Friday, July 6, 2012

The Eagle's Steak Sandwich, 5th July

The ‘eagle-eyed’ amongst you (geddit) may have noticed that the Eagle pub features on my Food List and not my Drink List. It is on my Food List for one reason alone – the Bife Ana, or steak sandwich, as recommended by Time Out’s 1000 Things to Do in London. It was on my List when I read it, and then I went to the Eagle and saw someone order it and knew it belonged on my List.

So yes, I had actually been to the Eagle once before, but was either a) trying to save money, b) trying to lose weight or c) going to the gym which has the added benefit of achieving both a and b. This meant I only had one drink and no food. But I had seen the steak sandwich, couldn’t get it out of my mind in fact, and was glad when we needed to kill some time last night before the Shard laser show as it gave me the chance to finally try it.

The Eagle itself is a rather shabby looking pub on Farringdon Road. It is credited with being the first ‘gastropub’ in that it started serving decent food, but was also a pub. By today’s definition of gastropub (all big fireplaces, kitchen and restaurant in the back, brass fittings) it wouldn’t really deserve such a title. It’s affiliated with Great Queen Street and the Anchor and Hope, which I hear are very good (and may need to go on the List) and their ex-cook has gone on to work at the Canton Arms which I know first-hand is fabulous. So it has a high food pedigree.

When you go in, you see that half the bar is converted into a cooking area. Fresh bread is cut on the bar, and vegetables to be used in the dishes sit on top of it. The menu is chalked onto boards above this area, and you order and pay for the food at the adjacent part of the bar where you also get your drinks served. Normally when I eat somewhere, I try to have something different to everyone else so that we all try as much as possible. Not this time. Two steak sandwiches were ordered and I handed over my £20 (they’re £10 each). We already had a couple of drinks on the go which we finished off while waiting for the food. Very, very reasonable prices in here. My wine was actually less expensive than Stephen’s lager, which is almost unheard of in pubs these days. Granted, it was a medium (175 ml) glass but I think my point still stands.

As Stephen was waiting at the bar to order another round, the waiter came over and plonked our behemoth sandwiches down. He then noticed Stephen waiting and told him he would bring our drinks over as the food was served and clearly it wouldn’t do to let it get cold. I thought that was very thoughtful of him. Because there’s really only half a bar in this pub, any more than a few people waiting and it takes quite a long time to get served. Stephen asked about mustard but we were firmly told that we didn’t need any of that.

I think they were right. This is the best steak sandwich I’ve had in a long time. I can’t really think of a better one. I’m not saying it’s the best steak I’ve ever had, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the best way steak can be served in this form. It is sliced and cooked probably medium well. It comes in a crusty Portuguese-style (or so I think) roll and sits on a few large, robust lettuce leaves and is all doused in chimichurri sauce (again, I think), which gave it a very Latin American taste. It also made it quite slippery and difficult to eat, and you can tell that a firmer bread is necessary, as even with this one, by the end, the upper half was getting soggy.

It was actually bigger than I remembered. I took the approach of cutting it into three and then picking it up with my hands. Stephen’s method was a little more avant garde, deconstructing it and building it again in smaller pieces to eat his. I enjoyed every bite of mine. Before attempting my last third I asked Stephen if he would like some of it, but my greed got the better of me and I finished the whole thing. The only downside was that the crusty bread did cut my mouth a little. Maybe I have supersoft gums.

I’m not sure how crazy I am about the pub in general. There’s a wide range of people there – people having a drink after work, young girls sharing bottles of wine and bread and olives, and even families. It was all a bit chaotic and incredibly noisy. Not the place to go for a romantic drink, and I think if a drink is all I want I’d probably go to other places in the area. But it wasn’t a drink I was after, it was a steak sandwich and I was very much more than pleased with mine.

NB. The Shard laser show was a bit crap, but what did you expect? It was only the completion of a building, not the Queen's Jubilee or anything.

The Eagle on Urbanspoon

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