JW Steakhouse Review

Waiting.

It’s what restaurants were made for.

Sure, some people will try and convince you that restaurants are actually designed to serve food.

More often than not, these individuals refer to themselves as “chefs”.

But they’re lying; more likely to themselves than anyone else.

Thus proving my old adage that you should never trust a man – or woman – in uniform; they’re usually pretending to be something or someone they’re not.

Naturally, should they happen to have a sharp implement close to hand, as is a chef’s lot, you’d best agree with whatever they say.

That little life lesson doesn’t just apply to chef’s, but anyone with a pointed stabby thing you should encounter in London Town.

And you will.

Anyhow, safe in the knowledge that a restaurant’s raison d’être is waiting rather than food, I decided to turn the rather splendid tables at the JW Steakhouse on the proprietors of this fancy dan eatery.

At least that’s the way I’m telling this story.

The truth, me desperately clawing a way through the never ending legion of trolls that populate Oxford Street in a futile attempt to arrive somewhere – anywhere – on time, is a far less principled affair.

Not that the lovely staff of the JW Steakhouse would ever make you feel bad about showing up fifteen minutes late for a reservation.

Oh no, and that’s not just because of the phalanx of empty tables and chairs staring back at me when I finally arrive; it’s because this is what you pay for.

The waiting, deception and downright lies.

Admittedly, I’m far more likely to bring those last two to the table than any of the chic restaurants I frequent.

The Head Hostess smiles a little awkwardly, knowing her place in this environment is not to question the clientele, before attempting to help me remove my coat; a custom I clumsily resist as it’s never sat comfortably with my socialist soul.

And I definitely don’t hand over the blanched, sparkly scarf I once borrowed from a girl and have since taken to heart as my favourite accessory on colder days.

A ticket stub is dispensed for my outer attire and I sit down with my date for the afternoon, who’s more than familiar with my timekeeping transgressions by now, marvelling at the plush surroundings we’ve stumbled upon.

There’s a huge novelty factor involved whenever I encounter an upmarket eating experience, as if you’ve gone on holiday and are living someone else’s life for the afternoon, which is usually agreeable for a little while.

Providing you know you can get off this particular trip and hitch a ride back to reality.

A charming Russian waitress introduces herself as she plonks two of the oddest shaped drinking vessels I’ve ever seen down at our table, filled to the brim with champagne; all stem with a wide yet shallow open top for ease of access.

That’s our glasses rather than Oxana, who kindly informs us she’ll be attending to our fine dining needs for the afternoon. With her smooth features, smart apparel and blonde hair tied back; it’s difficult to place how old Oxana really is, but I’ve no doubt she looks a decade younger than her actual age.

After listening to the specials for the day, and quickly eliminating soup as a possibility in a restaurant such as this, we begin with calamari and chicken caesar salad whilst the Head Sommelier picks out the most appropriate wine to suit.

The lightness of these starters is something I’m grateful for later on, as we proceed to the real reason for frequenting any Steakhouse; gorging on massive slabs of char-grilled beef.

With more steaks on the menu than you could shake a bovine shank at, we accept our limitations and simply allow Oxana to order the two best cuts she knows of; which turn out to be the Tomahawk and Porter House steaks.

Both of these weigh in at a kilo or more, drawing an involuntary smirk from my lips and spinning my head at the thought of eating so much red meat. My companion and I cool our childish minds with another well chosen wine, not from our philistine tastes naturally, before our main courses arrive.

That’s when the hulking reality of what a 32oz steak actually looks like in the flesh.

Brought out on oversized, wrought iron griddles and easily dwarfing the side salads we picked as an accompaniment; me and my esteemed doctor of journalism get down to the slovenly business of gorging upon the biggest steaks either of us has ever seen.

After our first bites, we decide eating a kilogram of red meat isn’t such a big deal after all. When something tastes this good, too much is never enough. Taste buds can be deceitful little bastards though, and we soon realise our stomach’s are no match for the sheer size of the meals sat in front of us.

But if my Irish nanny only taught me one thing in life, it’s that you can take as much as food as you like providing you eat it all.

And if she’d only taught me two, the other would be how to undermine a woman’s confidence within an opening conversation; something my shambolic father and his equally inept uncle’s granted her ample opportunities to hone through the succession of potential daughter-in-law’s they’ve introduced to her over the years.

About three hours later, Rohit finally clears away our plates; the lovely Oxana having long since finished her shift. Rohit’s a friendly chap and all, but neither I nor my fellow scribe find him nearly as charming as our previous guide through no fault of his own.

So we try to work out who’s in the most pain from our self inflicted gluttony instead. Fortunately, I’m the loser in this particular contest. Therefore decide the only sensible thing to do is ask for a desert menu.

This time, I don’t feel like letting someone else choose for me and order the JW’s self proclaimed “best” cheesecake, accompanied by whoopie pies and a bailey’s milkshake.

The pies are disappointing, seemingly plucked straight from an M & S packet, whilst the milkshake is also underwhelming. But the homemade vanilla cheesecake with raspberries and biscuit base lives up to it’s billing.

And you get an entire cake to yourself too, no slices here.

It’s all too much for us to take in, so I politely request we have this packed up so we can walk off our meals.

As we wait for our desert doggy bag, no longer able to form coherent thought under the strain of all we’ve consumed, I watch the regular folk of the world slowly shuffle along to the rhythm of their monotonous lives outside.

I’ve just completed a most accurate impression of a sloth, indulging my waistline in five hours of lunching at a delightfully ornate Park Lane hotel; which is still appreciably less eating time than most of my family get together’s.

We exit stage right from the JW Steakhouse, passing an assortment of homeless people on our way.

I offer our leftover’s to the first vagrant we happen upon, grateful for the half cheesecake we’ve just delivered, and wonder about all those empty chairs and tables from earlier.

And how much food will get thrown away today for the privileged few who dine in London Town’s finest restaurants.

Perhaps that’s the true cost of waiting.

Jonathan Campbell

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May 2011
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