Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: Steam and Rye

27 Jun 2014 by Jenny Southan


There are plenty of swanky restaurants in the City for bankers to splash their cash but, other than Steam and Rye, there aren’t many (any) where you can ride a mechanical rodeo bull in a restaurant inspired by New York’s Grand Central station, in between chowing down on giant platters of braised beef short ribs, grilled baby chicken and jumbo prawns.

An ode to all things American, the outlandish Steam and Rye opened last November on Leadenhall Street, and is owned by Nick House, owner of glitzy nightclubs Mahiki, Whisky Mist and Bodo's Schloss, and his business partner model/actress Kelly Brook. 


First off, I have to say my big disappointment was that the bull only comes out on Mondays – so on the Saturday night I dined there, I had to make do with entertainment in the form of the World Cup, showing on screens set into the wall of each of the five booths they have set along the right-hand wall of the vast, high-ceilinged interior.

Having said that, there were also dancing show girls, indoor fireworks, rounds of shots being served in the jaws of enormous fake dinosaur skulls, and a live cover band headed up by the guy from the Nurofen advert (if you catch the Tube, you will know who I mean). So I was anything but bored.

In fact, the amount of noise and music and displays of flesh (both from the entertainers and the clientele – gaggles of peroxide blondes in tight dresses and fake tan) meant that eating was something you kind of did without looking.

This was not helped by the fact that when the lights went down at about 9.30pm, it became almost impossible to see what was in front of you anyway – unless, that is, the cocktail you just ordered came with a giant sparkler in it. One of my companions commented that the music was so loud she could feel her insides shaking while trying to eat her lobster roll.

Steam and Rye, you see, is a theme venue, over-flowing with plastic memorabilia from “America’s Gilded Age”, put together by a Hollywood set designer. The website reads: “Inspired by the United States in the early 1900’s, the decadent late bar and restaurant offers live music and dancing with a classic Americana theme. The grand living of the Great Gatsby era is met by the old ways of the Wild West and travelling shows will be fused with the stirrings of the new, young sound of rock ’n’ roll.”

Accommodating 350 people in the main restaurant, there is a clock above the bar modelled on that of Grand Central station, a stage and the booths, which seat up to eight people and are fancifully described as “the Eastern Pacific Steam Train Carriages”. Out the back is Beamish’s Study, a private dining room for 40 people, “which is where our fictional hero planned his travels, inspected his curiosities and eventually passed away whilst indulging in a spot of taxidermy”. Bizarre.

A further 75 people can be hosted upstairs in the mezzanine-level Cargo Hold, which has a glass window looking down on the main restaurant, along with another 70 guests in the basement First Class Cocktail Carriage with “intimate leather-lined booths” and “exotic cocktails from the richly laden bar”. If you are looking for a place for your next work bash, this could be it.


My experience of dinner was mixed – and I went in full knowledge of what it was going to be like, with a sense of humour and low expectations of the culinary experience. To start with, our booth smelt faintly like feet, the kind of grimy, sweaty smell you get in a bowling alley, our table was wobbly and the drinks took a long time to come. That said, it might have been because the cocktails they serve are ridiculously over-the-top – like something you’d be served in a theme park in Las Vegas.

I ordered a £12 Dead Man’s Boot, simply because it sounded a bit more palatable than any of the others (chilli-infused tequila, ginger beer, lemon, hold the vanilla) – this came in a boot-shaped vessel filled to the brim with crushed ice and a Stars and Stripes flag sticking out. I was also given a jug of the actual cocktail to pour in myself – presumably because when you try and do this, it instantly overflows and goes all over the table. (I was warned though.)

My friend JLR chose one that came in a ship’s lantern, but was undrinkable with all the absinthe that went into it. The most popular cocktail, apparently, is the Mississippi Lullaby (£9), while those with the best names include the Abraham Lincoln, the Hoochy Mama and the Monica Lewinsky (whipped cream is involved). Everything I tried was overly sweet and unsophisticated. In the end we ordered a round of vodka martinis, which weren’t bad at all, and some bottles of beer.

The menu revolves around meat and seafood, with phrases such as “1KG EXTRA MEATY”, “EAT AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE” and “PLATTER FOR 4-6 TO SHARE” jumping off the page in red. We ordered lobster rolls (chunky slices of toasted brioche filled with a high ratio of mayo to lobster and the odd bit of shell), French fries, mac and cheese (rich and creamy), and wedge salad (crisp iceberg lettuce topped with croutons, blue cheese, bacon and buttermilk).

Somehow, with all the madness going on around us and the constant rounds of drinks, eating took a back seat. So no one got stuck into the baked beans and pulled pork with cornbread, despite initial discussions about it, or any of the steaks, fresh Canadian lobsters or josper-grilled salmon.

By 10.45pm the party was in full swing and it was too late in the night to order “Dolores Desserts and Treats”. A shame, because the Mega Sundae (£18.50) for three to six people would have no doubt been amazing. The staff, it has to be said, put up with a lot and work very hard. Although the drinks were slow, our waiters and waitresses were good humoured, doing their best to give us a fun time.

If you are about to discount Steam and Rye entirely because you are on a diet, ladies (yes, this is only for ladies) can come for the Sorority Club on Wednesdays for a special low calorie menu with 50 per cent off. There is live music every Tuesday to Saturday.


Steam and Rye is a crazy place for unsophisticated drink and carb-fuelled nights out in London’s financial district. It’s like a slice of Las Vegas, right in the heart of the City. You will either love it, or hate it. The food is decent, for what it is, but the cocktails won’t suit a discerning palate. It’s more about the entertainment.


  • OPENING HOURS Monday to Wednesday 12pm to late. Thursday and Friday 12pm to 3am. Saturdays 5pm to 3am. Closed Sundays but available for private hire.
  • PRICES Appetisers £5.95-£10.80; burgers/sandwiches £11.95-£13.95; medium lobster £19.95; steaks £19.95-£32; platter for four to six people £49.50. Eat as much as you like (shrimps/BBQ ribs) Monday and Tuesday for £16.95.
  • CONTACT 147 Leadenhall Street, London; tel +44 020 7444 9960; 

Jenny Southan

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