Steam and Rye’s website describes the bar and restaurant as being an ‘American dream on British soil’, with its design offering an ‘over-whelming assault on the senses’. This is no exaggeration, I can officially and confidently confirm it is all 100% true. Stepping into Steam and Rye is like being transported back in time, to an era where people literally invented the phrase ‘relax and let your hair down’. With help from Hollywood set designer Jonathan Lee, the interior is a mix of Great Gatsby meets the Wild West meets old school rock n’ roll meets British debauchery.
A non-stop extravaganza of entertainment, when I visited on a Thursday a live band raised on a stage above the crowd were belting out pop classics, non-stop rotating and swirling coloured strobe lights lit up the room, glittery sexy dancing cabaret girls in skimpy outfits performed saucy hip gyrating dance routines, celebrities – I think – if they weren’t then they were definitely important people much better looking than the rest of us being ushered into private booths. Dancing taking place in random spots in-between the bar and tables. Dj’s playing Shaggy’s Mr Boombastic and other songs you cant stop yourself singing along to, a professional photographer circulating the room, it was packed full of people, loud, fast and a little mad, and all this at only 8pm!
Steam and Rye’s cocktail list is fun. Served in playful drinking apparatus and a tribute to all things American. One popular drink titled ‘Oil Slick’, a sweet liquorice tasting concoction made with sebor, absinth lemon sugar, bubbles, and black gold, served in a kitsch mini oil-canister really did taste of oil. But the one that caught our eye the most was the Maize Balls; a cleverly disguised cocktail underneath a pile of popcorn, served in a box like you would get at the cinema. Made with mount gay xo lemon, coconut, caramel and popcorn syrup, it’s a novelty drink of the best kind.
The dining area merges in with the bar so happy punters drinking and dancing are side by side with those chowing down on burgers and fries. This adds to the fun of it all, and booking a booth will provide a comfortable front row view of the bars happenings. Food-wise, its American diner classics, combined with some British twists. A serving of pulled pork, beans and a side of sweet cornbread was wolfed down. Tempura of squid & whitebait with pi quills pepper and lemon was deliciously crumbed and served piping hot.
For mains a sophisticated plate of grilled sea bass, with salad of roasted beetroot, baby chard, merlot vinegar, and maple syrup cooked melt-in-your-mouth made star of the night. And finally a Lobster in a brioche finger roll was generously full of meaty chunks coated in a seafood sauce, competing with the excellent quality of bread. The Steam and Rye platter, a gigantous attention grabbing platter of meat and seafood seemed to be the house special, as waiters repeatedly carried servings over to large groups throughout the night.
All in all there are lots of surprises to be had a Steam and Rye, who have basically managed to create a whole world of fantasy that begins as you step foot though the main entrance of what used to be the Bank of New York built in 1928. Although a fierce city-working crowd dominated the night we visited, there is also Bull Market Mondays, featuring London’s one and only professional grade mechanical bull; watching humans being tossed left to right combined with alcohol has to be funny. This night offers all you can eat shrimp and ribs (to be ordered after your bull ride of course). There’s Wednesday’s ladies night with 50% off all drinks (and 50% off all social hang-ups one might imagine). Tribute Thursdays (please read article back from the beginning) and what happens on the weekend is yet to be experienced. I will find out.
Whether or not Steam and Rye is your thing, one word you cannot use to describe it is boring. It’s anything but boring. I can think of so many boring bars and restaurants in this city and this is certainly not one of them. If you like experiencing new things, then this is one place to definitely visit, purely because there is nothing else like it in London right now, and variety is always good.
Steam & Rye: 147 Leadenhall Street, London, Ec3V 4QT
Tel: 0207 444 9960
Written by Justina Terese, Food Writer and Recipe Developer www.foodforaking.com