Age? Just over a month: but with a pair of super experienced chefs at the helm, it feels longer. Shiri Kraus and Amir Batito are graduates of the Machneyuda Group, of The Palomar, Barbary and Coal Office fame. The Black Cow is the latest ventures after the duo launched Maghreb during lockdown, which offers private dining experiences by way of mezze-style feasts.
Where exactly is it? The second floor of Hawley Wharf, Camden’s shiny new canalside eating and drinking destination. A host of somewhat more casual outlets dot the rest of the space, including Cantonese lunchbox gurus Three Uncles and HotBox, the BBQ aficionados.
OK. So what goes on there? Shiri and Amir cleverly combine elements of an American grill house with punchy Levantine flavours. Beef is sourced from acclaimed west London butchers HG Walter – think 100% British, free-range, grass-fed, traceable and sustainable. Steaks, charcoal-grilled on a Josper, come in three sizes, named in Hebrew on the menu: Katan (small), Benoni (medium) and Gadol (large) – onglet, Denver and on-the-bone sirloin, respectively. But that’s not all: there’s also a selection of fish and vegetable dishes, from cheesy cauliflower with spicy béchamel and dukkah to whole sea bream with green pea ajoblanco (chilled almond soup).
The interior? Tastefully decked out with splashes of teal and a marble countertop, guests are invited to perch on a stool and watch the masters at work in the compact open kitchen. Sipping on a glass of vino from the well-thought-out list, we admire the elegant glassware – carefully chosen for its “feminine aesthetic”, says Shiri, to counter the masculinity of traditional steakhouses.
What should I eat? Share a few small plates to start. An inventive take on a shrimp cocktail impresses (£11), with prawns coated in spice-laced batter artfully arranged on a mound of chunky tzatziki. Strewn with celery cress and pink pickled onion, it’s pleasing to the eye and skilfully balanced. Also noteworthy is the charred and nutty globe artichoke (£8), an eye-catching and theatrical starter. Sitting on a dollop of dill-flecked creamy remoulade, the edible plant is topped with herby chermoula and a sprinkling of tangy pecorino crumb. One regret? Not ordering the glorious-sounding cornbread with lamb butter (£4) to mop up leftover puddles of sauce.
And for entrée? The expertly cooked six-ounce onglet (£13) is a medium-rare flavour powerhouse, and hands down the best we’ve eaten in recent memory. Served sliced alongside a handful of flaming sage, thyme and rosemary, the idea is to “open your senses and get your taste buds tickling,” says Shiri. She’s spot-on: biting in, a gnarly salt and pepper crust gives way to pillowy soft meat infused with herbal notes.
After such a heady thrill, delicately-marbled 10-ounce Denver (£23) can’t quite compete. This lesser-known cut from beneath the shoulder blade works well smeared with the accompanying piquant oil, but is just not as tender as the onglet. Steak isn’t complete without chips; we share a portion of moreish harissa-slathered home fries.
And what do I drink? While the concise cocktail list is enticing, with the likes of Yona – arak (anise spirit), pink grapefruit and lime – it’s red wine we’re after. Our carafe of 2018 Château Ksara Réserve du Couvent (£30) hails from Lebanon; a peppery and smoky blend of Syrah and Cabernet Franc, it’s the ideal companion.
What’s the service like? Shiri’s passion, knowledge and love for her craft are infectious. “If people give us 90 minutes of their time, we want to offer a memorable and worthy experience,” she says. The talented team provides that – and more.
The Black Cow is open daily at Hawley Wharf Camden (2nd floor), NW1 – Mon 12pm-6pm, Tues-Sun 12pm-9pm. Starters and sides from £4.00, steaks from £13. More info here.
Kentishtowner ate as guests of the Black Cow. For more on this see our About section.