We were going to see One Man, Two Guvnors that evening. I had excitedly booked a table for two at the Modern American Steak House (MASH) on Brewer Street four days earlier after finding out that they offered a pre-theatre menu. From the moment the cheerful lady at reception – it felt like a reception, though there may be a more restaurant-friendly word for this – offered to take our coats, I knew it was going to be an agreeable evening.
I was looking forward to the food. My girlfriend was looking forward to the theatre.
MASH, despite its name, is actually a Danish export. That’s not a terribly important nugget of information, but it does make the next sentence flow better as you read it.
The waiter – probably a Danish guy – showed us to our seats. Big, red, sexy seats. We were placed in the middle of the restaurant – I could see about 190 seats in front of me, she could see about 190 seats behind me. It’s a BIG place. An old Art Deco masterpiece, the building itself is a sight to see.
“Have you ever filled this place?” I ask.
The waiter hesitates. Why’s he asking? A few cautionary shakes and rolls of the head. “We’ve been very full many times, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation where there hasn’t been a free table. Yet.”
MASH has been open six months so it’s been reviewed many times already. I’m not a restaurant critic and this isn’t a review. It’s a blog of my food-based experience, which just happened to be inside a restaurant. I mention this because I don’t care if they’ve been full or not. Like the waiter, I don’t want you – the reader – to think there’s an agenda for the things I say here. There isn’t.
OK, back to the non-review.
FREE TAP WATER! AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE! IN A CARAFE! WITH ICE!
Oh, the joys. Why can’t other restaurants do this? It’s a simple gesture – ordinarily you’re made to feel like a cheap, grotesque Neanderthal who’s just scuttled his way from the gutters of 1840s Paris. The waiter Javert to your Jean Valjean. So Bravo, MASH. Bravo.
For the £22 theatre menu you get a choice of two courses – a starter and a main, or a main and dessert. I have a sweet tooth, so it wasn’t a difficult choice.
I could have had a Danish sirloin, a Uruguayan Ribeye, or a Uruguayan strip. How am I supposed to choose? I ask the waiter what he recommends.
“For the lady the New York Strip is very lean and tender,” he proposed. “The man must have the strip.”
It just got personal, folks.
“But if you prefer you can share steaks – we’ll carve it for you at the table and you can have whatever you wish.”
Deal! Good idea, we both think.
In a tawdry attempt to keep up a show of manliness I suggest we order the Sirloin and Ribeye. No lady meat at my table, thank you. *Slaps waiter on the back and calls him ‘mate’*
“We can share sides too?”
Fantastic. I was struggling between the mash and chips – who wouldn’t? – but the waiter said we could have both. I haven’t been this excited about having two servings of carbs on one plate since discovering the delights of asking for chips and smiley faces at the school canteen.
While we wait, two glasses of the pricey Pinot Noir arrive in encouragingly large glasses. It was silky and fragrant – based on everything we’d experienced at MASH so far that evening, we weren’t surprised by the quality of the wine.
Following the little bit of theatre in carving the meat, which was done with commendable care and attention, we tucked in.
What is there to say? The meat was exquisite; perfectly cooked, tender, delicious. Everything a steak should be. The Sirloin had a deep, smoky flavour that worked well against the creamy potato and delicate red wine – we both preferred it to the Ribeye.
I imagine the side of mash was a 50:50 blend of potato and butter. The best kind. I wasn’t sold on the chips – were they frozen? – and would certainly just go for the mash next time round. The clue, I guess, was in the name on that one: MASH.
Dessert – mine cheesecake, hers crème brûlée – was average. We were a little pressed for time to get to the theatre and with my eternal disquiet about being late we rushed through it. The cheesecake was fine – how good or bad can a cheesecake really be, right? If I were to be critical I’d say it was too big, but fine.
The bill came in a quaint, MASH-branded envelope – little details make a big difference – and the “damage” wasn’t bad. You’re eating steak so it’s never going to be a cheap meal, but for the quality of the food, the attentive service and experience as a whole it was well worth the £73 debited to my card. I would recommend MASH to anyone; it’s worth that little bit extra … and besides, don’t forget the water’s free.
The next time we go to MASH, both of us will look forward to it. Forget the theatre.