The local press legend

Further down, on the Fiat 500 thread, Old Stokie linked this restaurant review from the North Staffordshire Evening Sentinel. Mum (going through her fourth chemo at the moment, being strong) used to get me the collected columns of the journalist in question, one Alan Cookman, for Christmas when I first left Stoke-on-Trent, as a way of keeping me in touch with my roots. He used to make me laugh. I was amazed to see he’s still at it, and still calling his his wife Herself and his boy Son & Heir; the lad must be about forty by now. I can only assume that his motor is still The Slum on Wheels. They don’t, as they say, make em like this any more. (OS is going to be getting a branch of Rare round his sides quite soon in the restaurant formerly know as Zainz formerly known as Shaffers.)

The Review

WHAT became of the people who used to whisper the words “well” and “done” to disapproving waiters when ordering a steak? Have they learned to love pink meat or simply gone underground?

Do they dine in specialist venues where chefs who have gone over to the dark side serve up burnt offerings to aficionados of incineration?

Without wishing to suggest that we are becoming a nation of vampires, it’s obvious that a bloody steak is not the turn-off it once was. Those who recognise that over-cooking drains a steak of its natural juices, texture and flavour are now in the majority – they must be for this new restaurant to be named Rare. Here customers are offered a guide to the grilling of steak from bleu (“charred on the outside, but just warm in the centre”) right through to very well done (“meat tends to be without moisture”).

“Without moisture” is of course a euphemism for “dry as old boots and just as tasty”.

I reviewed one local restaurant whose menu carried an explicit warning: anyone asking for one of our steaks to be well done will be asked to leave. Rare haven’t gone that far, but I formed the impression that the chef might sob quietly into his pinny if you asked for meat without moisture.

The new venue occupies the premises previously known as Red, and is just as smartly appointed although the colours are a little softer and the opening hours considerably longer. The meat is evidently sourced in Staffordshire and we ordered with confidence, satisfied that our steaks would be a credit to cow, farmer and chef.

At Rare there are dishes other than steaks – classic burgers, ribs, Cajun chicken etc – but in what is billed as “Newcastle’s only steakhouse” it would have been perverse to order anything else. Our eager young host handed us menus and, for good measure, told us what was written on them, as if we might otherwise be thoroughly confused. It’s part of the experience – if a somewhat pointless one.

From the list of reasonably priced starters, I ordered shredded pork (£3.50), a light prelude to the main event which came with a pot of apple sauce and a perfunctory salad. Herself found her prawn cocktail (£3.95), almost extraordinarily ordinary, but The Son & Heir was prepared to endorse the claim that the garlic bread and cheese (£2.50) was the best in town. He said it was first class. He followed this with yet more cheese – this time blue cheese which was stuffed with sautéed mushrooms into Rare’s speciality fillet steak (£15.95). The meat was indeed rare and deliciously tender and the blue cheese gave it a flavour boost that was clearly very much to The Son & Heir’s taste.

His mother thought the T-bone (£15.95) fairly average, though well cooked, but a little tough in parts and not exactly exploding with flavour. She was obviously unlucky though, because my 20oz rump (£14.95) was tender, juicy and cooked exactly as ordered. It’s true that the thicker sections of the steak were markedly more succulent than the thinner bits, but that’s to be expected and overall it was a quality piece of meat grilled with respect.

I finished every last morsel of the rump, which must be a compliment in itself, although it meant dessert was out of the question.

After shifting 1¼lbs of prime beef, as well as chips, vine tomatoes and mushrooms (the onion rings were untouched), I was as likely to order pudding as I was to get up and sing a medley from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects Of Lard.

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3 Responses to The local press legend

  1. OS says:

    I always like Alan Cookman mesen. When I get to go across Rare’s place, I’ll axe if we’re allowed to take our own wine. That will simplify stuff. I was going to book the place for my 70’th, but the bloody tax man is biting at my heels again, and I’ve renewed all six season tickets (more in hope than judgement). So its a finger buffet at Swiss’s place. That should be fun! 🙂

  2. Stephen Foster says:

    Why don’t we just do the runner as normal? No need to feel guilty, that place will close down in 3 months anyway on the established cycle : )

  3. Daftburger says:

    What was the column he wrote before he went all LLoyd Grossman? Used to be in satdees sentnul. Always an enjoyable and humorous read!

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