I have eaten a few steaks of late. Unfortunately, none of these have come from the Hawksmoor. Having tried to secure a booking this week and failing miserably, I had to settle for a visit to Gaucho on Swallow Street to satisfy my craving for a lump of red meat. Having been to Sophie's in Covent Garden recently, and failed to blog it, I thought I would pit them mano a mano in a steak off!
Now I'm going to compare them in the six S's. These will be Surroundings, Starters, Steaks, Sides, Service and Size-of-the-bill.
Surroundings - Sophie's is located in a pretty busy part of Covent Garden, right next to the Lyceum theatre so is bustling with the theatre crowd. The restaurant is dimly lit but a decent airy space with pretty interesting lighting (think lots of light bulbs hanging off the air-conditioning). I had a pretty early dinner here but it was packed with the pre-theatre crowd.
Gaucho was also busy but the decor is frankly a bit off putting. Think dead cows hanging off the walls, everywhere. In fact, I dare you to find an area within the restaurant which doesn't have cow print. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was cow print in the kitchen. Split over 4 floors, it is dark, bordering on the pitch black in areas. All in all, the actual dining room is a pleasant space, with different levels keeping it interesting.
I like Sophie's. There is only so much cow print a man can take.
Starters (or freebies) - Sophie's gives you meat. Strips of salami which is definitely more-ish. They taste nice. Gaucho give you bread. Now normally meat trumps bread any day of the week. But this bread comes with this awesome salsa (sweet vinegary goodness) and the best cheese balls this side of Brazil. Gaucho wins the battle of the freebies hands down.
Steaks - I've had a few steaks from both establishments, varying from the sirloin to the rump. Gaucho's steaks claim to be Argentinean whilst Sophie's are British. I must admit, I have enjoyed steaks from both, and both come with pretty decent Béarnaise. However, the vote goes to Gaucho. The last steak I had there, a juicy bit of sirloin was perfectly done and tasted great. Only downside was that they are very tight on the Béarnaise.
Sides - I've only had the chips and the salad from Sophie's. The salad was more like coleslaw, which is no bad thing. The chips were alright, nothing special. At Gaucho, I had the mash and a spinach and baconconcoction. Again, nothing wrong with these but nothing outstanding, the spinach was a little salty. No real stand out performers so no winners, it's a tie.
Service - This one is easy. I was made very welcome at Sophie's and the staff were very attentive. The service was also excellent at Gaucho. But, and it's a massive but, I was felt that I was constantly being hurried by the team at Gaucho. I was 10 minutes late and was hurried to my table. I hadn't received my drink and they were hurrying me to order. I was still eating my food and they were already cleaning the plates off the table. I wanted a coffee when a bill arrived on my table. Turning over tables is key at Gaucho but if I'm spending a decent bit of cash on a meal, I do not want to be rushed. Round goes to Sophie's.
Size-of-the-Bill - Now good steaks don't come cheap. I enjoyed my meals at both Sophie's and Gaucho and if you order off the main menu, it's certainly going to set you back a few bob. The steaks themselves are fairly reasonable, but it's the sides which add to the cost. This is where Sophie's comes into its own. There is no set or express menu at Gaucho whereas Sophie's has a very reasonable pre-theatre menu. Any time before 7.30, its £12.50 for two courses which includes a decent sized rib-eye with Béarnaise and chips. Result! Easy winner here, Sophie's pre-theatre menu is a bargain. And if you register on their website, they give you a free lunch.
RESULT - It's a tight one but Sophie's emerge victorious 3.5 to 2.5. I look forward to the Hawksmoor trouncing both of these.