Originally Published May 2018 (some alterations for clarity have been made)
Since the second branch of M opened on Victoria Street it has overshadowed its elder sister in The City. Wine Bar, Raw Bar, Bar, and Grill restaurant, the site is deceptively large. Like an iceberg most of it’s submerged underground not water, but maybe that would have improved the decor by removing vast chunks of the gaudy silver and copper leaf in the dining room.
In no way is it a cheap place. The wine list is unquestionably impressive which of course gives them license to charge accordingly, and cocktails are at typical London prices, so a round of 2 will likely knock on the door of £30. The bar is a dark loud space and service took considerable time and a number of attempts. In fairness to the staff apologies were forthcoming and so was a few bar snacks by way of recompense. As with most bars these days there is a bar menu with various items including wagu biltong, though at around the £6 mark upwards they too are not cheap.
The food is split between a raw menu that’s 100% gluten free, and the grill menu. The raw menu heavily features sashimi from more unusual fish such as Ikejime Kingfish. The smoked beef tartare with apple and foie gras is a mellow and subtle take on the raw beef classic but nothing more. The grill restaurant, unsurprisingly, specialises in steak, but each cut comes from cattle from a different country. I’ve tried the ribeye from Botswana and have to declare myself disappointed with it. I love ribeye above all other cuts; it has wonderful texture, flavour and fat. Unfortunately, while the steak was cooked without incident, nicely grilled medium rare, the meat lacked flavour and tenderness thanks to a complete lack of fat. When being charged £36 for 400g of it (before sides) the steak better be amazing. Instead it was proof yet again as to why I tend to avoid steak in restaurants in favour of cooking my own perfectly at home with a better piece of salt aged beef. I will say that the beef short rib was very good, but when your menu is predominantly steak, you better get them right and have unbeatable meat for it to be worth the air miles over British or Irish beef.
While service was slow – the table that came in long after us was served their mains long before us – the staff themselves were very good, smiling and helpful. Is it a place I’d go back to? No, I’m afraid, on the basis of my experience and despite part of the food being decent; I just didn’t get the hype. Everything was a bit flat and expensive.
Update (April 2019)
Since writing this review M has been bought by the team that rescued Goucho out of administration. Looking back now I can’t say my feelings towards M have changed much, and looking at the menu online again I see you’ll also find the bar menu has a couple of burgers on it, and god save us, pretty much everything that I disliked about M (trend, style, difference for no reason other than style over substance) is summed up in the way they’re described. Each comes with liquid cheese and bacon jam. Glossing over the fact that all meted cheese is, at least to some degree, molten, or alternatively you might say liquid, the bigger crime is the bacon jam. I have suffered through bacon jam before and now refuse to order a burger that has it. Why do people want to destroy the gloriousness of bacon by covering it in a sweet sticky mixture that overpowers everything and leaves you gagging for water to wash the sugar away.
But the bigger crime is that one of the two is a Wagu burger, and at £20 that seems good value, I say good value but £20 for a burger is never good value, it’s a ludicrous price, in this case it only seems good value because it’s Wagu and most Wagu costs vastly in excess of £20. But just don’t, never order a Wagu burger, learn from my past mistake a few years back at another restaurant about 5 minutes from M. When I ordered that Wagu burger at the Caxton Grill, I knew what the issue would be, but dedicated to eating as I am, I decided to order anyway just so I could be sure my view was right. Wagu is about one thing and one thing only – fat. It’s marbling of fat gives it that incredible tenderness and flavour, but the moment you put that meat through mincer you’ve killed it. The structure that gives the tenderness is gone and as soon as you cook it the fat, that all important sublime fat, just melts away. What you end up with is a burger that tasted no better than another very good one, and easily crumbles as there’s nothing to help bind the meat.
Please someone save me from trends like these, more often than not they bring nothing to the food and just take advantage of those that don’t know enough about food and think they’re getting something amazing, when really the restaurants are taking them for a ride. It’s all style over substance designed to part unsuspecting punters from their hard earned money and get likes on Instagram.