MASH – Modern American Steak House
81 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0RH
MASH the Danish “Modern American Steakhouse” has now been open for just over 4 weeks in London. I caught up with co-owner, Mikkel Glahn, at his large art-deco bar to chat about steak and the London restaurant scene.
As you would expect from the man who runs the sales are marketing operation, Mikkel is very enthusiastic and eloquent. He is very keen to emphasise that he doesn’t want a “London steak war” and regularly reaches out to Will Beckett (Hawksmoor) and Dave Strauss (Goodman) for beers. Mikkel wants to collaborate with his steak counterparts like he does in Denmark and believes that there is plenty of space for everyone in the London market. His focus is on “the steak experience”, service, and the formidable wine offering served by his award winning sommeliers.
However, bad news for those of you with a sweet tooth. On the much talked-about issue of “£10 desserts” he believes that this is the “right price for the quality and portion size” and there are “no plans to change”. On the plus side, there will now be a DJ in the venue every Thu, Fri, Sat playing a mix of “deep bass, 50’s and soul funk” until Christmas and probably beyond.
- Q1. MASH is a huge 350 seater venue. Especially compared to 230 in Hawksmoor (Air Street) and 240 in STK. Was it always the plan to start this big?
We didn’t plan to take this particular site. But we always planned to go large in London!
- Q2. Are you doing anything different from your venues in Denmark? Have you adjusted the menu for London?
We do see differences in the market but we are more-or-less doing what has worked in Denmark. We have been in business for 20 years and we are focusing on replicating that model here.
- Q3. What is your USP, and how do you position yourself verses other steakhouses like Hawksmoor and Goodman
Our story is that we love food, and we saw a gap in the London market for our interpretation of a “modern steakhouse” which is focused on the entire dining experience; the ambiance; the environment and the professionalism of the staff. We also love our wine. Peter [Trauboth, Head of UK Operations] was voted the best sommelier in Denmark, 2011. [Mikkel walks away briskly and comes back with the menu enthusiastically pointing at the wine list]. There are not many places with this range of wine by the glass (7 whites and 11 reds). Our wines are very good value, we certainly don’t rip people off with our prices.
- Q4. Talking about price, I’ve seen a lot of criticism about the pricing of your desserts at £10 each. Compared to Hawksmoor at £6-£7.50 a lot people think that’s excessive. Are there any plans to change this?
Well maybe others aren’t charging enough for desserts! For the quality and portion size £10 is good value for money. There are no current plans to change. Also, we are probably targeting a slightly older customer than Hawksmoor and we are more comparable [in customer demographic] to Goodman.
- Q5. Where do you see yourselves verses your competitors in London? What is your USP?
I admire Hawksmoor‘s excellent [client] communication. They must have several good dedicated people as their speed of response is amazing. We are not trying to compete directly, but we differentiate ourselves on the entire ‘experience of a modern steakhouse’. Service is very important to us and we are very proud of our wine and sommelier heritage.
- Q6. MASH London now been open for 4 weeks. Have you found any differences in the London market.
One difference we’ve found is that 25% of bookings just don’t happen. I’ve been told that people in London will book 2 or 3 restaurants, get together and then decide where they want to go. We have to adjust to that. We also found a large demand for walk-ins, including the theatre crowd – we want to be more receptive to them so we will be introducing a pre/post-theatre set menu. We will also be open for New Year’s Day with an a-la-carte, rather than a set, menu.
- Q7. In Caterer Magazine it’s mentioned that you want to open 3 more venues but no decision will be made until after 4 months of opening. Is that still the plan?
There is definitely room for more steakhouses in the future. We want 2-3 in London and think there is room to open a venue like a brasserie that will show our strength, the sommelier.
- Q8. Peter [Trauboth, UK Operations Manager] was quoted as saying “Our steak houses have a tendency to attract a large female audience which is rare”. Do you think attracting women is an issue in steakhouses? If I walk into Hawksmoor it looks pretty much 50/50 to me.
In Denmark, steak is very popular as a ‘health food’. Women in Denmark have told us that personal trainers have encouraged them to eat meat rather than carbs. We already have a lot of interest from a nearby health club with 5,500 members. Hawskmoor has a mixed client base but if you visit Goodman it’s more male dominated. If you look at STK they are pitching themselves as more than a steakhouse.
- Q9. Well, take a look at this promotional video for the launch of STK London – let me know what you think.
[I play the video to a bemused looking Mikkel] That is… wow… actually it’s very LA… I went to a preview at STK last week with some of my staff and I felt ‘old’.