Steak or mistake? Lucy Tomlinson finds out
When I take someone with me to review a restaurant, I try not to interfere too much with their order, and try and take the more weird and/or wonderful-looking items on the menu for myself. One thing I do try to nudge dining partners away from though, is steak. Steak is of course, lovely, but it is so dreary to write about.
Their Instagram page is a veritable ode to flesh
Pontificating about steak seems to instantly descend into a culture war. On the one hand, there are those who think good steak is one cooked so rare that a competent vet could slap it back to life, then you have those that like it so well done that you could fashion yourself a lovely pair of summer sandals from the leftovers. While firmly in the “cow with sunburn” camp myself, I do think boring on about it is a bit tedious. Just have it how you like it.
My lovely mum inspired my interest in food by being a fairly dreadful cook when I was growing up (she will happily admit it, though she has improved over the years). If could be lumpy, cold or thin (or preferably all three) it would be. However, she did do a decent steak though, it somehow suited her no-frills technique.
So it seemed appropriate to take her along to Kassap, a Turkish steak house on Bold Street. If steak doesn’t immediately strike you as something Turkey is known for, there is in fact precedent. You might have seen a Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, aka Salt Bae, preparing and salting meat as a meme that took over the internet briefly last year. Despite being a theatrical novelty online, steaks are taken very seriously in Turkey, and this translates into a fervent respect for meat, meat and more meat.
It won’t surprise you that the decorative motif at Kassap is basically beef. A chiller cabinet full of the stuff greets you by the door while their Instagram page is a veritable ode to flesh, with quite a few knives waving about the place too. Otherwise the look is three parts Victorian gentleman (panelling, high ceilings, parquet floors) to two parts kooky Bold Street flower child (fairy lights, hippy oil paintings). It’s a look a brand manager would never have come up with, and for that reason all the more endearing.
We started as all mother-daughter outings should, with a G&T and a smattering of eye-rolling. After a complementary dish of Melba toast and cacik, my dear old mum got started on a prawn cocktail (£7) as befitted our throwback evening. This was quite successful, chunkily generous with all the required ingredients, including some very substantial prawns, much better than the little pink apostrophes of my youth. The innovative addition of strawberries caused a Margot Leadbetter-style raised eyebrow as they didn’t really seem to add anything to the dish. My own octopus carpaccio (£9) was entirely forgettable, the delicate discs of cephalopod totally overwhelmed in balsamic vinegar. But that’s not what we were here for. Bring on the beef!
Completely disregarding the government’s guideline of 70g RDA for red meat, we had both ordered steak. I went for a thinly sliced fillet called ‘Lokum’ (£33) which is actually the Turkish word for Turkish Delight. When applied to meat this means sweet and delicate and indeed, on the inside it was as soft as a kitten, blushing a gorgeous rose pink and incredibly light. Mum’s rib eye steak (£23.50) was a bit more butch, but still tender and very flavoursome. Perhaps the most eloquent way of describing it is just to imagine my two very energetic thumbs pointing skyward.
The sides are about as easy to describe as the steak. What can I say? – They did exactly the job required. Skin-on fries (£2.50) were fine (confusingly, the steak came with some potatoes though it didn’t mention this on the menu, but we could deal with the double carbs) in a workmanlike sort of fashion, and generously portioned. They were especially useful for shovelling the 70s-inspired Roquefort sauce mouthwards. Asparagus (£3.50) was a teeny bit on the floppy side, the mushrooms (£3.50) I have already forgotten. All in all, these were mere supporting players, happy to leave the spotlight to the main stars.
Stuffed, we decided to split a portion of baklava (£7), which was as tooth-strippingly sweet as I believe baklava is meant to be. I should probably mention that we also had a glass each of a sturdy Malbec (£6.50) from a wine list that looks interesting and varied. The staff were absolute gems as well.
There are other items available (burgers, a couple of chicken things, a token cheese dish, but vegetarians, please don’t even consider it.) Realistically, you would visit Kassap if you wanted a damn fine steak. Certainly it felt like a very decadent treat and I might have to be vegan for the rest of the month to make up for it. But the people at Kassap are so lovely I do hope they find the audience they need.
Kassap Meat House, 77 Bold Street, L1 4EZ Tel: 0151 709 2188
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Prawn cocktail 5, octopus 4, steaks 9, sides 6, baklava 6
Victorian hippie chic