The chef-director at Tomahawk Steakhouse, which recently launched a restaurant in York, reveals the secret to a great steak and the company's ambitions to bring the brand to London.
You recently opened your eighth site in York. How have the first few weeks gone?
It's been hard work, but it just took off – we did 500 covers on the opening day and 400 pretty much every day since. The growth of Tomahawk has been phenomenal and it wouldn't have been possible without our amazing staff. Many have been with us from the start of the Tomahawk journey.
Who are your main customers?
We get all walks of life. It's great for special occasions as we have big-hitting dishes, such as the wagyu sharing board and lobsters, but our lunch menus are very reasonable, with dishes for £10-£12. If you want to make it a special occasion, dress up, pop the Champagne and eat oysters and lobsters, then by all means, but we also have customers who come two or three times a week. We're not pretentious and we're open to everybody.
You're opening in the former site of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen in Hoxton at the end of the year – that sounds like an exciting move
London is a huge step, but an exciting one. Hopefully it will be the showstopper to put us on the map. About three years ago we had this daft idea of opening a steakhouse in a little village – we've got nine now plus the Rios [Brazilian Steakhouse] and the takeaways. London is the big one.
London is a huge step, but an exciting one. Hopefully it will be the showstopper to put us on the map
Has customer demand for steak remained strong despite the trend towards more plant-based diets?
It has, but on the flip-side you'd be surprised by how many vegans come and eat with us, so we've had to adapt. We're here to offer a service to diners and, if we can capture vegans and vegetarians in that market, then fantastic.
You source some of your steaks from Tom Hixson of Smithfield. What is special about them?
I contacted Tom about wagyu originally and we got on well. When we opened Rio Brazilian in Jesmond in Newcastle, he did a lot of the meat there – Brazilian cuts and South American steaks. The Hereford is a well-known brand, one of the oldest UK cattle, and still classed as a rare breed. The marbling on the ribeye is absolutely second to none.
What's the secret to a good steak?
The animals have to be raised properly and with respect. We use the best meat and allow it to come to room temperature before service. We don't rush it – after cooking we let the steak rest as long as possible. And good seasoning matters. Steaks tend to take a lot more salt and pepper than you would normally use. If you have the combination of those, then you've got a recipe for success.
How have you had to adapt the restaurants since reopening?
We've had to remove tables but that's not a disadvantage as we were well spaced-out anyway. We've had to adapt service so that's been quite challenging for front of house, but we've adapted well, I think. We've had reviews and emails from people saying they feel safe and secure and that our systems are really good. That's always nice to hear from guests.
What are you most looking forward to over the coming weeks?
Howard [Eggleston, co-director] is constantly on the search for new sites, so there's no let up on that side of things. We've got London to look forward to and there could well be another Rio's Brazilian Steakhouse.
The government did a good job in helping hospitality after the uncertainty we all felt at the beginning [of the pandemic, so it's put us in a good position to expand the brand. I'll get York settled, then look to get London open before Christmas. It's a great site with a lot of heritage from what Jamie's done there, so it'll be all systems go for London. We firmly believe that what we do is solid and London will be a new chapter of our business.
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