It is the proud boast of Farmer, Butcher, Chef, the new restaurant on the Goodwood Estate in Sussex, that “our customers will travel farther than their food”. The farmer is Tim Hassell, who has thousands of acres of rolling chalk hills on which to rear beef, pork and lamb; the butcher is John Hearn, who set up the estate’s in-house butchery three years ago; and the chef is Darron Bunn, formerly of Michelin-starred The Greyhound in Stockbridge.
I only popped down from London, but had definitely travelled farther than the “Butcher’s Board” of beef that constituted my main course in the airy, elegantly decorated dining room. Restaurants on idyllic country estates often have a whiff of the Marie Antoinette school of farming about them, but one forkful of a properly rustic, offal-scented oxtail faggot was enough to dispel a sceptical Gannet’s fears.
The beef here is Sussex Red, farmed at Goodwood for centuries, with impressive marbling and a fine flavour. The board yielded rare skirt steak (a rewarding chew); a Little Gem salad with splinters of salted brisket; a sticky mound of shredded beef shin, strewn with herbed crumbs; breaded ox heart; chips cooked in dripping; and lashings of gravy. Glorious Goodwood? You bet.
The only bulls grazing around Threadneedle Street are speculating on the stock market, but that did not deter Martin Williams, Gaucho’s former MD, from opening M restaurant. Stylish and ambitious – much like Williams himself – the restaurant subverts the testosterone-laden, Malbec-fuelled ambience of the standard steakhouse. Executive chef Michael Reid’s menu matches beauty with the beast: exquisite kingfish sashimi, for instance, delicately dressed with tangerine, tarragon and fennel; or a whole burrata, anointed with cucumber, peas and English wasabi.
Which is not to say that M’s menu lacks muscle. As food miles go, if Goodwood is a bicycle, M is a jumbo jet: the steaks come from Japan, Argentina, the US, South Africa and Australia, as well as closer to home, and the excellent wine list is equally far-flung. Richly flavoured braised USDA prime short rib combines with sweet-sharp tomato pesto sauce and earthy watercress purée, to fine effect; Highland wagyu is perfectly cooked, just on the medium side of rare, melting the unctuous, heavy marbling; and wood-smoked lamb chops have perky broad beans for company.
Main dishes for the meat-averse include top-notch wild seabass, topped with fermented wombok (a Chinese cabbage, not the offspring of a wombat and a springbok, despite the menu’s global peregrinations) and there is much of interest as side orders: cos and Parmesan salad with smoked potato mayonnaise; or broccoli with anchovies and herby crumbs. M Threadneedle St (there is an equally lavish outpost in Victoria) is also home to a private members’ lounge, a wine-tasting room and a cocktail bar: whatever M stands for, it is certainly not just meat.