On Thursday, October 31st, we headed over to the long-awaited opening night of Steak Of The Art: located on Cathedral Walk in a premises that was formerly used as the Crest Nicholson sales office. It’s certainly an interesting concept – a steak restaurant and art gallery housed in the same premises – a concept that we simply couldn’t conceptualise before we arrived.
The front doors lead into a feature open bar area, topped with an arch that just made me think of Wembley stadium. With comfy seating and high tables, it’s nice that there’s the space for those who simply want to sit and drink, in addition to the restaurant seating further inside.
On the right hand side will be the art gallery (not yet open on the evening of our visit), which, owner Steve Bowen explained, he hopes to populate with the work of local artists – as he has only recently moved down to Bristol from Cheshire, the artwork dotted around the restaurant is currently from further afield.
Although the gallery itself was not yet open, there was still plenty to take in in the dining area. Tables are constructed from unfinished wood (ours even featuring a knot hole) with a metal edging that, along with the exposed pipework on the ceiling, gave the place an industrial feel. There is a private dining room at the back of the restaurant, which is obviously taking business bookings into consideration, with a large flatscreen TV on one wall.
Chairs are comfortable and upholstered in crazy patterned fabrics, while booth-style seating around the right hand wall of the restaurant offers diners a very different experience depending on where they sit, as each booth is different.
One, for example, features Elmer the Elephant style patchwork seating and a stunning table with upturned paint tins…
…while another has a long bench upholstered in a Bristol Beer Factory print fabric…
…and an Alice In Wonderland booth features seats upholstered in playing card print, underneath the most astonishing wood carvings, carved using a chainsaw by champion chainsaw artist Simon O’Rourke.
All this to look at before we even saw the menu (click here to view)! A beautifully designed, striking menu (I’m not going to mention the spelling mistakes…) which lists food options on one side, drinks on the other. I love the fact that the wines and Bristol Beer Factory beers have recommended food pairings listed next to them, and there’s a decent choice of cocktails, soft drinks and hot drinks too.
Food-wise, it’s a relatively limited menu, with the focus predominantly, as you’d expect, on the steaks. A choice of four different 200g cuts range in price from £14 to £20, each served with fries, salad or sweet potato fries, the latter adding an extra £1 to your bill. Eight different sauces can be added for £2 each, with a range of side orders also available.
Those who don’t fancy a steak can choose from lamb, chicken or pork, or can ask the waiting staff about the fish and vegetarian options that are available on the day.
Our waitress informed us that the soup of the day was butternut squash, and the salad of the day tomato, mozzarella and basil. We, however, decided to share a fish board to start (£8) – a bizarrely sized Steak Of The Art branded board that was rather large for one, but too small for two to share. We were really impressed, though – both the calamari and the goujon were coated in a lovely light batter, and the mackerel pate was smokey and had a great texture. The shot glass of crab bisque was light and fresh, and the generous helping of aioli at one end of the board was lovely and garlicky but not too overpowering. The only slight let down was the sardines on toast, which were far too peppery.
And so to the main event: the steak. Steve and the team have spent the last 10 months scouring the South West for the perfect steak, settling on Warson’s Farm in Devon and Warren’s Butchers in Launceston to provide the majority of their meat. Both Chris and I opted for the sirloin (£16 – mine medium, his medium-rare) with fries and a béarnaise sauce, along with a side order of buttered garlic spinach (£3 – well, it makes the meal healthy, right?)
If truth be told, we were a little disappointed with the presentation – our meals didn’t really look that appealing. The steaks themselves, however, were BEAUTIFUL – both perfectly cooked, both tender, both full of flavour. We didn’t really need the béarnaise on the side (and were a little confused about the lack of tarragon?), but mopped it up with our chips, which again, were delicious – fluffy in the middle, crispy on the outside…but we could have done with a few more.
It was the buttered garlic spinach that let the main down really, for £3 I expected more. It was a pretty small portion, with no real discernible garlic flavour, and a horribly gritty texture that was a little unpleasant.
It was also a shame that our waitress for the evening wasn’t great – whether it was nerves or just because it was opening night we’re not sure, but we needed to repeat orders a few times, asked for water only to have our glasses removed and the water forgotten, and she was a little over-attentive at times. Nevertheless, she was enthusiastic and smiley throughout, and it’s perhaps unfair to judge on the first day.
So…a meal with both good points and bad! The design of the place is amazing, and it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into how Steak Of The Art looks. It’s a great concept, and the steaks are truly fantastic. We were impressed with almost all of our food, but a few minor niggles, the service and the presentation of the main need a little work. However, despite the negatives, I’m pretty sure that we’ll be back.