89 Turnmill Street, EC1M 5QU
Tel: 020 7065 6800
Cost per person without wine: £40
THE restaurant industry has a huge crush on Farringdon. Farringdon is the cool girl that couldn’t care less, twiddling her hair and looking this way and that, with her grimy streets and warehouse-style apartment buildings. The restaurant industry is the slathering suitor who is forever trying to get closer.
The opening of Redhook, an American-style “surf ‘n’ turf” restaurant, is a reminder of this long-standing crush. In the last few years, cool-girl Farringdon has stood by for the openings of Hix, East Side Inn (now relaunched without the fine dining section), Tart, Bistrot Bruno Loubet and The Modern Pantry. They join classics St John (the origin of the crush, opened 12 years ago), Vinoteca, Club and Cellar Gascon, Smiths of Smithfield and the tiny old pub, The Jerusalem Tavern.
And now Redhook has thrown its hat into the ring, hoping for a bit of love in return. A bit of a cool customer itself with lots of exposed brick and beams, it has opened up on Turnmill Street, not far from the abandoned club, Turnmills. Tables outside are a nice touch, but we headed inside to an echoey bar with a lower Manhattan, somewhat studied industrial feel – booths, high ceilings, metal lamps.
The restaurant was empty on a Friday night – partly due to its location, partly because it’s new. This was sad as Redhook is the type of place that depends on being cool. It’s hard to be cool when you’re empty. But things improved when we sat down at the bar and started ordering drinks. The barman, Alex Orwin, does the American spirit of Redhook proud, and showed immense flair and creativity. He proudly showed off his ice cubes: they were round. We had a brilliant take on a Bloody Mary, made with Bombay Sapphire, green herbs, cucumber and spices. It tasted like pesto and salad and was just the thing after a day in the sun.
Platters of oysters kept being ferried to the few other guests. But I always think oysters are oddly placed at new, unknown restaurants – after all, you want to be 100 per cent sure you’ve having the best, or you risk 24 hours of violent vomiting.
After a few more very good cocktails, we went to our table, which faced a kind of elevated living room area on one side (nice idea for some drinks but in practice, both odd and unnecessary given the bar next door) – and a large table of Asian tourists on the other.
The menu is impressive but punches above his weight. This is a middle-of-the range, funky-style steakhouse. Scallops with foie gras – like oyster platters – seem out of place. Still, a girl has to eat so I tried the dish. Scallops done well need minimal intervention – these were fine but were rather bashed over the head with the foie gras. Equally, foie gras should be a standout, not an accompaniment to a seafood dish. So: sensation, flavour and texture overload. Nor was the foie gras cooked with the expertise it demands – this isn’t Claridges, after all.
Prawns were good. The warm grilled ones with olive oil, pink peppercorns, basil and lemon were simply delicious – deep and warm of flavour and very meaty. The tea-smoked prawns were terrific and highly original, especially when served with avocado, cucumber, peanuts and coriander.
As for surf ‘n’ turf, there are three options: heffalumpish dishes such as 280g NY striploin (New York lingo for sirloin) with half a Canadian lobster, and 200g Scottish ribeye with Somerset fresh-water crayfish. Or – and this is another example of misplaced food – Wagyu fillet served with a giant Madagascan prawn (£60).
From the steak menu, we went for one NY Striploin and one American grain fed T-Bone. Both were good but not great. My friend is from New York and she was less impressed than me – particularly as her “rare” came out as “medium” verging on the “well done”. Having already picked up the British penchant for long-suffering, she lumped it and soldiered on. On the plus side, the chips were excellent – they seemed triple goose fat fried and were completely great.
On balance, Redhook is a good thing – the staff are lovely and the cocktails are great. Throw in some kick-arse chips and perhaps the less expensive ribeye (£13) and I see no reason why you shouldn’t have a good time. If you’re up for Wagyu and oysters, remember: Farringdon has lots of other options.