Bryan Martin August 01, 2012
Kingsleys Steakhouse, Boston Bay Mussels Mariniere. Photo: Jay Cronan
Kingsleys is a purpose-built monument to the art of eating a steak - and a pretty good-value carnivorous experience.
When you get the urge it's damn hard to move on without satiating it. It doesn't happen often but when it does, pow, you've got to bring out the caveman and simply have a good steak for dinner.
I don't particularly need to know too much about this steak - who its mum and dad were, what it ate last, and from which part of its anatomy it came from. I'll leave that up to the place that calls itself a steakhouse because all I want is that feeling of fulfilment that can only come from eating part of a cow that you didn't know.
There are a few of us meeting for dinner at Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse tonight, and I have a pre-game tete a tete: okay team, we're at a steakhouse and you all know what to do, right?
After my last visit, not long after it opened in 2007, I have made sure to come with plenty of cash, because sometimes you have to hang the expense and go for an $80 piece of meat. So it's a nice surprise that the menu doesn't seem as expensive as I recalled. Which means, a, I've become extremely wealthy and successful and money doesn't matter anymore, or b, they've made their pricing more affordable. While I have a wealth of happiness and time, my plans to become a pork mogul haven't come to fruition yet, so it must be the latter.
You still can spend the best part of 100 bucks on a steak and sides, but the steak will be a family-sized kilo of T-bone. Tonight, there looks to be the first XV from St Eddies doing a good job at devouring a cow between them. But the prices overall seem very reasonable - waygu striploin at $16.50 per 100 grams (200 grams minimum, that, unless I'm mistaken, is $33), aged pasture-fed rump, bam, under $30. And the king of steaks, ribeye, at $39.90 for 350 grams.
If you are a beef fanatic - and actually I alternate between being passionate and whatever - you can get into the difference between grass fed and grain fed, waygu and angus, striploin and ribeye. I'm happy with most of it, but prefer the lesser cuts from waygu beef, which is why tonight I resist the urge to order 1000 grams of 120-day grain-fed Riverine T-bone for a more restrained and intriguing 500-day grain-fed, Tajima (black waygu) flank steak with a marble score of 7-8+ ($26.50). I just make sure the forwards can't see what I'm having.
The restaurant, if you haven't been before, has that American wood-grained look to it, a bar towards the back, moody, meat-eating lighting and a plethora of staff, some whose purpose seems mysterious. Like, I get uniforms, the corporate thing, but what's the guy in jeans doing?
We have to wait till our 8pm booking, so we grab a few bread cobs ($4) and lamb riblets, pate and chilli squid to pass the time. These are all pleasant and don't distract from the beef theme too much. Think of them as a musical interlude before a rugby game. The riblets ($14.90) are doused in a sweet sticky Asiany glaze, good Peroni food is all, and the regulation chillied squid ($14.90) come with nice crisp chickpeas alongside.
The wine list is wide-ranging, reasonably priced, with plenty by the glass. As I'm leaning towards the flank steak with chimichurri sauce I'd better have a tempranillo. Sure, it's a long bow to link the two, but they both sound sort of Spanish. Mr Riggs ($59) is as good an Aussie version as you can get for the price, with good substance, that attractive raspberry fruit note and savoury tannins.
Flank steak is funny cut. Like brisket, there's only one from each cow and if you can imagine that you are tickling me on the tummy, quite low down, that would be the bit if I were a cow. It's quite a textural cut, normally needing some good low-temperature cooking, but because its waygu, it's beautiful cooked rare, loads of marbling still evident, and while it is still slightly chewy, the flavour is supremely beefy. It's just the right size, the crisp, battered onion rings a triumph of companion plating and the herby, tart sauce cuts through with purpose and character.
There are a few odd choices at our table. It's like the old saying, you can bring a cow to the river. So orders of Boston mussels ($28.80) in creamy sauces look good, lots of freshly steamed black mussels in a billy-like pot, but we didn't come to the musselhouse. A grilled kingfish with that classic Chinese soy and ginger topping is fragrant, salty and juicy, but we aren't at the Chinese soy and ginger fishhouse, right? I don't even want to talk about the kangaroo fillet. Sure, it was appropriately cooked medium rare and the peppery flavour would have been right at an eat-all-you-can native coat-of-arms animal house, but, as I look around the table with contempt, we are at a steakhouse, people!
You're all fired! But wait, my nephew, down the back, Chris, my man, went for it and did me proud: Jack straight up, a Crownie and a T-bone. Good to see a young man that knows that you don't bring a ballerina to a rugby tournament.
Address: Ground floor, north quarter, Canberra Centre, Bunda Street, city
Phone: 1300 546 475
Owner: Pacific Restaurant Group
Chef: Paul Balfour
Hours: Seven days, lunch noon-3pm, dinner from 5.30pm
Licensed: Yes, no BYO
Vegetarian: One entree, but the name says it all
To pay: All cards
Wheelchair access: Yes, including disabled toilets
Seats: 152 inside, 60 outside
Wine list: 3/4
Value for money: 3/4
11 something went wrong. 12 not so great tonight. 13 fine for a cheap and cheerful, not so for a place that aspires to the top end. 14 good. 15 really good. 16 great, when can we move in. 17-20 brilliant. The stars are a quick reference to the key highs or lows. They do not relate directly to the score out of 20.