Rextail serves steak and modern British food, a departure for its Russian owner Arkady Novikov, who has a vast restaurant empire in his home country. There are steaks aplenty and a Josper Grill to cook them, but also plenty of fishy options on the lengthy menu. It opened in November 2013, its name a contorted reference to “T Rex” and “oxtail”. The dining room is in a basement, with a few animal heads on the walls just to remind customers that this is a meat restaurant, with red banquette seating and an open kitchen at the far end as you enter. The room is large, seating 95 customers at one time and a further fifteen at the bar.
The head chef is Adrian Martin, who after training at The Ivy, Caprice and The Greenhouse worked as head chef of Scotts. Most recently he was executive chef of the Birley Group, which runs clubs including the well-known Annabel’s. He did not grace us with his presence in the kitchen at the dinner this evening.
The wine list was lengthy and had some excellent growers, but prices were firmly in territory matching Mayfair’s position on the Monopoly board. Prices started as low as £21 but quickly escalated, though at least the list ranged quite widely around the world. Example bottles were El Camino Tannat Merlot Cabernet 2011 at £21 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7, Livio Pinot Grigio 2012 was £74 for a wine that retails at £22, and Flowers Chardonnay 2010 at £137 for a wine that will set you back £47 in a shop. The upper end of the list was no kinder: Penfolds Grange 2007 was £950 compared to a retail price of £342, a ridiculous mark-up.
Bread was bought-in but quite good, the white bread being nicely crusty and better than the brown (13/20). It came with a little dish of enjoyable rabbit paté, cornichons and chutney. Butternut squash soup with walnut pesto was not quite hot enough, lacked salt and did not have enough flavour, though a few walnuts in the soup gave a pleasant additional taste and made up a bit for the blandness of the squash (11/20). Much better was taglialeri with tomatoes and basil. The pasta was made fresh in the kitchen and had very good texture, the tomatoes had reasonable flavour and the basil was in balance (easily 14/20). It is not really a criticism, but the portion was huge, large for a main course, never mind a starter.
My wagyu beef burger featured a pleasant brioche bun, good beef from Nebraska that had plenty of flavour but was cooked for a little longer than I had asked. There were the usual onions and tomato, but the problem was a remarkably leathery slab of what seemed to be Cheddar that had barely been warmed through, let alone begun to melt, instead forming a congealed, hard layer. I put this unpleasantness to one side and found the burger otherwise enjoyable (12/20 if I ignore the cheese debacle, much lower if I do not). On the side were decent matchstick fries and unmemorable coleslaw. King crab salad with avocado featured shell-free fresh-tasting crab, good avocado and lettuce (13/20). Mash was also fine.
For dessert, doughnuts were disappointingly dense, reminiscent in texture of supermarket ones, and no amount of sugar coating would disguise the texture; these came with a couple of dips – chocolate and pistachio - which were fine. Homer Simpson would have been happy enough, but doughnuts can be much better than this (11/20).
A long-delayed chocolate soufflé had problems, with a leathery outside, and a liquid centre than was not quite cooked through in the centre, though the chocolate itself seemed to be of good quality (11/20), and the ice cream on the side was excellent (14/20). Coffee was Musetti and was quite nice.
Service was well-meaning but somewhat dysfunctional. When we sat down the menus arrived in an unseemly flurry, but there was a lengthy gap while we waited to order, then waited some more, despite trying to get the waiter’s attention in what was far from a crowded room. Our waiter’s English was rather limited, and then there was an excessively very long wait for dessert. The more senior waiters/managers had a very pleasant manner, and without prompting removed some items from the bill that we had given feedback on. Despite this the tally came to over £50 a head with a fairly modest bottle of wine and no pre-dinner drinks. A more normal bill would come to around £75 a head. Overall Rextail felt like a work in progress, with too many kitchen slips and a less than smooth service operation, but this was already three months into operation, enough time to get past most opening glitches. Perhaps the meal would have been better if the head chef had actually been in the kitchen, but who knows. Overall the experience was too erratic to really recommend, especially given the high price point.