Here is a random list of things people spend money on:
Chelsea match day ticket – between £40 and £90; entry level Louboutins – £400; Pharrell at the O2 – £50; a drunken round of Jägerbombs – £80; a pair of Nudie jeans – £120; Stalls (circle) tickets for a performance at the Royal Opera House – £180; one hour of one-to-one personal training – £50-£150; Leicester Square cinema ticket - £16.50; Matisse Cut Outs at the Tate Modern – £18; full head highlights, cut, blow dry at Tony and Guy, Soho – (from) £165; filter coffee at central London coffee shop – £2.50-£5; non-flexible Eurostar return to Paris, booked now for August – £109; Ginger Pig butchery course – £135.
We’ll come back to this.
Beast is the new restaurant from the people behind Goodman steak restaurants and Burger and Lobster. There’s very little information on their website, save a few glossy pictures of their glorious banquet hall style venue at the Marylebone end of Oxford Street, and a short video featuring a Norwegian King crab company. No menu. No prices.
The quiet titilation continues as you enter the building: there’s no sign on the outside of 3 Chapel Place, only the outline of the statue of a huge bear in the foyer of what could be just another financial services office. Have you come to rearrange your mortgage, sir? Maybe.
Indeed, if you’re the kind of person who likes to know what’s in front of you, you may find yourself frustrated at Beast. Eight house spirits sit in unmarked demi johns at the back of a very stylish, minimalist bar. As on the website, there is no menu when you sit down. No choice. No prices.
What is absolutely clear, though, is that the focus of your meal will be awesome steak, and massive King crab – both ingredients are proudly on display in cabinets immediately in front of you as you arrive in the restaurant itself.
It’s also clear that there have been no corners cut in the design and furnish of the room. The place oozes quality. I personally love the sleek, stone bar area, flanked by walls of wine, the banquet hall restaurant with three thick, heavy, long wooden tables, matching benches replete with dents to fit even the biggest arses, and a pimp daddy open kitchen. It is boastful, care-free, anti-austerity escapism that somehow stops short of being grotesque.
What follows is a decadent, rich, filling meal that fits the feasting surroundings. Dig into a quarter wheel of parmesan. As much as you want. No, really. This comes with a few bowls of antipasti – artichokes, olives, onions – and is a fun gesture. Then sizeable, on the bone (but sliced for you), sirloin and ribeye steaks, bowls of smoked heritage tomatoes, truffle sauce, and green leaves. Five minutes later, a huge King crab, sauces, more vegetables such as asparagus, sweet roasted beetroot, no carbs. Finally, though you’re already full, a lemon pannacotta style dish or a light ‘cheesecake’ with berries. Guzzle wine, ask for extra sides, be merry and gluttonous, consider challenging someone to a crab claw joust. It’s a hugely enjoyable hour or two.
I have a few quibbles.
The parmesan starter is a cracking idea. But it’s not first class cheese. There’s no salt crystal, umami crunch in the cheese we eat, no discernible sign of careful ageing.
I don’t get the sauces. One that comes out with the crab is a tellicherry pepper and hoisin abomination. This (as I will go on to say) is some of the best crab most of us will ever eat. To encourage people to even dip it into such an overpowering sauce is criminal. The other sauces are unnecessary too, given the quality of the protein, though I’m happy the truffle sauce at least enhances rather than masks the flavour beef.
And if I didn’t know what was coming, I think I would have been a bit annoyed that all was such a mystery. No written menu is fine. But no mention beyond ‘this is rib-eye, this is sirloin’ about the provenance of the beef seems a waste. Nothing about the crab, neither.
Having said all that, the meal was still an absolute corker. I feared the room would be full of dickheads in suits. Not at all. They’ve attracted (to date) a healthy and fairly even split of gender and background. Suits and party frocks mixed with skinny jeans, plaid shirts, t-shirts, the overly style conscious and the remarkably style unaware. All were relaxed, chatty, and, like us, transfixed and delighted with the sharing platters crammed in front of us. Most groups seemed compelled to take photos – not because they’re addicted to food snapping, simply because they wanted to record the experience.
The steak (Aberdeen Angus, I think) was top quality and beautifully cooked. Great char, rare throughout. Full of flavour and well seasoned. I enjoyed the mix of cuts – if only because it confirmed, once again, that rib-eye is the king of steak. The crab was knock-out good, too. Rich. Sweet. Filling. More like lobster than brown crab … better than lobster, really.
The portions are bang on and impressively considerate of the number of people in your group. I was really enamoured with the sides, too – they felt generous (and you’re welcome to ask for more) and interesting enough. I loved the smoked tomatoes in particular. It’s a smart move to ignore the conventional potato, and one that underlines the confidence of the whole venture.
But then, once stomach is full and wine glasses are empty, there’s the bill. And there’s the rub.
I knew the price before I went, and I was happy with that. My friends were forewarned too. Yet even when you’re prepared for it, £135 per person (the food is £75, £84 with service) is always going to be wince inducing, thought provoking.
Is it worth it? Well, on the one hand, the room, the rent, those incredible crabs, the many staff, the look, the kitchen … these things don’t come cheap. On the other, this restaurant group knows what it’s doing and it’s not a charity. A £75, no choice, effectively two protein meal is a bold play and the lack of information is deliberate. Are they saying “if you have to ask, you can’t afford”? The bottom end of the wine list hovers around £45 and upwards, so it’s no surprise that spend per head over 90 minutes or so of eating (and drinking) will be pretty sizeable.
Which brings me back to the list at the top. This experience is cheaper than three hours of opera, more expensive than a dour 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, the same as a couple of hours watching someone make sausages. Is there more value in this than a water filtered, small batch roasted, siphon brewed coffee? Will you enjoy it more than blister inducing, toe cramping, red soled 6 inch heals?
Up to you, really – the Beast is in the eye of the beholder.
Beast in 3 words
Delicious. Fun. Extravagant.
We paid a nut clenching £135 per head. Four of us shared three bottles of wine from the lower end of the list. With few wines under £50 mark, even a modest half bottle each will ensure the meal adds up to £110 with service. You could spend much more.
www.beastrestaurant.co.uk – 3 Chapel Place, W1G0BG – 02074951816