Lets face it, ordering a steak in a restaurant can sometimes seem a bit of a cop-out. You’ve gone over the menu three times and there’s nothing you really want, so with a sigh you choose the steak and as soon as the waitress brings you a razor-sharp serrated steak knife, you know the meat is going to be as tough as old boots. I’m a fan of great steak, but it’s very rarely I’ll order it from a restaurant because I can pretty much guarantee it will disappoint.
So why is it so difficult to get a good steak in Peterborough? Is there a local restaurant worthy of being called a steakhouse?
Pardon me whilst I rant for a while…
I think half of the problem is pricing or at least the price perception. Peterborough restaurants seem to try and price their steaks in the region of £12-15 for 8/10oz, any higher and the average diner is going to baulk at the price. If the restaurant is a bit fancier, you might have a rib-eye or even a 12oz sirloin on the menu for upwards of £20, yet still you need to drown the meat in a rich peppercorn sauce for it to have any flavour. Then to make matters worse, you have to second-guess the chef – can they cook a steak well done without drying it? Will medium be “just pink” or will it come pouring with blood? Something as basic and primal as a steak suddenly seems one of the most complicated dishes on the menu. And don’t get me started on the restaurants (usually pubs) that offer 2-for-1 deals. This is just wrong in my opinion and offends those dining alone or with an odd number in the party, not to mention cheapening the perception of the food.
As far as I’m concerned, steak is a luxury item so mediocre steak will just cheapen your experience. Once or twice a year, or on special occasions, a top quality steak is going to be hard to beat. Steak doesn’t have to be “reassuringly expensive”, but the price should reflect the sourcing of the meat, the breed, the cut and (possibly most important of all) how it’s cooked. You can buy a supermarket’s “finest” steak, you can even take a drive out to a country farm shop and buy your steaks there, but rarely will you have the skill or the equipment to do the meat justice (if you do, please invite me round and I’ll bring the beers!).
So to me the answer is simple: Buy in great quality ingredients (i.e. steaks), cook them on a super-hot grill and make sure the chef knows how to cook the steak to the diner’s tastes. Put all those together and you’ve got yourself a steakhouse.
So you’re probably asking yourself, where has all this steak-fuelled rage come from all of a sudden? The answer is simple: from eating some of the best steak I’ve ever had, just a few miles outside of Peterborough at the Queens Head in Nassington!
I visited the Queens Head last year for a celebration and at the time treated myself to one of their flat iron steaks. It wasn’t a cut I’d heard of before but I was assured it was a good choice, needless to say I was very happy (you can read my review here). Half of their secret to great steaks is their Josper grill – some kind of intensely hot charcoal-fuelled wonder grill found in only a handful of restaurants around the country. Because I enjoyed my visit so much, the Queens Head got in touch to let me know they were adding USDA Black Angus and Wagyu steaks to their menu. For the non-steakophiles out there, the steaks are highly regarded in some of the top London steakhouses so to see them on a menu in a Peterborough restaurant is pretty impressive.
Wagyu (or Kobe as it’s also known) beef is typically famous for it’s marbling which gives it such a great flavour. As well as a diet of grass and grain, it’s also not uncommon for the cattle to be fed beer or sake along with regular massages. Sounds pretty good, up until the slaughter bit.
My verdict? This steak is fantastic.
With Christmas out of the way and the mince pies and Quality Street a distant memory, I gladly accepted an invitation from the Nassington restaurant to put their Wagyu through it’s paces. My wife went for the USDA Black Angus which suited me fine as I could steal some of her steak and get to try both varieties. My verdict? This steak is fantastic.
With every cut of the knife you can see how tender and perfectly cooked the steak is, you barely need to give it a chew. I made the mistake of ordering a portion of the chilli and garlic butter as whilst it was very nice on the steak, it really wasn’t needed and just got in the way of the smokey steakiness. Served on a wooden board, the steaks come with a side of thrice cooked chips or fries, a tomato and a couple of mushrooms – all part of a balanced diet. I did try and get a couple of photos, but the restaurant lighting wasn’t suitable so you’ll just have to use your imagination, sorry!
Ok, you would expect at the price (£32.50 for a wagyu sirloin and £26.50 for a 10oz Black Angus ribeye) the steaks should be special and I can honestly say they are. Remember, ordering identical steak in London would set you back double if not more. An 8oz wagyu ribeye at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT Park Lane restaurant is on the menu for an almost unbelievable £85.
Now if anyone ever asks the question “where in Peterborough is good for steak?” I’ll point them in the direction of Nassington and The Queens Head.
If you’re sitting there wondering why on earth I’ve just put all these words into a blog post about a piece of meat, I would urge you to visit the Queens Head and try their steak for yourself. It’s one of those meals where you just want to tell anyone that will listen, which is exactly what I’ve done.
Disclosure: The Queens Head kindly invited me to sample their menu on this occasion.