Sometimes you have to grudgingly admit the Americans do have a better idea of how to do things, such as running a restaurant and hospitality in general. Smith and Wollensky is a welcome American import on the London restaurant scene offering a classical menu in the traditional setting of the Adelphi building near the Strand.
Every small detail is well-thought-out here: the decor has a slick, yet smart casual charm which reminds you of a premium New York steakhouse (their first branch opened in New York in 1977). The marble floors, the brass rails and the luxurious leather banquettes add a certain sense of old school charm to the restaurant.
My recommendation is to check out their menu online prior to booking as they do have the type of menu where you would happily order everything off the menu; so you don’t have to spend 15+ minutes deciding on your menu options when you are there. As it is also worth nothing, there are pricey items on their menu but equally there are some well-priced options.
Oysters here come in the form of Carlingford oysters which are one of the most sought after varieties in the world. Why are they so popular? They take 3 years to grow to full size and the Carlingford Lough in Ireland provides the huge exchange of water that gives the nutrients for these oysters to grow. The oysters I tried had a sweet, slightly nutty taste and a firmer texture compared to other varieties.
Apart from incredible seafood, steaks are the other shining highlight of Smith and Wollensky. There are British and Irish cuts as well as prime USDA beef. They are the only steakhouse in London that offers USDA Prime steak which is dry-aged for 28 days and butchered in-house. Whether you order sirloin, rib eye or a T-bone steak, the intense flavours and marbling make the American offerings a popular choice.
We tried the Tomahawk steak, which is a 1kg sharing steak that isn’t cooked often in restaurants because of the difficulties in handling the giant bone that resembles a tomahawk axe. It was an easy decision for us given they offered a USDA Tomahawk special on the night of our visit. It was succulent, juicy and full of flavours primarily because flavours are released from both the huge bone and the inter-muscular fat. They have classic side dishes that are dreamy accompaniments to the steaks like truffled mac ‘n’ cheese and buttermilk onion rings. They have an extensive list of wines especially from California and a robust Cabernet Sauvignon such as the one from Freemark Abbey is ideal to cut through the richness of the steak
You should endeavour to leave some room for desserts because they offer some of the best American classics around such as their creamy, rich-tasting New York style cheesecake.