Monday, 22 April 2013

Restaurant Review: Mash

Named as an acronym of Modern American Steak House rather than a tribute to the comical war film, this venue feels like something of a joke in itself. It’s the first international outpost of a small restaurant chain from Denmark, the theme is 100% USA and meat is shipped in from Australia and Uruguay. Multiculturalism gone mad, one might think, but the Copenhagen original is apparently a popular haunt for the country’s man-of-the-moment, Noma’s Rene Redzepi.
To their credit, the Danes evidently do American Steakhouses in style. From the swanky spiral staircase which diners descend on arrival, to the lavish red carpets, elaborate hanging lights and shiny, extra long brass bar, the space exudes a handsome, old-school glamour. It’s perhaps better suited to Mayfair than its Soho basement location, but impressive all the same.
The food is unfortunately less slick than the surrounds. Smoked salmon served with potatoes and spinach does well what it says on the tin, giving a sly nod to Scandinavian cuisine along the way. But that’s the highlight. Fried squid is a mess of overly thick and soggy batter to the point there may as well have been no squid at all, let alone the billed chilli and lime.
It’s admittedly hard to be open-minded about a steak selection gathered from around the world yet completely snubbing our own British beef, but we try. A Danish sirloin comes cooked as requested and promptly served, but something’s not quite right. The cut’s trademark rim of fat which gives the steak its shape - not to mention flavour - is alarmingly missing altogether. Combined with a strange and superfluous clingy gravy coating and some unremarkable chips, the experience is a not a wholly unenjoyable one, but very disconcerting.
A Uruguayan ribeye does fare better, the meat benefitting from the marbling of fat which the Hereford Breed Cattle it’s from are famous for. Weird clingy gravy aside, it’s a top steak. But when reading the menu’s helpfully tantalising, M&S-ad-style description of Hereford Beef, it’s worth bearing in mind its origins - the clue’s in the name. From the early nineteenth century and into the 80s, British beef had such a good reputation that we exported many of the best examples of our native cattle breeds to countries around the world for breeding. It is the product of this breeding that we are now being served. No matter how glamorous the surroundings, tucking into a steak at MASH is the food equivalent of a Parisian flying to Las Vegas to see their imitation Eiffel Tower. All year London has been decorated with Union flags and peppered with patriotism; if there’s any substance to the sentiment then surely such a restaurant should have no audience. Unless, of course, they’re just really big fans of clingy gravy.

Originally published in Scout London magazine

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