I’ve never really been a big fan of the high-street designer collaborations that launch with fanfare. Exciting as they can be (Jimmy Choo, MARNI, Alexander Wang all for H&M were stand out favourites of the fashion pack) you just know what you are going to get. For example, my partner has a pair of black ‘leather and suede’ Jimmy Choo for H&M lace-up, dress shoes which after a number of years look a little tired and could be shoved to the charity shop with little ceremony. However, his pair of suede Jimmy Choo (authentic) boots remain pristine; the shade of noir as devilishly dark as the day he bought them, the shape still as sturdy as a freshly wrapped last.
Accessible luxury may not be new in fashion yet its become a sweeping trend within restaurants. From Bristol to Brighton, Dublin to Winchester, The Ivy collection has expanded beyond the sole, feted site in Covent Garden with monumental speed. Can’t get a table at the original Cecconi’s? Fine – pop down to Old Compton Street for a plate of deliciously moorish carbonara and swing a platoon of cats; there’s plenty of room. Getting through the hallowed doors of Shoreditch House an issue? No problem, just nip to The Ned and buy a coffee for £3. Don’t forget to tag yourself in Instagram!
I read about the launch of Black Cod & Wagyu opening on The Evening Standard website last month. Click baited by the headline of ‘This Restaurant is Offering Wagyu Steaks for £15’, I had to give it a go. Why not? I’ve never had the almost mythical flesh pass my lips and for a reasonable sum, it saves a trip to Tokyo.
Booking was a bit tricky because it seemed half of London (and when arriving there, half of Japan’s tourists visiting the capital too) wanted a bit of the cut-price action. Yet, we sat down promptly at 1.30pm on a Saturday. Situated within Zelman Meats on St. Annes Court, we were led through a heavy curtain to a separate room that was decorated with the samurai logo and lucky cat figures waving their fists behind hatched steel. The menu, developed by head chef Olly Bird, offers guests a 200g Wagyu steak for £15 at lunch or £20 come dinner. The famously high-end Wagyu typically sells at restaurants like Nobu for around £55 per 75g, and the Black Cod is on the menu for £15, a hefty saving of £50 from haughty Mayfair eateries.
We sat in the centre of the room and were given the menu a little abruptly; a welcome more akin to a hungover brother after stepping into his uni flat. However, we then caught the attention of a waitress and were explained the concept. We eyed wine (a Rioja for £35) and the house plate of a Wagyu steak and fillet of Black Cod – below – for £30 (£40 at dinner) as well as a portion of Truffle Chunky Chips (£8). The Wagyu changes with availability; we had Snake River Farms, Idaho – Wagyu picanha. Then the hungover brother was back. “What do you want to order” was the returned welcome. We asked for said platter and chips. “That’s a bit uninteresting…how about the lobster rice or a salad?” Well, the lobster rice is £10, so I do find upselling a little tacky. Yet pointing out that any spice is a no, he was dispatched to the kitchen.
After he came with our wine (no, its not a reserva as its only a 2016, my partner retorted) we sat happily admiring the atmospheric surroundings and people getting soaked outside from the deluge. Ahhh, our lovely waitress was back with our house plate. We looked. We looked closer. We looked at each other. She leant in…”the chef has explained that the sizes of both are a little smaller than usual, so we will be offering you pudding on the house”. That explained it. If this was dinner, after working an eight hour day and a sad Waitrose sandwich for lunch, I would be less than impressed to be paying £20 but this is accessible and affordable premium ingredients.
With high-street, luxury collaborations you may expect the quality to be a little off but not here. The steak was cooked to medium perfection to enable the best marbling of the fat. Two chews and the tender, moorish each piece was gone. The Black Cod was sweet, buttery yet its flesh built like an Instagram model. This was not a piece of fish which had missed its metaphorical leg day. This was food heaven and any reservations were swept way. The chips by the way are good; encrusted with parmesan and topped with a more than generous helping of truffle. As for our complimentary puddings? Deliciously homely; soul food for a wet and windy autumn day.
Is a trip here worth it? Absolutely. Soho is an area which can be hit or miss for food. Some restaurants serve a Mayfair concept at Mayfair prices, some serve pleasing fare at Soho prices and the rest are just chains which do the job when all else fails. Black Cod and Wagyu serves Mayfair food at Soho prices with theatre, enthusiasm and passion. Book now or forever hold your peace.