This is a review of an American steakhouse concept brought to London by Russian owners. It's a bit of a struggle to make it interesting, to be honest, because I have just told you all you need to know.
I can, of course, go on about the menu, prices, service, and ambience. But I don't think I can make it any more interesting, because it isn't. There was a hint of promise in my mind as I pushed open the doors opposite the elegant Hibiscus just off Regent Street – but that was before I disturbed the girl on reception from her reading. And before I realised they have named the restaurant chain after Benny Goodman, a perfectly pleasant, 1930s-1940s big-band leader and jazz clarinettist, but somewhat below Mingus, Miles or Dizzy in the Tower of Song. And before I realised that they were playing nothing but Bob Dylan anyway.
Everything about Goodman feels familiar. There is the All Bar One/Hard Rock Café décor; the dark-brown wooden tables, the leather banquettes, the suspended lampshades, and the long, bottle-lined bar.
There are starters, but nothing to get excited about: beef carpaccio, beef tartare, Caesar salad. A platter of sweet/salty Russian herring fillets (£7.50) sounds hopeful, but the herrings are small, the potatoes bitsy, and the marinated beetroot raw and chewy. A shot of Russian Standard vodka is kindly offered, and gratefully accepted, to help the beetroot go down. A salmon carpaccio teamed with tomato seeds and passionfruit (£7.50) sounds bizarre, but tastes just like your average salmon carpaccio.
So it is all down to the steaks to save the day, the various cuts dramatically presented to each table on a tray. There is much talk about dry-aging, in which the meat is hung on the bone to break down the fibres, and concentrate the flavour; a more expensive process for the providore, as it can lose as much as 20 per cent of its weight in the process. Yet all but one of the cuts available are "wet-aged", which sounds more like a euphemism for "packaged in Cryovac for longer shelf life and shipped across the world".
The USP here is that all the steaks on offer are priced at £25. The menu lists two US grain-fed prime beef steaks (400g rib eye and 350g New York strip) and three Australian grain-fed steaks (400g rib-eye, 350g New York strip, 250g filet mignon), with the only dry-aged option being a blackboard special of an Irish rib eye on the bone (£32 for two). I put their biggest-selling "Goodman American rib-eye" to the test, cooked rare to medium rare. It's not bad. A spiderweb of marbling adds flavour and tenderness to the chunky cut, and the searing heat of an enclosed Josper charcoal grill has given it a good crust and left it nicely juicy. The accompanying pepper sauce, one of four on offer, is thin and bland.
So, too, is the Goodman's beefburger (£12), with its disc of overcooked meat and pale tomato on pappy bun, with thin additions of fried onions and bacon. Chips don't taste of much but are cutely cut, as if by kindergarteners, into a variety of crescent shapes.
The wine list won't scare any horses, nor will a workman-like 2005 Domaine Goisot Corps de Garde Bourgogne for £36.50. Puds too, are humdrum, with a caramelised apple tart (£6) looking the part but feeling flabby.
People allegedly turn to steaks and burgers in a recession, leaving delicate sea bass and almond foams for dead. Fair enough, but dry-aged and grass-fed will beat wet-aged and grain-fed every time. Nothing here is horrible or great, nothing rare or well-done. It's just medium. Sorry, not interested.
Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets
Goodman, 26 Maddox Street, London W1, tel: 020 7499 3776. Lunch and dinner daily. Around £110 for two including wine and service
The crunch bunch: Steak on a budget
Bill's Produce Store
The Depot, 100 North Road, Brighton, tel: 01273 692 894
The people who haunt this deli/café can be divided into two groups: those here for the fabulous cakes; and those here for the £8.75 peppered-steak focaccia sandwich
12 Barclay Terrace, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 229 1394
Geoff and Kate Ness's friendly American-style restaurant is famous for its prime Scottish steaks. Rump with coleslaw and chips or buttered potatoes is just £10.95
Hix Oyster & Chop House
36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7017 1930
A full-flavoured hanger steak served with a halved, stuffed marrowbone is £14.90, although some have been known to drop £63 on the porterhouse for two
Read 'Eat', Terry Durack's blog, at independent.co.uk/eatReuse content