Miller and Carter, Mailbox

We like a good steak as much as the next man, but we’d never really considered the complex process from animal to dinner plate.

Truly, we’d rather not know, however an eye-opening behind-the-scenes trip to Miller and Carter changed all that and encouraged us to embrace the knowledge and appreciate the effort that goes into every hunk of juicy beef. Once in the impressive kitchen, the chefs at Miller and Carter refrained from doing that vague thing of spewing about happy animals, but what came across was an absolute obsession with the end product meaning that each steak they serve has been two years in the making. The attention to detail from field to plate is remarkable. Rearing cattle in tip-top condition and feeding them an optimum diet followed by a 30-day ageing process (wet and dry) results in top-notch beef being delivered to each restaurant in the 36-strong chain. Then it’s over to chef to get the cooking right. No pressure then…

FIRST THING’S FIRST

At weekends and evenings the restaurant is packed out. We visited on a Wednesday lunchtime which was a bit slower, but the atmosphere was still good and the place felt well-loved and lively. We thought we’d sample a starter, so we had to wait a little longer for the main event. With the prospect of red meat I went fishy and hungrily devoured a pretty dish of lemongrass and chilli tempura king prawns with sweet chilli jam. It was a winner and a good start. JC wasn’t as chuffed with his Bourbon glazed pork belly bites though. They tasted great, but the texture was a bit flabby and he’d expected a crispy bit of fat. The steaks are split into two sections – ‘dry and wet aged’ and ‘dry aged.’ The enthusiastic waiter explained that beef which is both wet and dry aged produces a juicier steak while purely dry ageing results in more flavour. We went for one of each. I chose the wet and dry aged ribeye and JC plumped for a dry aged sirloin on the bone or porterhouse.

The steak came with plenty of accompaniments including a sauce, fries, a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a choice of four sauces and a slice of onion loaf (more of that later). There’s definitely no need to order extras, so at £22.95 the steaks were pretty good value. A glass of rich red wine was the only drink I wanted with my steak, so I ordered a Rioja Marques de Risqal while JC slurped a South African chenin blanc. As promised, the ribeye was juicy, tender and nicely pink. The chimichurri sauce I’d chosen worked a treat, the fries were perfectly tasty and the iceberg wedge was genius. An idea imported from the US it was simply a big wedge of the underrated lettuce served with a drizzle of sauce. Refreshing and cool it cut through the richness of the meat. JC’s porterhouse was even more flavoursome than the ribeye and I must mention the onion loaf. It was a sort of baked onion with a crispy top hiding sweet flesh underneath and was gorgeous. The only downside was the enormous amount of food. I managed two of the fries and left the rest which seemed a bit wasteful. We could’ve foregone a starter for sure although having said that, we couldn’t resist sharing a gooey, rich and delicious chocolate brownie.

HAPPY DINERS

We’re often told a happy animal equates to tasty meat. I suppose it certainly clears the conscience, but does it really taste superior? And in any case how do you measure a cow’s cheeriness? They’re hardly jigging around the field group hugging. The care taken over the animal/product here is really impressive and the results were superb, so while I don’t buy the happy animal thing, well cared for seems to be the key. That, teamed with commitment and passion is a formula that Miller and Carter have nailed. It left us jigging in the street and planning our next visit with a bunch of steak-loving chums.

Miller and Carter Sublines: 178-180 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RN. Tel: 0121 643 7738 www.millerandcarter.co.uk/millerandcartermailbox