You know, I’ve been through a lot of terrible things in my years as a food critic. A mackerel dressed in rhubarb syrup. Stew made with prime bear cuts. Jeremy Clarkson eats a dumpling.
Yet few sites can compare to the obscenity of a grilled tomahawk steak wrapped in 24k gold foil and priced at over £ 700. It’s the house specialty at the newly opened Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London, where prices start in the expensive volcanic foothills and escalate into an eruption of gold-plated meat excess.
Surely you would think that no one in their right mind would order such a thing? However, the table next to me has just ordered two, which arrive sizzling on wooden trays, ingots of meat for the hollow of the pocket and jaded appetite.
Elsewhere in the crowded restaurant, diners feast on other Nusr-Et specialties such as ‘spaghetti with meat’ – thin strips of steak wrapped around a fork and eaten like pasta – or slices of counter. fillet cooked at the table by pouring a bubbling cauldron of hot butter over them.
It’s a scene, it’s wild, it’s a carnival for rich carnivores who don’t mind paying £ 100 for a gold leaf burger or £ 9 for a Coke to wash it down. And, surprisingly, just days after the restaurant opened in Knightsbridge, there was no shortage of takers.
On Saturday lunchtime the joint pops, the state-of-the-art charcoal grills sizzle – but the hottest thing in the place has to be owner Nusret Gökçe himself, who creates ripples of excitement at whenever he appears on the ground.
On Saturday lunchtime the joint pops, state-of-the-art charcoal grills sizzle – but the hottest thing in the place has to be owner Nusret Gökçe (pictured in 2017) himself, who creates ripples of excitement every time it appears on the floor
Today, the 38-year-old wears a stylish bow tie with his usual gold-rimmed sunglasses and has his hair tied back in a bun. Small and muscular, he is as compact as an acrobat and is suspected to revel in his fleeting resemblance to Johnny Depp. “I’m not a movie star, but I still get my picture taken when I walk down the street hundreds of times,” he said recently. ‘I never say no.’
Until 2017, Nusret was just another Turkish butcher turned chef, a man well known in the Middle East for his high-end steakhouses and slice-of-steak flamboyance, but little known elsewhere.
Then a meme of him preparing and seasoning meat in his trademark “sultry” way became an internet sensation. Today, he has 38 million followers on Instagram and is worth millions. ‘Wow!’ is its slogan. Barely original, but like the thick mustard glaze on some of his steaks, it sticks.
On screen and in the flesh, Nusret strokes and slaps the meat, chops it with the precision of a surgeon and then, in the resistance piece, sprinkles it with salt in a way that has gone viral.
With his arm folded like a swan’s neck, he lets the crystals bounce off his muscular forearm and onto the steak. “I wanted it to look like salt from the sky. It was my golden touch, ”he says. Today, he is known as the “King of Meat” and also the “sexiest butcher in the world”, although the competition for the latter was not fierce.
What’s going on? It used to be that chefs needed a TV series or a book – or at least a fabulous recipe – to become famous. But it took Nusret 37 seconds of salty theater to secure his fame and fortune.
Now he has the nickname of Salt Bae, a chain of 17 restaurants around the world and has become a brand. Rihanna wears her own T-shirt, David Beckham and Lionel Messi are fans, boxer Conor McGregor was fed £ 800 gold steak in the Nusr-Et in Dubai, while actor Jason Statham visits the Beverly Hills branch. Nusret claims avid customer Leonardo DiCaprio said his steak was “the best meat he’s ever had in his life.”
The restaurant in London is the newest outpost, its opening delayed due to Covid. Here, each table is set with Nusr-Et brand cutlery and, alarmingly, a pair of steel tongs. Despite what Leo says, I’m not too impressed with my first course, a steak tartare (£ 40) served on a wooden board adorned with a nifty smear of mustard and tomato ketchup.
Instead of the usual hand-minced steak, this tartare looks like some kind of hellish meat jam, with the texture of a lipstick mash. Despite the invigorating addition of capers and seasonings, it tastes absolutely tasteless.
But whatever, Salt Bae is with us! Nusret walks through the restaurant in a royal procession, flanked by his two in-house photographers (I’m not kidding) and followed by his salt carrier, whose job is to carry a bowl of salt crystals behind the master, like Balthazar carrying myrrh. .
Nusret knows what is expected of him. At each table, he dons a new pair of black latex gloves and saws the steaks with speed and skill, despite the nuances.
He camps, swaying suggestively, using the tip of his knife to knock slices of meat down his clients’ throats, like a sparrow feeding its chicks.
On his wrist is a diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe watch, but he uses his everyday F. Dick Breaking Knife with a blue plastic handle to cut meat. At £ 17, it’s probably the cheapest thing in the room, certainly cheaper than the house salad, which costs £ 23.
Little can compare to the obscenity of a grilled tomahawk steak wrapped in 24k gold foil and priced at over £ 700. It’s the house specialty at the newly opened Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London, where prices start in the expensive volcanic foothills and escalate into an eruption of gold-plated meat excess.
As he tours, I notice he’s not without humor, fending off the gruff embarrassment of a beefy Russian who doesn’t want to be hand-fed steak like a baby. “No,” said the Salt Bae. ‘I insist.’ He’s kind to kids, he’s kind to laydeez and yikes, he walks over to me. Am I ready for my audience with the God of Meat? It’s now or never.
“Make sure she gets a nice video,” he said, handing my phone to the waiter before tackling our meat order on the table.
He slices the £ 120 sirloin steak with the momentum of someone who apprenticed as a butcher in the back streets of Istanbul, from an age when he had to stand on a box to reach the counter . He then slices the £ 100 Golden Burger, lifts half of it, then squeezes it until the fat runs out. He does the same with the other half, looks me straight in the eye and, in a low, husky voice, says ‘WOW!’
He floods the entire table with a blizzard of salt, then, with the ease of an Insta star, walks in for a selfie, patting my arm, rubbing my back. It smells good, much fresher from the meadows than the Air from the Slaughterhouse I expected.
What’s the secret to your success, I ask him, thinking that “nine pounds for a coke” or “the 15% service charge” would be correct answers. Instead, he’s momentarily puzzled.
“Let me think about it,” he says, and he goes off to make sexier slices, as macho as a man with his own line of condiments can be.
Its salts include Aegean salt, smoked salt, and confusingly, black pepper salt, but before I can think about the mysteries of that, it’s back.
“My secret to success is that I work 20 hours a day,” he says. But does this translate into the plate? It’s a pretty decent burger, made with its secret mix of meat, but it’s nothing special. I remember Daniel Boulud’s burger Royale, served at DB Bistro Moderne in New York, being superior.
The steak is good but the dominant flavor is salt. The only thing that makes it all special is the tasteless and odorless gold leaf. To eat a Golden Burger is to sit under a cloud of shame and hope that it is gone soon.
But who is this international man in the mystery of meat? Rumors about Nusret abound. He smokes cigars, he travels in a private jet, he eats six egg whites for breakfast. He has nine children. No, he has 13! The son of a miner from eastern Turkey, he worked his way out of poverty into a world of salty glamor and gold-paved steaks.
It is because of him that the east end of Knightsbridge now smells of delicious barbecue and that customers line up outside his restaurant. How did he do it? By turning meat into a luxury “experience” that people will pay more for, by “taking butchery to another level” and turning a steak dinner into what he hopes will be an erotic experience.
So if your idea of sexy is a Depp-like charmer in black plastic gloves, wielding a dick knife and squeezing the juice out of your buns, then baby you’re in luck.
Nusr-Et. The Park Tower Hotel, London SW1.