Restaurant Review: Heliot Steak House @ The Hippodrome, Leicester Square, WC2
PUBLISHED: 15:08 03 September 2014 | UPDATED: 15:08 03 September 2014
If someone invited me out to dinner, then told me we were eating right next to Leicester Square Tube, I’d vaguely start to wonder if they were harbouring some kind of grudge.
Tube; Leicester Square
T: 0207 769 8888
Mains: from £9
Wine: from £23
Children welcome: No
Disabled access: Yes
It’s not that there aren’t great places to eat in the thick of the west end, but round the station – said to be the busiest street corner in Europe – is tourist central, replete with over-priced steak house, uninspiring chains and the slightly grotty boozers.
And nowhere looks more likely to attract foolhardy Russian’s with a thin grasp of the exchange rate than the rather grand looking Hippodrome.
Have I enjoyed a spot of late night libation and a cheeky bet there? Of course I have. Would it be my first choice for dinner? I think not.
More fool me, because the Heliot Steak House – named after the famous female lion tamer who fed raw meat to her big cats at the Hippodrome 100 years ago – is your archetypal hidden gem.
Two things strike you straight way about the place; first is the view. Sitting on a balcony overlooking a busy gaming floor makes you feel like Tony Montana or Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein.
The second thing is the price. I did a bit of a double take at the menu; starters a fiver, Dover sole for £14, even the fillets’ £20. There has to be some kind of catch.
But no – it turns out that, in the Las Vegas mould, the food is subsidised by cash from the gaming tables. But there’s no obligation to bet, and it’s quality stuff; juicy seared scallops with crunchy prosciutto, thick prawns laid elegantly on iceberg lettuce, all manner of crustacean grilled to a treat, dripping in garlic.
The millionaire’s mac and cheese was one of the most indulgent things I’ve ever eaten - complete with duck egg and slices of truffle.
But despite an array of tempting dishes – the lamb cutlets were tenderness personified (if lacking a touch of seasoning) – the star of the show is undoubtedly the steak.
A blind taste test led management, much to my patriotic chagrin, to pick USDA beef over the best of British, but my word what a tasty bit of meat.
The rib-eye was dished up as requested (medium rare), with a hint of chargrilled bitterness, great texture and flavour and a frankly decedent helping over blue cheese sauce.
It’s a fantastic place, and I’m already planning a trip back; a bite to eat and a limited bet would be a great way to entertain out of town visitors.
The Hippodrome has a fascinating past, from high-diving midgets to Charlie Chaplin – with the Heliot, alongside various bars, gaming rooms and live cabaret shows, it’s got an equally interesting future.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.