A taste of the American steakhouse can be found from this Estonian restaurant chain, recently arriving in Helsinki for the first time.

CONSIDERING the popularity of pihvi here in Finland, it comes as no surprise that Estonian chain GOODWIN Steak House has recently made their home in Helsinki. Offering a variety of beefy dishes, the restaurant uses the concept of the authentic American steakhouse as their template, and represents the only chain of its kind to be found in the Baltics and Scandinavia.

Having studied the concept for a number of years in the US and Australia, the countries where steak production and cooking culture first originated, GOODWIN Steak House opened their first restaurant in Tallinn in March 2009, eager to share their passion for steaks. The restaurant takes its name from Scottish composer Ron Goodwin, who moved to the USA in the 20th century with a few Aberdeen Angus bulls in tow, going on to found the American steak culture that I widely known today.

Marbled beef?

While your idea of mixing hard surfaces with meat might be restricted to that witnessed in the first Rocky movie, with the pugilist’s fists pounding carcasses in a meat cooler-based montage, the reality of marbled beef is something not altogether too strange after all. Here the meat actually just contains various amounts of intramuscular fat weaving through the muscle, giving it an appearance similar to a marble pattern. With the animal fed a high amount of cereal grains, such as corn or barley, this process changes the colour of the fat from yellow to white. To create this marble effect though their meat, the animals that make up the beef used at GOODWIN Steak House have been grain fed for 100 days.

Located in the not too shabby stretch of land against the sea known as Eteläranta, the restaurant is a stone’s throw from Helsinki’s Market Square, which is already bustling with the first waves of tourists for the year when I arrive on a Thursday afternoon. Greeted by a number of waiters upon my entrance, my coat is taken and I take a seat in one of the leather-bound booths in the dining area. Black and white footage of Sting performing beams from the widescreen television perched on the wall, sharing space with an assortment of early 20th century images. The mood is relaxed, as the lunchtime crowd shuffles in and out, many of them enjoying the business lunch on offer of a choice of salad, main course and drink. Three weeks after opening and already the restaurant has found a regular clientele. With 75 covers per seating, the dining space is actually slightly smaller than that of their Tallinn flagship, but this is proving to be a good starting place for achieving the chain’s ambition.

A range of desserts are on offer.

Beefing up the local palate

“The idea is to bring the concept of the American steakhouse to the Nordic countries,” explains manager Helena Üprus. Sure enough, the waiter soon arrives with a platter of raw meat to inspect, a presentation of the various cuts of marbled Black Angus beef on offer from Australia. For those who need further visual cues, a sketch of a bull is available on the place mat before me, outlining the various cuts of meat that the restaurant serves. The variety of beef on offer is impressive, and I eventually choose the 220g New York steak (€24.50), medium rare with a side of fried potatoes and mushrooms (€6). Interestingly, the restaurant isn’t so keen to overcook the beef for their clientele, suggesting to customers that they shouldn’t have their steak cooked well done. “The meat is so tender and has great flavours,” Üprus reasons. For some extra flavour on the side I choose the spicy sauce made from herbs and garlic. With the first sauce provided free of charge, if one wants to season their meat with other tastes then for €3 they can try the very popular GOODWIN’s sauce of red wine, berries and honey, pepper sauce of cream and fresh pepper or mushroom sauce of cream and mushrooms. However, even after such an impressive meaty presentation, Üprus is keen to point out that steak isn’t the only thing on the restaurant’s menu.

“Not everyone takes beef, so we also have fish, soups, hamburger and lamb,” she offers. “We make all of our food 100 per cent in our kitchen, also the sauces. Everything is quite healthy, as we use Spanish oven to prepare the beef, the Josper; we only cook with a real fire”

Burgers join a variety of other foods also on the menu.

Time to taste

The waiter soon brings a carafe to the table of house red, Tempranillo, (€6.50 for 12.5 cl). This is not the only choice available, and for those seeking further variety the restaurant also offers a selection of some 30 wines. The food arrives and before I can tuck in, I am asked by the waiter to cut into the beef to make sure it has been cooked correctly. Slicing the meat is remarkably easy, with the huge steak knife on the right of my plate facilitating the action swiftly. Sure enough, the meat’s darker exterior is offset by the pink, rare middle. The spicy sauce complements the meat perfectly, adding some zing to the beef’s natural taste. However, given the full, smoky flavour of the steak, one could almost get away without anything alongside their meat if needs be.

Steak House

Eteläranta 14 Helsinki
Open everyday 11:00-23:00
tel. +358 (0) 50 4198 000

Before long both of my plates are empty, along with my wine glass and I’m sitting in the afterglow of what was an enjoyable meal. Feeling content, I’m not craving any of the various desserts on offer, and decide to order an espresso (€3) instead. After a suitable burst of caffeine, it’s time to leave and I am soon retrieving my coat and heading out into the Helsinki spring, satisfied with the experience on offer at GOODWIN.

James O’Sullivan