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db Eats: M Grill

Does London need another steakhouse? Martin Williams, founder of “M” certainly thinks so. With a decade at Gaucho under his belt, finishing his time at the Argentine steakhouse chain as managing director, Williams opened his ambitious solo project, “M”, last December amid much fanfare.

The 38-year-old claims “M” is the only restaurant in Europe where you can sink your teeth into grade 10++ Kobe beef. Split into two 100-cover restaurants, with the Japanese-inspired M Raw on the right hand side and a more traditional grill on the left, the 15,000 square foot venue occupies a cavernous space on Threadneedle Street in the beating heart of London’s financial district.

Opening in the centre of the City was intentional – steak is the ultimate alpha meal and “M” is perfectly placed to attract the hedge-funders and high rollers working nearby. Steering the ship is executive chef Michael Reid, with head chef Jarad McCarroll, whom Williams plucked from celebrity favourite the Chiltern Firehouse, at the helm as head chef.

Visiting one cold Tuesday in February, I was booked in at M Grill, which is prettified with cobalt blue leather banquettes and populated with braying City boys. With a fellow wine trade friend in tow, our evening began with addictive truffle popcorn and accomplished cocktails at the upstairs bar.

In charge of the list is Lance Perkins, whose day job is looking after the drinks offering at Ian Schrager’s London Edition hotel in Fitzrovia. Cocktails are arranged into four groups: signatures, apéritifs, twists on classics and digestifs.

Seeking refreshment, I ordered the Que Che, which blended Tanqueray 10 with Amaretto, Salvatore Liquore di Limone and watermelon. One sip and I was hooked – the expertly shaken libation was balanced, super fresh and sharpened my appetite for the meat feast that followed.

Heading down to the grill, we slid in to our cobalt blue banquette. Keen to try Raw’s signature dish: cured langoustines with pink grapefruit, cucumber and shaved foie gras, we were lucky enough to order the last one as they’d just run out of the critters.

Translucent slivers of langoustine were almost hidden from view by an avalanche of flesh-coloured foie gras shavings sprinkled atop them like snow. The curious dish worked, offering an explosion of sweet, sour and bitter flavours in a vivifying ensemble.

cured langoustines with pink grapefruit, cucumber and shaved foie gras

Next came one of the highlights of the meal: chicken karaage with ginger, soy, garlic and wasabi. Encased in a crunchy coat of armour, the punchy bites were licked with fire and enlivened by the aerating ginger and wasabi.

Less interesting but equally moreish was a starter of smoked baby beats with balsamic-laced goat’s cheese and almonds. The earthy beets were served atop a slick of molten goat’s cheese weaved with sweet balsamic ribbons and dotted with chopped almonds that added salt and crunch.

Our taste buds now truly teased, it was time to move on to the main event. Williams is passionate about his “six nations” concept. Both the steaks and the wine hail from six different countries in six continents: Argentina, Japan, South Africa, America, France and Australia. He had planned to put kangaroo on the menu, but mercifully the marsupial didn’t make the cut.

Prices at the grill range from £18 for a Normandie onglet to £150 for 150g of Japanese Kobe. Steaks can be cut off the bone to order from the walk-in ageing room, which adds an eerie frisson of theatre to your meal.

chicken karaage with ginger, soy, garlic and wasabi

There’s something primal about personally selecting your steak while it’s still hanging on the animal that brings you closer to its life cycle.

Having heard Williams wax lyrical about the Waygu, which he sources from the same producer as Heston Blumenthal, we went all out and ordered the 200g sirloin of Blackmore Wagyu from Alexandra in Australia’s Victoria region.

Wagyu is the foie gras of the steak world. Cut into bite-sized strips of pink flesh that glimmered in the light. it tasted completely different to every other steak I’ve had. The pleasure is to be gleaned less from the flavour, but from the texture and mouthfeel.

It quite literally melts in the mouth, each rich, juicy, buttery strip dissolving on the tongue leaving barely any need to chew. The accompanying balls of deep-fried bone marrow however, were off target, too oily and fatty to be enjoyable. Just looking at them will raise your cholesterol.

200g sirloin of Blackmore Wagyu from Alexandra in Australia

But what of the wine? Argentina is currently winning the battle of the six nations due to strong Malbec sales, proving that the classic pairing of steak and Malbec has struck a chord with the British public, though fat cats looking to splash the cash are seeking out Californian Cabernets from the likes of Ridge, Opus One and Dominus.

Liquid pleasure is dispensed by the measure via a fleet of Enomatic machines, with the likes of Château Cheval Blanc 2004, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel and Newton Puzzle, a Bordeaux blend from Napa, all available by the glass on my visit.

Our wine journey began with a golden glass of 2013 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, which was opulent and oak influenced but bright and alive with a citrus twist on the finish.

Keen to revisit one of my favourite California estates, we were treated to a bottle of Ridge 2011, which opened up like a rose in spring after decanting. Soft and supple it offered notes of kirsch, black cherry, blueberry and cassis along with hints of thyme and a savoury, meaty backbone.

In the mouth it was pure cashmere and slipped down easily. Desserts were something of an afterthought – my crispy apple pie and clotted cream ice cream bore a striking resemblance in appearance and taste to those found at a popular fast food chain, but then attempting to trump the Wagyu is nigh on impossible, so perhaps it’s best to forget dessert altogether and instead leave with the soft sweet taste of meat in your mouth.

M, 2-3 Threadneedle Walk, 60 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8HP; +44 (0)20 3327 7770

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