Just off Oxford Street, opposite an 18th century chapel, is a temple devoted to meat. Its menu is pared down to two options: gigantic king crabs and hunks of steak. Beast certainly lives up to its name.
Greeted by Stephen Garrett's monstrous bronze bear on entering the foyer, I was hustled into a glass elevator, zipping down to the basement to lock eyes with the alien-like crustacean specimens encased in glass boxes similar to mine. Stepping into the dining area, an ecclesiastical vibe reflecting the chapel surroundings became apparent (at least to an overly analytical art history grad like me...) Here, bare brick and flickering candles proliferate, while long dining tables flanked by benches provide the perfect setting for breaking bread with one's neighbours. Or...um...king crab legs.
Beast was chosen to surprise John (aka Dumpling Shack) on his birthday, as organised by the wonderful Yee. Definitely the perfect dinner venue for a meat enthusiast! (Beast is also the place where these two had their first date. Excuse me while I melt...) The look on John's face when he walked in with Yee and saw us all waiting for him was priceless. Well done Yee!
With a pounding headache (going back to university equals exposure to the dreaded freshers' flu!) I opted for a mocktail. A very friendly bartender kindly made me up this delicious concoction, bursting with pineapples, mint and citrus. Just what I needed to pep me up!
To start: foie gras gyoza. The ultimate in luxury for the dumpling king! These were creamy and the flavours worked surprisingly well.
Juicy raw Sicilian red prawns - a perennial favourite.
Beautifully pink steak, which went very well with the numerous bowls of truffle chips we enjoyed. Now. This was excellent. But frankly, it paled in comparison to...
...the daddy of all crustaceans himself. This was the first time I'd had king crab in a good few years and it lived up to the memories. Part of the fun is in grappling with the spiky limbs to get at the flesh inside. Granted, I wasn't particularly brilliant at this and had to hand my crab over to those more skilled at handling the extraction (thank you Yee and John!!) but the meat inside was sweet and wonderfully fresh - as expected when you can see the live crabs from your seat!
And no Yee-organised event is complete without a #Bakeryee cake. Her rich chocolate cake with a generous layer of salted caramel buttercream was truly epic. The perfect way to round off a meal of such consistently high quality.
The first thing I thought when I looked at the menu was 'Blimey' (most of the dishes are pretty pricey); the second was 'This is just a glorified Burger and Lobster' (yup, I'm a cynic). And of course I was proved wrong. Yes, Beast is definitely a venue for a special occasion, as you will be cleaned out for at least the next few days. And yet I walked out feeling that it's worth the money. Everything I ate and drank that night was excellent, the setting created a wonderfully convivial atmosphere, and the waiters were attentive. What's more, I was surrounded by the best of company. I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable evening. Happy belated birthday, John!