When it comes to the mixology available to any carnivorous palette, London’s got it all: Hix Oyster and Chop House, where, as the name suggests you can slurp up oysters followed by meats on the bone. There’s Grosvenor Square’s 34, where you can pair seasonal game with fish and shellfish which even extends to their infamous “Lobster Mac” (you guessed it, Mac and Cheese made fancy.) There’s Burger and Lobster, where you can feast on a sizeable yet overpriced Burger or a relative bargain for an undergrown lobster’s left claw, hiding sinisterly in its large enclave of a bun. Then there comes Beast, the spectacular restaurant which brings you Norwegian Red King Crab, and hand selected Nebraskan Beef, in the form of a £85 set menu, as well as a la carte options, both of which can be paired with an extensive wine list through the help of head sommelier, Janina Doyle.
Welcomed warmly by the assistant manager Antonio, and treated to a guided tour and introduction to Beast’s restaurant and concept by the wonderful Anastasia, I could see that here was a team keen to stop and speak to diners, checking if they had any requests or questions which would aide their experience of both the venue and the palette.I think I overheard a waitress offering a suggestion to dip parmesan into the balsamic – if you can dunk and dip sans judgement here – then this was the place for me! I was excited to see what lay in store for our experience at Beast.
At most restaurants I dread to hear the words “would you like to try our highly recommended…” because, in essence, every diner’s worst nightmare is realising you ordered the wrong thing, or worse yet, that you’ve succumbed to the peer-pressured rendition of your culinary experience. This is not dissimilar from my visit to a breath-taking cliff-top restaurant in Santorini, looking down at the speckled blue and white heavens from our throne (the seats literally looked like large red upholstered thrones, upon a banqueting table). What could go wrong you ask? I could find myself ordering the squid, only to have the waitress object that she “really must recommend the grilled Octopus” and a four minute debate to ensue which can be summarised with her contesting “Octopus!” every time I said “No, squid!” Fifteen minutes, a gazpacho entrée, and the preparation of my salivary glands for my favourite plate later, I found myself blinking back in disbelief at the grilled Octopus tentacle before me.
You can understand then, why I am weary of “recommendations”, the everyday term “specials”, and the food-ordering-system in general. That was however, until I was introduced to The Beast Experience. If you are a new-comer to Best, take the experience, as that is precisely what you will receive. Built upon the communal setting of the restaurant’s layout, as you perch upon their banqueting-style tables, it is supposed to inspire a sharing concept. Which is great. Except you wont want to share the antipasti of 24-month aged parmesan, 12-month aged balsamic vinegar, olives, pickled onion and artichoke, which will evermore be the only condition in which I concede to eating artichoke with my mother’s forceful voice echoing in my ears: “Ees good for your heart!”
For mains you can take the crab and steak together, or as two courses. We opted for the latter, as in essence the Norwegian Red King Crab (flown in twice a week) should be a sole focus in itself. In practice, it was man versus crab situation as I had already caught sight of them and wondered how on earth the skilled chef must grapple with them. No need to wonder, it turned out, as I found myself squeaking back at the prospect of holding my crab.I have never held something I have subsequently eaten (thankfully, in most cases), but staring back at this wondrously sized King Crab, I appreciated the skill and execution– pardon the pun – by Beast Chefs Piotr and Josh, the hand-picked sourcing, careful selection, and exquisite preparation that is packed into this dish. The crab for two arrives in a portion of four legs and one claw. I felt a pang of guilt as I saw what had become of King Crab, but was consoled by the fun-fact that female crabs which are caught are thrown back in, and pictured this one to be some lovely lady-crab’s very nasty ex-boyfriend. I was more than happy to tuck right in. The crab is served with a delicious butter and garlic sauce and crushed new potatoes – which take the back seat, as the crab alone is outstanding, and a real opportunity to feel the sweet meat’s flavours and unbeatable freshness.
With such a tough act to follow, the Nebraskan Steak was next, and the sheer amount of meat alone, was enough to make me need a time-out in the meat refrigerator where no one can find you. The serving is an 800g sirloin cut, cooked to your choice. As it is a thick cut, medium served us perfectly, as did the outstanding salad of slow roasted balsamic tomatoes and fresh leaves, a perfect palette cleanser in between huge mouthfuls of the succulent meat we were sparring with to the finish line.
The dessert options are smart and sympathetic, as there is nothing worse than being handed a menu when you are full to the brim, engraved and embossed with the words “triple glazed, salted caramel, honeycomb, peanut butter, chocolate truffle cheesecake brownie” and almost bursting into tears at the combined prospect of eating it, as well as missing out on it. Beast offers four simple, classic dishes, of which we sampled the cheesecake and the sorbet selection. The cheesecake triumphed (did you even need ask?) with a creamy body upon a light crumble base that lulls you into complete closure for your meal.
As we sat there, big bellies a-full, making a mental note to walk home, or by extension to a nearby town, I took in the ambience once more from my happy place. Peering past the candlesticks on our tables, I looked up at the various shelves of stacked candles above us, contemplating how they symbolise the stacks of meat being grilled and stacked across in the open plan kitchen as the chefs ingeniously engineer away. I looked around at the communal dining layout of the long outstretched tables, having expected noisy neighbours, or loud-eaters to cast a shadow over my meal, finding that it was quite the opposite. The setting provides a fun and contemplative element to people-watch, if you may, as I pleasantly sat back and observed others at the different stages of the experience, mentally advising of them of what else was in store, and sympathising with those who just couldn’t bring themselves to finish that one last lonely piece of steak. Although the experience Beast offers is for one and all, any occasion is made unique for an overwhelmingly worthy, tasteful and exceptional visit to Beast.