A belated birthday meal found us checking out Stix and Stones* on Upper Queens Street this evening.
As its name suggests, diners cook their choice of a steak on a hot stone in this newly opened joint. It’s a concept that a number of us were wary of – after all, the reason why we’d pay good money for a steak in a restaurant is so that a trained professional will cook it for us and cook it right.
Having read the Belfast Telegraph’s feature article of Stix and Stones, I happily assured the sceptics that there will be staff on hand to provide advice and guidance – unfortunately, this was not true and we were largely left to our own devices to decide when our meat had reached our preferred state of ‘doneness’.
The menu at Stix and Stones is quite extensive, with a good range of starters, seafood, sides and non-steak mains. For the steak itself, the options were between rump, ribeye, fillet and sirloin – all served with a “mushroom and truffle ragu”, grilled tomato, onion jam and a choice of sauces.
As we were a large group of 9, it took a while before mine – the last serving – was dished out. That the staff just went “Who’s having the ribeye?” each time didn’t help speed things up either, as we had mostly ordered the same cut of meat but with different sauces and needed to check what sauce the plate she was holding contained.
The less-than-fast service (compounded by more confusion over sauces) meant that my steak had been sitting on a hot stone cooking away for quite a while before it eventually reached me. Thankfully, it was medium rare and just right when it was served – but that essentially meant that I was deprived of the chance to cook my steak on stone.
For those who prefer their steak more well done, there was a whisper further down the table by the sole member of staff on hand that diners should remove the meat from the stone, slice it up and then cook each slice individually on the stone to the desired state – which sounded like good advice if you could actually hear it.
The ragu was a misnomer as there was no sauce and certainly no meat, but the mushrooms were well flavoured. My ribeye (£18.95 for 9oz) was a good, thick chunk of meat lightly seared on both sides, although taste-wise it was okay – there was nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about either. The buttery mash (£3.50) came in a dainty ceramic dish, although the lid helped to keep it nice and warm. I was told that the hot and sticky chicken wings (£5.95) were delicious and a good-sized portion, and can attest that they smelled great.
I’m not sure that Stix and Stones’ gimmick of having diners cook their steak on stone is a strong enough one to draw in the crowds. While we weren’t in any way dissatisfied, none of us were particularly enthused by the experience either, and felt that we’d rather have someone cook our steak for us.
Indeed, I feel that eating steak is a choice between paying £6 to cook my own at home or spending much more to get a really good steak in a restaurant – and for the latter my choice would still be James Street South Bar and Grill where £21 will get you a 10oz ribeye to die for.
*: There’s also a Styx and Stone in New Zealand that sells – you’ve guessed it – steak on stone. I hope it’s a coincidence rather than an entirely unoriginal modification of the name.
Stix and Stones, Belfast
44-46 Upper Queens Street
Belfast BT11 6FD
028 90 319418