Popeseye, London, restaurant review

Date:02-04-2014 07:58:14 read:3

Popeseye, London, restaurant review

Popeseye is a gloriously simple joint that only serves five cuts of steak

Popeseye: 'So right in every regard that I cannot begin to imagine how it could be improved' Photo: Jeff Gilbert

Chalked on to a blackboard at the Popeseye, a west London steak house of simple splendour, is the worst special offer ever. Unless some Mondo Bizarro supermarket is pioneering the one-for-three deal, whereby shoppers pay for three items but take one home, it must represent the least enticing reward-to-outlay ratio known to humanity.

The deal is this. Anyone who breaks the restaurant’s all-comers’ record for the most fillet steak consumed is entitled to a free pudding. Since the record posted late last year by the champion carnivore named as “Ian” stands at 76 oz – just shy of 5lbs – the successful challenger will be shelling out about 200 quid for a pudding worth six. Whether that record-breaker would have room for a pud seems a question of tangential importance. Ian apparently did.

The reassuring news for him and his team of cardiologists is that, at the time of writing, lean red meat is once again thought to be good for us. At such bewildering speed does nutritional advice reverse itself that this may well have changed since going to press. But the most recent article I read on the matter insisted that with red meat, as with butter, everything we have been told for the past 30 years was utter cobblers, and it will in fact do you more good than harm.


Whether this advice covers the ingestion of 76 oz of beef in one sitting was not made clear, but either way it must be a bit of a boon to the Popeseye’s owner and cook Ian Hutchinson (a different Ian: much as drug dealers rarely get high on their own supply, so steak-grillers seldom break their own endurance records).

This represents a dramatic turnaround for the Popeseye on the medical front. In 2000, the BSE scare was a disturbing time for us all, human and bovine. Back then you doubtless heard about the two cows overheard chatting in a field. “Are you worried about this mad cow disease?” said one. “What’s it got to do with me?” replied the other. “I’m a duck.” Yet for no one was that false panic more alarming than the proprietor of two restaurants (there is another branch in Putney) which serve nothing but steak. No starters, no fish or chicken, no veggie option, nuffink. Just five cuts of beef – rump (for which popeseye is the Scots term), sirloin, fillet, T-bone and rib eye – at various sizes, along with chips, mixed salad and puds.


Somehow this Popeseye survived to celebrate its 20th anniversary last month, and thank the Lord it did. It is one of those glorious joints that is so right in every regard that I cannot begin to imagine how it could be improved. For one thing, it is never knowingly overlit, so that from the street it is impossible to tell whether it is open. This gives an small, cheery room (jolly paintings of cows, wooden floorboards, red tablecloths, the said Hutchinson sweating away in a corner by the grill, framed by a showcase for bottles of rare whisky) exactly the sort of intimacy a steak house needs. It also boasts a delightful waitress, a Montenegrin called Boba, whose decade-long service lends a nice air of permanence and continuity, and a good, meat-friendly wine list (the house Rioja is splendid) that takes no diabolical liberties.

Best of all is the plain, inarguable fact that no meal on Earth is as reliably and comfortingly delicious as really good steak, chips and salad. The meat here – 100 per cent grass-fed Aberdeen Angus, delivered daily from the Highlands – is spectacular; the chips are fat, greaseless, golden, piping hot and crisp; and the salad comes smothered in a fine garlic mustard dressing.

All three of us went for the rump/popeseye at a comparatively modest 12oz. Norman’s First Law of Beef holds that the cheaper the cut, the more flavoursome, while the Second contends that Scottish cannot be beaten. Anyone who pays four times the money for Wagyu beef from cattle that have had their bellies massaged while sipping beer and listening to Mozart – or thrice as much for US Department of Agriculture-certified beef – wants sectioning. Neither has a fraction of the gamey savour of Scottish beef hung for 28 days – and neither would have been able to teach our steaks anything on the subject of tenderness.


“Just divine,” said one of us, slathering a piece with home-made Béarnaise. “On death row in Alabama,” said another, “I’d ask for this when the Governor turned down the plea for clemency. I’d get the regulation cheeseburger, I suppose – but what’s the harm in asking at that stage?”

Even after our paltry 12 ouncers – all cooked to perfection – the three of us struggled with the puds. Chocolate brownies were fine, sticky toffee pudding was luscious, and white chocolate cheesecake was sensational, though our failure to finish them hinted that Ian’s record is safe for now from us. Yet we all crave a slice of immortality, however finely cut, and I cannot shake off the nagging sense that a life as luminously pointless and devoid of lasting achievement as mine could be rescued by an appearance in chalk on the Popeseye blackboard. But I cannot confront this challenge alone. So: does anyone have the number of a good tapeworm supplier?

*108 Blythe Road, London W14 0HD, 020 7610 4578; Two-course meal with wine and coffee, £45-£65 depending on size and cut of steak. No credit cards

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013