The Hippodrome Casino knows how punters like their meat – and we’re not talking about the Magic Mike Live show that just opened in the venue’s theatre. The gambling destination is home to Heliot Steak House, which, based on consumer reviews, won Bookatable’s Best Steak Restaurant in London accolade in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
But for the establishment’s executive chef, Ioannis Grammenos, it’s not just about giving people what they want; it’s also about trying to get diners to eat more of the cow carcass.
This can be challenging, however, as most visitors have established favourite cuts – women visiting Heliot tend to opt for the leaner fillet, while men choose rib-eye accompanied by spicy sauces like pepper and chimichurri.
“We train our waiters to go and talk about other cuts of meat and how good they are, and give people the opportunity to try them,” Grammenos tells Food Spark. “But people, when they want fillet, they want fillet!”
That’s part of the reason he started running the School of Meatology, which offers courses that educate customers about meat as well as how to cook it at home.
All the trimmings
Cooking a steak might seem like a fairly simple affair, but a survey conducted for Heliot by Censuswide earlier this year found that 25% of Brits aren’t confident they know how to deal with their meat, while more than a third admit they overcook their beef when they do attempt it, leaving them disappointed with the result.
In some ways, more unusual cuts can be less daunting, since they are best slow cooked or stewed, such as the flank.
“Another [unusual cut] is the tri-tip, in the end of the loin and beginning of the rump,” says Grammenos. “It’s a triangle steak that they used to use in the ‘50s and then it disappeared, but now it’s started to come back. It has a very nice, intense flavour and it is cheaper on the market. People can use it and have the same flavour as rump, but for a lower price.”
The Greek chef tries to waste as little as possible in his kitchen. Trimmings from prime cuts are turned into burgers and meatballs, while fat is melted down and used to cook vegetables. Less commonly eaten parts of the cow, meanwhile, are cooked into stews for staff or form part of Grammenos’ experiments.
“Being sustainable means reducing waste, and to do that you have to use the best of the whole carcass,” he says. “Everybody is doing it now, but what we need to educate people is in a no-waste attitude, to have in their mind that they can use every part of the animal.
“You can use the bones to make sauces or stock, the bone marrow to make spreads or to use on steaks. And with a bit of research, everybody can find different cuts of meat and recipes to help them reduce waste.”
Playing with fire
Like many chefs on London’s restaurant scene, Grammenos has been playing with fire and different types of wood to use in barbecues, from applewood to wood that’s been soaked for 24 hours in whiskey. He even brings smoking to some of his salads, which he prepares with chicory.
One of his favourite techniques involves wrapping steaks in banana or fig leaves before grilling.
“You can also use sous vide with infused oils,” he adds. “I love to use oils with thyme or lemon thyme, and other natural extracts… I leave herbs and things like black garlic for 30 days in olive oil, then use them in sous vide. I like to experiment a lot.”
Quality of the meat, unsurprisingly, is paramount at Heliot Steak House, from the USDA prime Black Angus to the New Zealand Te Mana free-range lamb with its high levels of omega-3.
Grammenos has also been looking at older cattle from the Basque region of Spain, which boast distinctive yellow fat and have been favoured by a number of fashionable haunts in recent years, including Chiltern Firehouse and Barrafina.
“Goat isn’t on the menu at the moment but it’s something I’m thinking about for the future,” he says. “If I was going to do goat, I’d want a nice yoghurt sauce.”
Considering the rising popularity of the meat, that doesn’t sound like a baa-d idea.