A damn good bet

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I wouldn’t usually bet on USDA prime beef, in fact I’d usually bet against it; far too often I’ve bet using my heart hoping for a tasty steak rather than my head and the bet just hasn’t paid off. I’ve even tried to avoid USDA prime beef. But after much convincing from a friend, who has proved trustworthy in her recommendations, I decided to roll the dice at Heliot Steak House, a USDA steak focused restaurant.

The Setting

Heliot steak house is uniquely set. It is located in the Hippodrome Casino immediately off Leicester Square in the heart of London. The Hippodrome, built at the turn of the 20th century, was originally used for circus and music performances. Over the course of the last century it was used as a theatre, a nightclub and finally in 2013 was tastefully refurbished and re purposed as a Casino. The restaurant is located in what would be the circle seating area of your typical west end theatre (accessible by going through the main casino floor). This gives the restaurant a unique arrangement with tables set on various tiers overlooking the main play room of the Casino.

The steakhouse is focused on USDA prime steaks. These are steaks from the United States meeting the highest possible grading set by the local department of agriculture. If you’ve read my recent review of Grill to Chill you’ll be aware of my grievances against USDA prime beef and well aware that I don’t rate it as highly as European beef from British Longhorn, Spanish Rubio Gallega or Italian Fassona cows. If you want some background to USDA beef you can read the Steak Society wiki on it here.

An image of the tiered seating at Heliot Steak house
The tiered seating at Heliot Steak house

The Steak

There are two steak menus, the standard menu consisting of 28 day aged USDA prime steaks and a secondary menu with USDA prime steaks dry-aged for an additional 60-90 days. This is some pretty major ageing. Dry ageing is the process of storing beef at low temperatures usually for about four weeks, removing moisture and promoting the growth of micro-organisms which breakdown the meat. The outcome of the dry ageing process is steak that is more tasty and tender.

What is immediately noticeable about the menu is how reasonably priced the steak is. A 350gm USDA Prime Rib Eye costs only £22 while a 650gm T-Bone is £30. This is excellent value for USDA prime beef. Even the sides are generously priced at only £2 each. I decided to try out the extra dry aged rib on the bone steak with sides of sweet potato fries, parsnips and a bit of béarnaise sauce. The others went for the Rib-Eye and Fillet from the standard menu.

An image of bone-in-rib steak at Heliot Steak House
Rib-on-the-bone steak at Heliot Steak house

The steaks were presented on large cast iron trays and looked excellent. The 28 day aged steaks were thick, but my extra aged steak was only about 1cm thick and about half as thick as the standard steaks, which was a bit disappointing. This is obviously due to having different cuts of steak, but a thin stick always feels like punishment! However, the steak was exceptionally tender and I was struck by something I very rarely experience in USDA steak: the taste of beef! I was really impressed. My friends who had the fillet and rib eye also confirmed that their steaks were unusually tasty.

I can’t recall ever having such a tasty USDA steak. I remember USDA steaks for their size and tenderness  rather than their taste. Being stuck on the unusual tastiness, I reached out to Heliot’s head chef Ioannis Grammenos to understand the secret behind the taste. Ioannis informed me that they focus on using Prime beef from more mature cows at the upper age limit of what qualifies for prime beef under USDA standards. As a result the beef has more complex marbling and better flavour.

The verdict

Heliot steak house has single handily rehabilitated my perception of USDA prime beef. If you are out for good USDA prime steak then Heliot steak house is a great bet. It’s unique setting, excellent prices and its unusually tasty USDA steaks makes it a great steakhouse and a real challenger to Flat Iron for the best value steak in London.

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