Chicago Steak House 4.7/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/10
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 6.7/10
Note: No pork or alcohol is served on the premises.
Croydon. That’s where I was born and bred. Not something to be proud of I hear you say. Yet I am. I am proud to have been born south of the river. However, what I am not proud of is the lack of restaurants C-town has to offer.
Although over the last few years, places like YUMN and The Ravensbury have graced our presence, Croydon is still behind with the times when it comes to launching an fully halalianos, alcohol-free eatery. Enter Chicago Steak House. Chicago Steak House is situated in South Croydon, just a couple of doors down from Crepes and Cones (which is also on my hit-list, given that they’ve told Fatima it’s halal, if you know, you know). Anyway, I digress.
The hot-stone style cooking of steak seems to have caught on and Chicagos has followed suite. Its décor resembles that of TGI Fridays, with dim lights, black and red signs, and walls adorned with Bulls heads. I wasn’t bothered by the décor, however, I wasn’t big on the napkin-like table cloths. It detracted from the vibe of the restaurant.
ShakerFries and I were lucky enough to have a Groupon deal for 2 which included 2 mains, 2 drinks, and 2 desserts. The adopted one also accompanied us. Ironic as she doesn’t eat beef, but luckily for her there were a few chicken options for her to choose from.
We were so hungry that we decided to order wings to start: Buffalo and piri piri (£4.95 each). These arrived fairly promptly, were a generous portion, and were quite delicious. As always, I preferred the Buffalo wings, but the piri piri wings also had a lemony charred kick to them. The meat was tender and outer layer of the Buffalo wings were in a crisp batter. No complaints there.
For our mains, ShakerFries and I ordered the 320g of Sirloin, which came with a complimentary side (we chose steak cut chips), and a sauce (we chose peppercorn). A fairly standard choice for us, but we felt it would be best to ‘play it safe’ given that we were starving.
We have previously reviewed the ‘hot stone’ steak concept before. Your raw, seasoned, seared steak is served on a hot stone, and you cook it to your taste. The concept here was exactly the same, but they also served butter, pepper, and salt to season your steak yourself too. Although we had been to this kind of restaurant before, I was surprised that the waitress didn’t ask us if we had been there before or if we knew what we were doing. It’s quite a novel concept, and if you are new to eating a steak this way it would require some explaining.
Our steaks arrived shortly after our starters, spitting rather violently all over our hands and the table. I expected it to stop after a few minutes but this continued pretty much throughout our meal, making it extremely hard to cut into our steak. Although the steak was a very generous portion, it was totally unseasoned, and I wasn’t too keen on the fact I had to season it myself (I do like some of the work to be done for me_. The meat although marbled through with fat was also still quite tough, which made it difficult to enjoy.
If I wanted to cook my steak entirely from scratch, it would have been a lot cheaper for me to go to Tesco’s and buy a raw steak, and cook it at home. I know it sounds harsh, but there is a fine line between selling steak on a hot stone so that you can cook it to your taste (as I know people complain often about their steak being over/under cooked), and actually cooking your meal yourself in terms of adding the flavour. When eating at a restaurant, I don’t believe it’s down to me to add my own seasoning. It sounds really pedantic but this along with the spitting steak (which burnt my hand on several occasions), and tough meat, made this meal really tedious to eat. Furthermore, even with the seasoning provided, my steak was totally flavourless, and started to overcook on the hot stone, to the point where when I was half way through the steak, it was already cooked to well done and was actually burning. I ended up leaving a huge portion of what was left, and was bitterly disappointed.
As I said, I have visited 2 hot stone steak restaurants before and had a completely different experience to this. I’m not sure how such a simple concept can go so wrong, but in this case it just didn’t work. The stone was ‘too hot’ and the meat too bland. The adopted one said her burger was okay, so that was a saving grace. Despite having a Groupon, I still felt cheated out of my £35. The waitress asked if my meal was okay after seeing my plate and I told her it was not to my taste. She later told ShakerFries that you are supposed to add the butter to stop the steak from spitting/overcooking. If that were true, (which I am still sceptical over), I would have appreciated some form of explanation before my meal.
We still had desserts to order as part of our Groupon deal. The waitress came to take our order but out of all the desserts listed only 3 were available, one of which was vanilla ice cream. I was a bit disappointed at this point. In the end we ordered 1 vanilla ice cream and 1 cookie dough with ice cream. In all fairness the cookie dough was lovely, yet I still couldn’t shake the bitterness in my mouth.
I realise that my review seems over critical, but perhaps because we were excited and had high expectations about Chicago Steak House, we felt even more let down when everything didn’t quite come together. The positives were that the service was good in the sense that the food arrived quickly, ambience was decent, and portion sizes were generous. However, when it comes to their steak and how it is served, there needs to be some refinement and changes. There also needs to be an explanation of concept from the waiters and waitresses. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can confidently say yet that Croydon has established itself when it comes to the halal food scene.