Sullivan’s Steakhouse – Austin, Texas

In Texas meat is king and nowhere did I experience this more in Texas then in Austin. Dinner one night was a steak meal at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, an American chain that had its origins in Austin some twenty years ago and is therefore an Austin institution. Alongside its hearty selection of steaks is a varied selection of seafood starters and mains dishes as well. Side dishes are also plentiful as is customary in a US steakhouse.

To start your meal at Sullivan’s I would thoroughly recommend the ‘knockout martini’ ($11), the Sullivan’s signature cocktail. This is made using Clementine vodka, infused with fresh Hawaiian gold pineapples for two weeks and it is this long slow infusion that provides the martini with its ‘knockout’ flavour. This martini easily deserved its signature cocktail status as it was delicious, beautifully sweet and yet delightfully refreshing.

Seafood starters on the menu included a jumbo shrimp cocktail ($16.50) containing five pieces of firm and reasonably tasty shrimp served with a well made cocktail sauce. Another seafood starter of shrimp and lobster bisque (bowl – $9, cup – $7.50) bore more similarities to a chowder rather than a classic French lobster bisque with a rich lobster flavour. It was pleasant in taste, and also a little spicy and would therefore offer a certain appeal for the most typical of American palates.

Sullivan's Steakhouse - Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

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Gillray’s

Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar offers an oasis of calm from the hordes of crowds hovering around the aquarium and The London Eye. The restaurant is part of the Five Star London Marriot Hotel County Hall and is located on the South Bank. With its wonderful location, it offers spectacular views over the River Thames, Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament.

The building in which the hotel is housed was once the home of the Greater London Council. The building is resplendent and still holds onto the glamour of a historical city building. Gillray’s décor is classically English and is in keeping with the look of a County Hall building.

There’s a cosy bar at Gillray’s where afternoon tea can be taken. The views from here are really good as well and there’s also a plentiful array of beverages including some eclectic cocktails such as Gillray’s molecular take on a pina colada (£13). Fresh pineapple is caramelised in a flame of Navy Rum and then shaken with Flor de Caña and pineapple juice before being finished off with a coconut foam and a chocolate twist. The Gilray’s pina colada was amazing, with a light refreshing taste and none of the heaviness of the more traditional pina colada recipes.

Gillray's - Amazing pina colada cocktail

Amazing pina colada cocktail

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The Rib Room

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant in the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel opened in the 1960s and soon became well known in Knightsbridge as ‘the’ place to go for its roast rib of Aberdeen Angus beef. Today The Rib Room remains a grand dame of an English restaurant. The voluminous dining room is filled with plush furnishings and is sumptuously decorated in a sea of green and amber. It’s the kind of place where, back in the day, you might have imagined customers dining in their dinner jackets.

Head chef Ian Rudge worked with Nigel Haworth at the one Michelin starred Northcote Manor and the two Michelin starred Whatley Manor and he brings a touch of the modernity to The Rib Room with his Seasonal Menu. But it was for its Classic Menu that The Rib Room became well known, and this menu is still available to diners to this day. The Classic Menu is fairly pricey so the seasonal menu at two courses for £49 and three courses for £58 offers reasonable value.

From the Classic Menu, half a dozen Loch Fyne Angel oysters (£15) were glorious with the oysters being fresh, creamy and extremely meaty. There was a shot of Bloody Mary to go with the oysters which was nicely done. With the gentlest hint of Worcestershire sauce, it livened up the flavour of the oysters wonderfully. We also asked for some vinaigrette which was excellent. The sweetness and acidity was really well judged to produce a vinaigrette that was one of the best that I’d ever tried.

The Rib Room - Oysters

Oysters

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The Meat Co

The Meat Co is a steak house situated on the Southern Terrace of Westfield’s Shepherd’s Bush. The ground floor operates as a bar, and upstairs is an enormous dining area decorated in warm dark tones. Established in South Africa in 2000, The Meat Co resonates meat through and through. The headline act is the Connoisseurs’ Choice of cuts, which included chateaubriand, wagyu and kangaroo. There are also super-aged steaks, and for something simpler, meat skewers and burgers are available as well. For non-red meat eaters there are also chicken, seafood and veggie options. Basically there is a little something for everyone.

From the starters we tried the burrata cheese salad (£13.50) which came with a tasty whole piece of burrata and fresh Roma tomatoes, cucumber, rocket, and hazelnuts. A balsamic dressing had been used, but the salad needed more seasoning.

The Meat Co - Burrata cheese salad

Burrata cheese salad

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Palm Restaurant

The Palm Restaurant in London is an American steakhouse that first opened in New York in 1926 and which has since grown to several dozen restaurants throughout the United States. The London branch feels American through and through, and is located on Pont Street in Belgravia, right next to the Belgraves Hotel, a destination hotel for many American tourists. It is therefore unsurprising that most of its clientele are Americans, like the ones we spoke to while we had a drink at the bar. It’s a classic American steakhouse through and through with its white-linen tablecloths, soft lighting and booth seating, and it suits the well-healed clientele of Belgravia well.

For something reasonably light to start ahead of our big meaty meal, we went for the half a dozen Colchester oysters on the half shell (£13), which gave way to a sea-salty flavour and rich texture. Also yummy was the beautiful sesame seared yellow fin tuna (£15.90) with pickled ginger, wasabi, mache greens and ginger vinaigrette. It was a delight to eat and it needed little by way of accompaniment because the fish was elegant and flavoursome.

Colchester oysters

Colchester oysters

Yellow fin tuna

Yellow fin tuna

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Fire & Ice, Raffles Hotel, Dubai

Most of the best restaurants in Dubai are located in the hotels, and Fire & Ice is no exception. A sophisticated grill situated in the Raffles Hotel, Dubai, its dark, earthy colours and brickwork décor gives the restaurant the look and feel of a big hitting New York steakhouse. Flickering flames guard the open kitchen and this adds to the sense of the restaurant’s drama. Raffles Hotel predominantly caters to a corporate clientele so the design of the restaurant suits its customers well. Fire & Ice specialises in a variety of quality cuts of meat prepared to your liking, although there is also a reasonable range of seafood choices.

Being part of the family that includes the famous Raffles Singapore, it would be remiss to not begin the meal with a Singapore Sling, or in this case, a Dubai Sling (AED70 – about £12), a delicious mix of Plymouth gin, coriander, chilli gomme, fig preserve, lemon soda and angostura bitters. Fire & Ice also has an extensive list of 700 wines, and was awarded the Wine Spectator’s 2013 Award of Excellence.

Our meal started with an amuse bouche of cured salmon perched on top of some pickles and bell peppers that had been fragranced with saffron and coriander seeds. It was delicious from the superb spicing, and the salmon was sweet and delicate.

Cured salmon

Cured salmon

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Blue Restaurant at The Grand Heritage Hotel, Doha, Qatar (Day Two – Doha)

Grand Heritage Hotel

Grand Heritage Hotel

Day two of my stay in Doha saw me at the Grand Heritage Doha Hotel and Spa. The hotel is located inland away from the Corniche in the Al Waab district, right by The Aspire Zone, a famous Qatari sporting complex built for the 2006 Asian Games. The Grand Heritage Hotel is indeed very grand looking and resembles a sprawling Victorian mansion and houses Blue Restaurant that serves steak and Japanese food.

The Grand Heritage caters to both business and leisure travellers. There is a business centre which offers services such as binding, laminating, scanning and secretarial, etc, and a spa containing a number of amenities including treatment rooms, a natural pure water indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, separate male and female saunas, steam room and whirlpool facilities.

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Hawksmoor Spitalfields Restaurant and Bar

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Restaurant and Bar was the original Hawksmoor, the hugely popular steak restaurant that paved the way for the other Hawksmoor branches in Seven Dials Covent Garden and Guildhall. My first visit to the Hawksmoor at Spitalfields proved to be a good, if slightly inconsistent experience. But when I tried the fabulous lobster roll at the Seven Dials branch, I became a fan of the Hawksmoor brand.

The Spitalfields branch recently launched a bar extension in its basement with 60 covers. Its focus is the bar (rather than food as is case with the restaurant upstairs) and it offers a selection of carefully selected cocktails, some of which date back to the original 2006 Hawksmoor cocktail list. The bar suits the Spitalfields area. It’s cool and chilled, and relies on the use of reclaimed materials to give it a slightly grungy look. There is also a bar menu which is quite distinct to the upstairs dining menu, with more snack-type eats to complement the drinks in the bar. It features a compilation of sandwiches, and more importantly, includes a lobster roll (£15). One cannot order from the main restaurant menu in the bar or vice versa.

It may seem funny that the item I enjoyed the most at a steak restaurant was their lobster, but the one I had at The Hawksmoor Seven Dials was truly glorious. The portion of juicy, tasty lobster was generous, and it was served on a brioche bread roll that was to die for. Finally it had been dressed with an decadent quantity of unctuous butter which turned this into something incredibly satisfying and addictive. Yum. Anyway, the one at Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar.was decent, but a little dry. Also, the brioche wasn’t quite to the standard set by Seven Dials. It only cost £15 rather than the £25 at Seven Dials, but it was also a smaller portion.

Lobster roll

Lobster roll

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