I learned many things that happy night in Blackheath.
I learned that when one speaks of the Josper charcoal grill oven, one should be aware that Josper is actually pronounced "Hosper" (it's Spanish). How embarrassing. I've been raving on about the "J"osper all this time like I've practically got one tucked away at home, convinced that my friends were admiring my innate foodie knowledge when all along they've been secretly pitying my ignorant ways. Damn it, Greedy.
I also learned that it's possible to devour more steak than you ever thought humanly possible and still want more. And more. And then lick your lips, tuck in your napkin, and go in for more again.
Head Chef of Chapters All Day Dining, Trevor Tobin, knows how to grill a steak. Chapters All Day Dining was awarded a Bib Gourmade by the Michelin man and 3 AA rosettes within 4 months of the restaurant opening (its predecessor was the acclaimed Chapter 2 from the same team). Trevor grilled us up a steak or 2 (ahem) at a bloggers' dinner I attended recently, along with The Wine Sleuth, Eat Like A Girl, The London Foodie, London Eater and organised by Intoxicating Prose.
This was no average dining experience. This was a night of serious, hard core steak porn. And it just kept getting better.
We started with a Cumbrian Blank Angus fillet steak dry aged for 18-19 days, sourced from W.G Butchers in Smithfields. Beautifully grilled in the Josper to medium rare, the fillet steak is the least fatty cut. So this steak was less richly flavoured than those to come, but gorgeously tender.
The Aussie grain fed rib eye followed, aged for 40 days, and grilled slightly more thoroughly than the fillet to really let the fatty marbling in this baby do its magic. The crust had caramelised superbly in the Josper, and had the subtle sweetness associated with grain fed cattle. The Josper oven, still a rarity in your average London steak house, is known to give an excellent crust while retaining the lovely juicy flavours. I was quite the fan of the rib eye from Oz, and it wasn't just the matching French Malbec doing the talking.
The English hanger steak (or onglet or skirt, depending on where you come from) was served rare, as best done for this cut to avoid toughness. It has quite an offal-like flavour due to its proximity to the internal organs of the animal - I don't even like offal, but this was delicious and gamey, if slightly chewier than other cuts. It had a slightly salty flavour associated with the grass fed cattle. Once referred to as the "butcher's cut", the onglet seems to be making a fashionable come back of late, although can probably still be seen as one of the better value full flavour steaks around.
But, lo and behold, the grand finale was still to come - a comparison of premium UK and USDA steaks on the bone - porterhouse, t-bone, rib eye and sirloins - to be eaten comparing UK vs USA steaks on a like for like basis. Hold me down.
Cooking steak on the bone is said to be more flavourful - the adage goes that the closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat. Since we were in company, I stopped short of curling up under the table to gnaw the bone just this once.
The porterhouse and t-bone cuts saddle up the bone with a fillet on one side (which is larger on the porterhouse, and is the more tender part) and a sirloin on the other. The sirloin is a bit chewier than the rib eye, but less fatty. It strikes a good balance for the dieting gourmand (an oxymoron, surely?). All of these showed quality pieces of meat cooked expertly.
Generally, the prime USDA has a luscious, rich creamy flavour. The Scotch beef is cleaner. I'm a USDA girl all the way. (But I did like that Aussie rib eye).
The starters are also worth a mention.
We sampled a tasty range: Salad of warm Kentish asparagus, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce; Risotto of wild garlic and creme fraiche; Salad of chicory, pear, walnuts and blue cheese; Josper baked mackerel, spiced puy lentils and aubergine with apple puree; Baked scallops and chorizo, sweet chilli dressing and baby herb salad; Terrine of potted ham hock and black pudding, piccalilli and grilled sour dough; Serrano ham, rocket and goats cheese salad and grilled sour dough.
Never let it be said I don't know how to eat.
A good steak restaurant is hard to find. Patron, Andrew MacLeish did a grand tour of some of New York's best (such as Balthazar and Peter Luger) before bringing a sprinkle of the Big Apple magic back to London. Chapters' steaks were up there with my favourites, Goodman (Trevor and the team helped advise them when setting them up) and Hawksmoor - and although it may be less central, it's decent value. Starters generally range between £4.50 - £6.50 (£9.95 for the scallops) and the premium steaks on the bone are £4.50 per 100 grams (compared to £6/100g at Hawksmoor for the prime ribeye and porterhouse and £6.25/100g at Goodman). Crucially, the chips and burger are still to be tried...
Walk up to the zinc top bar, and you'll see the setting is sleek and simple. There's exposed brickwork on the walls, olive green banquettes, high ceilings and modern fittings. It's all fairly fresh and relaxed. But this is all by the by really - it's those charcoal grilled juicy steaks that will draw you in and have you drooling.
Chapters All Day Dining, 43-45 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 OTJ (Tel: 020 8333 2666)
* I attended this event as a guest of Chapters All Day Dining.