A steak dish is one of those things that can easily go so horribly wrong – gristle, overly-charred, greasy or tough as an old boot. So when I heard that The Hill Bar and Brasserie was renowned among foodies for excelling in the steak department, I had to check this talked-about venue out.
Its leafy location now known as Steeles Village, gave it a reputation for being the poorer relative of Belsize Park. But as we walked the incline of lower Haverstock Hill, and followed twinkly lights which adorned the shop fronts, we reached the impressively grand awnings of this classy looking brasserie.
A very relaxed atmosphere filled the dimly lit, art deco surroundings which simulate the North American dining experience Vancouver restaurateur Michael Parker is going for. If there was any music I didn’t notice any. But its dark wooden floors and chairs and oldy-worldy feel which surrounded the gentle hubbub of other diners was enough to set a cosy experience on a Thursday night.
After much discussion with our chirpy and loveable waiter Rafayel, we picked a South Eastern Australian Cabernet Sauvignon (£22) to ease us into our dining. The service was impeccable without being uptight. And after enjoying a leisurely amount of time to peruse the mouth-watering and extensive menu, we were finally ready to order.
Despite an abundance of temptations such as the Lobster Bisque and seared carpaccio, we opted for some Chilled Arctic Jumbo prawns (£2 each) with a Canadian half lobster tail (£10) from the Crustacea menu. This was accompanied by a plate of Citrus marinated salmon sashimi (£5.50) from the Raw Bar.
With a squeeze of lemon and a dipping of the Marie-Rose style sauce, the refreshingly chilled prawns which were served on a stand of crushed ice, tasted like they’d just jumped out of the sea. The lobster was delicious and delicate and the sashimi was a subtle fusion of cucumber, radish daikon, coriander, pickled ginger and black sesame seeds – just enough tanginess to whet the appetite for our mains.
If I hadn’t felt obliged to sample their infamous steaks, I may well have tried their ‘Overboard’ Burger – a tower of lobster, prawn and crayfish with a rich lobster mayo. But my 8oz peppered baseball steak with onion rings, pomme frites and a peppercorn sauce (£23.50) did enough to impress.
While I watched my fellow steak-eater slice a knife through her barely sealed fillet, she described its taste as being ‘just like she’d had in France’ – delicious and melt in the mouth.
The pepper crust combined with the soft texture of my less than blue fillet resulted in an explosion of flavoursome pepper and textures. The wooden boards, giant crispy onion rings and whole roasted garlic bulbs containing sprigs of rosemary and Thyme just confirmed that the menu’s designer (accomplished chef Clayton Mills) is proud of his work.
This was one of those eyes-bigger-than appetite moments. And the only time I rested my knife and fork was for a moment’s sip from my glass of smooth Cab.
We’d already clocked the dessert menu before we’d taken our coats off and knew instantly that we’d order the Baked Wild Berry Cheesecake and Warm Chocolate Brownie (£5.50). While my guest delved her spoon into a soft, squidgy and nutty chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream, I was struck by the contrast of the thick, creamy cheesecake with the sweet raspberry coulis. Both were carefully handmade which was evident by their rustic appearance and taste. Neither were too sweet or sickly, and I eyed a fellow diner’s crème brulee for next time.
Astounded by my appetite, I finished the evening with a soothing mint tea and a chat with Rafayel.
This wasn’t just surf ‘n’ turf in the local pub, this was an unforgettable dining experience. One of those you’ll hark on about to friends every time you hear the word ‘steak’!
The Hill Bar and Brasserie, 94 Haverstock Hill, London, 0207 267 0033
By Lucy McGuire