Misha Zelman’s next London venture is well and truly underway at Zelman Meats. Tucked into a Soho alley that joins the busy Wardour and Dean Streets, you could cruise past without noticing. But Londoners have taken notice, in a big way. This is just the latest meat factory from the Jewish Moscow native turned London restauranteur.
You may not have known Zelman’s name until he slapped it on ‘Zelman Meats’, but you’ve definitely heard of (and been to) his restaurants. First there was Goodman – good steaks for good men. Goodman now has three locations across London; Mayfair, The City, and Canary Wharf. Then Zelman opened Burger & Lobster, basically creating the limited-repertoir, no-menu concept that seems to have gripped London these past several years.
Point of order: perhaps he also started the two-ingredient-restaurant-name fad?? Burger & Lobster, Duck & Waffle, Flesh & Buns…
Where Goodman focused everything on the dry-aged meat, Burger & Lobster focused on… well, burgers and lobsters. Their three-item menu consisting of a burger, a lobster, and a lobster roll all priced at £20.
Then came Beast, the upscale version of Burger & Lobster that was too posh to just be called ‘Steak & King Crab’. I’ll give you a guess as to what the Beast micro-menu consists of.
In 2014, Zelman acquired a Soho property on the heavily trafficked pedestrian alley, St Anne’s Court. Many would know this better as the Soho Vodka Revolution – but few of us would admit how many times we had set foot inside! (No more than four, I sear) Zelman opened up a seafood restaurant called Rex & Mariano – I guess for the symmetry of having one seafood, one steaks and two hybrid restaurants?
Rex & Mariano didn’t last long. Londoners weren’t looking for seafood, they wanted the beef. So after less than a year in business, Rex & Mariano shuttered the fish and reopened as Zelman meats in late 2015. Following Zelman’s tyical approach, ‘Meats has no menu and just four typical offerings with the occasional special: short ribs, sirloin, rump, and chateaubriand. All sold by the 100g.
Subject to availability and served either medium rare or medium well, Zelman Meats churns out tender, juicy and flavorfully cooked slabs of beef that London craves. Pictured here, the ‘Dirty’ sirloin which I loaded up on, more on that later.
The setting is like a Goodman that accidentally knocked up a steampunk hipster: dark-red leather booths, industrial-style lights, luggage racks taken from the Hogwarts Express, exposed ventilation and pipes, a French bistro-style tiled floor and provocative artwork on the walls.
It doesn’t really come together from a décor perspective, but who cares – all the focus should be on the eats. With a small selection of starters, typical sides like thick-cut chips and veg, and just one dessert, things are kept ultra simple. Waitstaff is well-informed on the cuts that day and any specials are written up on big chalk boards around the restaurant.
I went for the tempura tiger prawns in Holy Fuck mayo, the only alternative started being a couple varieties of oysters. On the side they offered triple-cooked chips, roasted cauliflower, a chopped salad or some mash. The Holy Fuck sauce is actually made by a well-known London street food personality, Rib Man. They don’t do a lot of things at Zelman Meats, but they do them well, that’s for sure.
I followed my started with several hundred grams of the chateaubriand and several hundred of the dirty sirloin. What is dirty sirloin you ask? Well as seen above, it’s a sirloin that is cooked directly on the charcoal. This fuses the smokey, charcoal flavor directly into the meat and caramelizes the outside of the steak. The sirloin is a cut from the rear, back of the cow – just above the short loin where a T-bone or Porterhouse are cut from.
The chateaubriand is cut from the thickest part of the fillet. It’s typically an expensive steak for two, but by the 100g at Zelman you can get several slices for a very reasonable price. Not a lot of fat resides in the fillet, so cook it rare and eat it red! The earthy, deep flavors of the chateaubriand at ‘Meats was outstanding – add in a little béarnaise sauce and you’re in business.
Overall, I’ve got to admit, I love this place. It isn’t the high-end steak experience that you get at Gaucho, Hawksmoor, or Goodman. But it is a fun family atmosphere, loud and unapologetic, as massive stacks of meat ordered by large parties go past your table. 400g of each cut, when shared in your group, won’t eat a massive hole in your wallet either. Add to that the excellent cocktails from the aluminum-lined bar and you’ve got a raucous good time on a Friday night.
Just make sure you don’t bring too many hungry carnivores along with you, otherwise it’ll feel like a race to attack the heaping slices of meat that the waiters plop down in the middle of the table like it’s the Hunger Games.