When we arrived, live piano was twinkling from the basement space, which drifted through the building atmospherically.
A really unusual aperitif of orange rum warmed us through and set the tummy longing for lots of steak, which is the centre piece of this joint. I wanted and indeed expected high quality culinary skill, minimal interference with delicious ingredients, and for everything to be served simply and heartily.
Of course, like civilised ravenous punters, starters were necessary. Mussels came in an large, theatrical white dish, inside of which sat succulent molluscs and a very rich, deep sauce. The calamari was also cooked to juicy perfection, wrapped in light and crisp batter. Both dishes were served generously. The chicken liver pate was plated with a little more finesse, with cubes of Cumberland jelly, toast thins and micro herb decoration. The pate itself was deep and rich. These are all standard restaurant staples, but ours were executed well – with little fuss and loads of flavour.
With all good menus, starters should tantalise one’s appetite and the main should sate that more. The food must peak at the right time, and the chef’s menu-centrepiece is what you should be talking about the next day with all of your envious friends. We had the Chateaubriand, which fit the bill perfectly. A sharer for two, this prime fillet was absolutely unbelievable. It was without doubt the most tender and tasty steak I have eaten. We had it walked through a warm kitchen (blue), with a little caramelisation forming a light crust. Perfectly rested, there was no bleeding, just deep crimson melting magnificence.
Now, steak needs chips, crunchy sautéed greens and sauce. We were not disappointed. Chips thrice deep fried were perfect, with their imperious golden crunch protecting fluffy heaven. French beans sautéed in garlic butter contributed extra flavour and colour. The béarnaise sauce was moreish and buttery; it should become the new standard chip condiment.
After a starter each and one to share, three thick helpings of beef with its trimmings and a bottle of decent Cabernet-sauvignon, pudding was skipped. The selection did not inspire anyway, and instead we chose cognac and espresso to round things off. I had an excellent evening, and shall certainly be returning.