1 August 2013
I usually have a rule about travelling in the summer — especially to Europe. August tends to be the worst, with brain-dead tourists everywhere, and unpredictably hot weather. Sadly, I chose to escape NYC for various reasons I shall mention another day…and ended up in horrific heat in…London. When London is significantly warmer and more humid than NYC, it’s bad…and I am a COLD weather person.
I should have gone to Greenland like I wanted to…
Nevertheless the saving grace of a steamy London is the food. Several of my foodie friends have raved about the new Piemontese steakhouse Maxelâ in Kensington, and I couldn’t say no having seen the website. I’ve not been back to that part of Italy in years, nor Liguria, so I really do miss the unique food from the western part of the country.
The joy of London is that you have more than the bog-standard “Italian” restaurants — they respect the diversity of regional cuisine. Nowhere in NYC can you find such true Italian diversity. So despite melting in London, I was glad to be heading to Maxelâ.
To make matters more difficult, we were sat in the back room, where the air conditioning had broken down! Ugh!!! If it wasn’t for what we saw on the display walking in, I may have given up…thank goodness I didn’t!!!
It was blazing hot, but we fought on. A cute and unpretentious place that focuses on the joys of bovine consumption — proper beef, fed green stuff that the cows can digest, not the crap you get at “top” steakhouses that are fed corn thanks to the massive corn lobby in the US. Sorry, I shall stop pontificating now, but if you’ve never had proper grass-fed beef, do so. It’ll turn you off the corn stuff.
We began with an excellent starter of battuta all’abese — made of the special Fassone beef the restaurant specialises in:
Fresh, light and delicious, this is one of the best carpaccio you’ll ever eat. Really doesn’t need anything, it has enough natural flavour that only olive oil, salt and pepper are needed to maximise its appeal. Excellent!
BTW the Fassone is a breed of Piemontese cattle, which are special because of its “double muscularity” — producing a very lean meat that needs to stay as rare as possible. It’s almost the antithesis of the true wagyu, which is based on intense marbling of fat. Sometimes you need one, sometimes you need the other!
And of course, our large, 1.2kg rib steak appeared. Closer to rare than medium-rare, all it needed was rocksalt and olive oil…
Goodness this was good. It is very lean, which is why I suggested the rib, so there would be enough fat to give it balance. Cooked fantastically, the meat was simply scruptious. Wow…
Oh, I forgot the vegetable side…much needed too! Fantastic selection including aubergine and courgettes.
The two of us finished the giant piece of meat quite easily despite the heat, because it was cooked so well, and it was very lean. However, the heat was really getting to us, and we were now in the “meat sweats” phase… I knew how to cool down, looking over the dessert list…
Nothing as good as a sweet pineapple for dessert, especially for a lad that grew up in Hawai’i. Pineapples are rich with bromelain, which acts as a natural meat tenderiser. It will ease the meat digestion. Oh, please ignore that happy thumb!!!
We headed out in the stifling heat full and happy. It was nearly a perfect meal, marred only by the crazy heat under the broken AC in the back room. One of the best steaks I’ve ever had… Again, sometimes you need fine lean meat like this, sometimes you need the tremendous marbling of wagyu. Tonight was a night of Fassone excellence.
84 Old Brompton Road