SMITHS (capitalised once for correctness, but not to be repeated) is a newly opened spot in Spitalfields. Although it’s not really new, being an effective rebrand of the old LUXE (sic, old naming habits die hard seemingly), to share the branding of its Smithfield sibling. Cheshire high streets, beware! To be honest, I’m not 100% sure on the history or the status of John Torode's involvement (edit: he is no longer involved), but as this is a blog with no sub-editors or unpaid interns, boring facts can wait. It’s basically a reboot.
I liked the old Luxe, it was a well-executed venue with crisp branding and reasonable food and drink. Smiths is largely the same – at street level is a bar, with a restaurant upstairs and some sort of nightlife offering in the basement. Food is strikingly similar; a lot of grills and some random contemporary dishes such as braised short rib. There is some disconcertingly random geography among the starters; salads of green papaya co-exist with those of caprese, and both chicken liver parfait and spring rolls feature too.
The nuts and bolts of the place are decent. Service is especially lovely (I need to declare here that I was invited to review Smiths, so this could have been a factor) – and the grills were good. But I would not say brilliant. For an establishment known for meat (and John Torode did pitch himself as a beef expert at times) the steak wasn’t amazing. Grill temperature couldn’t have been high enough to deliver a medium-rare piece of meat like the above. It should be bristled with char and burn, not tokenistically striped like a Whopper.
With Hawksmoor up the road and St John opposite, you’d struggle attracting a high-spending clientele here at that calibre. But perhaps that’s a lazy comparison. It seems to be pitched a little lower - more heightened pub food than upmarket steakhouse although to be fair I don’t think they are stating otherwise.
My venison cheese burger was reasonable – a stonkingly dense venison patty, cooked medium and with Cashel blue on top which worked well. The chips were my naughties gastro pub nightmare: massively hot, enormous roast potatoes masquerading as ‘hand-cut chips’. For fuck’s sake, it’s hardly a hard-working artisan paradise cutting a potato three ways. Good whack of salad though.
What else? Well, the cheeseboard was pretty, adorned with celery and some random sprigs of herbs.
Smiths for some reason left me a little cold, much lesser than the sum of its parts. Everything was of a good standard and the staff were excellent, but I think it was missing an originality, a character or a quirkiness to be memorable. It’s safe, dependable and so straight down the line, that in being inoffensive it renders itself towards forgettable.