I’m not overly fond of underground restaurants, particularly at lunchtime. The lack of windows remind me horribly of lost days as a student in the 24-hour techno-heaven of Birmingham’s clubbing scene in the ’90s. I’d stumble owl-eyed out of the dark womb of the Que Club onto busy day-lit streets at 10am, feeling grey-skinned and furtive.
And MASH is certainly underground, defiantly so. You enter via a grand hall where the usual charming girls take your name and coat, before descending a staircase. It feels very Art Deco-cum-speak easy when you walk into the vast dining room, all pillars with soft lighting strips, blood-red leather booths and serious wood. It’s like being on a doomed cruise liner – appropriate since this vast space used to be Marco Pierre White’s Titanic London. You could imagine Captain Edward Smith, Louise Brooks and Al Capone having a coze here. Have I mentioned it’s big? It’s huge. A fashion show or grand ball wouldn’t even touch the sides. But the booths create a vital intimacy, and actually it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
In fact there’s something seductive about MASH all over. Its name is a very satisfying acronym – Modern American Steak House – and in a city full of steakhouses, it’s quietly gaining a reputation for being one of the best joints in town. Rather unexpectedly it’s Danish in origin (and a huge success there), and the co-owners spent months researching their meats before choosing their suppliers – you can really tell.
The menu is startlingly short and to the point, offering steaks from Uruguay, Denmark, The US, Australia and Argentina. My dining partner and I went full-on carnivore (really, what’s the point of coming here otherwise?) starting with tartare and garlic snails, both very good. The steaks are designed to be shared, which I found a bit odd – what if one of you wants it bloody and the other charred, plus who wants to hack at a steak with a business partner or a first date? MASH is also one of the eateries where they introduce you to the food before they cook it (which still makes me think of the cow in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe), and I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Danish and American ribeye steaks. It turns out the steak is pre-cut into satisfyingly chunky slices, and the idea that you might need to hack away – oh-dearie-me no. The steaks were utterly tender and buttery and we munched away, comparing out the taste, texture and consistency of the two cows. The Vikings just pipped the Yanks to the post on taste.
This is a good place to take an oenophile: MASH’s winelist is breath-taking – page after page of superb and unusual vintages, and it offers a satisfyingly large amount of wines by the glass. And they allow BYOB on Sundays, which is very nice of them.
My major caveat would be the fact there’s no UK-supplied beef, which is a crying shame considering the quality of meat in this country and the frightening amount of air-miles it takes to ship meat over from the US, Oz and Argentina. That said, I’d happily go back, and I’d choose Danish steak. I’d take a good friend, we’d get stuck into a titanically good bottle of red, and let the hours drift past.
Who needs windows anyway?
77 Brewer St, LondonW1F 9ZN
020 7734 2608