Enter the Victoria branch of this popular city restaurant through the light, bright wine shop and head downstairs to a busy bar crowded with after-work 20-somethings. There’s a small club room, a narrow space serving only raw food, and the main attraction: the clubby grill room decorated in smoky, subdued tones with plenty of space between tables.
M has a themed menu with steaks, wine and other dishes from six countries, all chosen for their high quality meats. This is a date-night restaurant, but given its location, it’s populated with more businesspeople on expense accounts than locals.
Melbourne-bred Executive Chef Michael Reid, who trained at both Le Gavroche and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, leads the kitchen. Reid defies the stereotypes of the trade, and is a very friendly chap. He makes a point of working the room, taking time to stop at each table during one course or another to explain the food, and get feedback.
Food is locally sourced, with the exception of the meats, and some of the fish. We enjoyed an amuse bouche of Australian Kingfish served as sashimi with the sweetest soy sauce I’ve ever tasted. Hints of citrus replaced the usual saltiness, creating a ponzu-style twist. I’m guessing they’d need to order refills faster if the waiter explained the special sauce. We avoided what we thought would be liquid salt until the last bites, when we wished we’d tried it earlier. If they bottled it, we’d have bought some, it was that good.
A starter of venison sausage was met with a resounding note of approval by my companion, who proclaimed he would take it home if he could. We are both foodies, he a professional, so we do not gush easily. And gush we do, throughout the meal, over various things, including the wines we tasted from the Alsace, and a Malbec which was perfect, but there are a few misses, and a few victims of over-egging. One is the very first thing delivered to the table – disappointing bread with butter topped with either fried or perhaps dried chicken skin. “Why?” is all we can wonder aloud. Steak places, and certainly restaurants with these kinds of prices normally do bread well – too well, that most diners are asking for it to be taken away, to save them from taking in a week’s worth of carbs. Here, the bread tastes bought-in, chewy, and definitely not warm. The chicken butter adds insult to injury. Yes, chicken butter. I ask for plain butter, which I learn is an Oz-ified version – lime infused. It does not work. I know M can get this right if they just focus on keeping some things simple. So here are the things they did very well, beyond the Kingfish and the venison and a few things that, with only a little tweaking, can be great.
A cured trout starter is one of the best parts of our meal. So effusive is my companion, he announces,” I could eat four portions of that dish it’s so sublime.” The sourcing is part of M’s secret. The venison, the Kingfish, the trout – it’s all been expertly sourced from high quality producers. My yellow fin is served simply with a soy sauce we are gaga for, and makes a perfect pairing with such high grade, fleshy tuna.
The Galician sirloin, ordered for flavour rather than tenderness, delivers. Aged 42 days, it would be a challenge to find beef any older or more flavourful. Non-carnivores are catered for with a couple of vegetarian and fish options, and I could dine on the sides, alone. Onions slow-roasted in Malbec are so good, we order two. The sweet potato mash, sure to become a staple favourite by regulars, is more of a puree. It’s silky texture, the Chef explains, comes not from cream, but hazelnut oil, which adds a delicious depth. In a clever move that also avoids waste, two thin, crispy slivers of potato skin top the mash – perfect for dipping. Reid’s treatment of a one-dimensional dish is to be applauded. In fact, I’d bet potato skin chips as a starter, with different kinds of mash could inspire a trend.
Our meal ends on a high with an ingenious take on the Waldorf salad. Stichelton (Stilton’s little sister) ice cream starts out sweet and smooth, and finishes with small, salty morsels of the blue-veined cheese, atop an apple terrine, with shavings of celery and walnut crumbs.
Reid is a chef who understands less is more. This is a special occasion spot for meat-lovers to check out.
M Victoria Street:
M, Zig Zag Building, 70 Victoria St, London, SW1E 6SQ
020 3327 7776