Tom Parker Bowles: The Porterhouse review

Tom takes his daughter to an Oxford steakhouse where he gets the surprise of his life.

Review: The Porterhouse

It’s a debate that’s been raging for a few years now, and one with no hope of civilised resolution. Because the argument between my 14-year-old daughter and me has little to do with politics, faith or even fashion. No, it’s far more important than any of those, involving, as it does, the delicate matter of steak. And how, precisely, it should be cooked.

Now I like my flesh still mooing, not so much warm blushing pink as a cool mortuary blue. Lola begs to differ. Still, there’s no point being myopically dogmatic on matters of taste. If she wants her sirloin so incinerated that it’s only identifiable through its dental records, who am I to argue?

the porterhouse
The sirloin has good char, is well seasoned and decently aged

Meaning our dinner, on a sunny Thursday night at The Porterhouse, a stroll away from Oxford station, should offer no surprises. It’s a small room, done up in the usual upmarket steakhouse way – brass-topped tables, leather banquettes and a small ageing fridge at the back.

The meat is British, grass-fed and matured for up to 42 days before being cooked over charcoal. Alongside the usual fillet, sirloin and flat iron are the larger sharing cuts – côte de boeuf, porterhouse and chateaubriand. Sharing cuts that are, for obvious reasons, not an option. I order a sirloin, blue. Lola studies her menu for a while longer, uncharacteristically quiet. ‘Fillet steak please.’ Pause. ‘Medium rare.’ Well, you could have knocked me down with a featherblade. A small tear wells in the corner of my eye, and I feel a great surge of paternal pride. That’s my girl. She shrugs and gets back to her Virgin Mary. A while later, after a decent duck heart and black pudding salad (much to Lola’s disgust), all tender quacker organs and sharp shards of apple, the meat arrives.

Mine is quietly mighty, in an understated, no-fuss and nonsense English sort of way. Good char, well seasoned and with that minerally chew you get from a well brought up, decently aged piece of beef. Lola slices into her medium fillet, takes a bite and smiles. ‘Pretty good, actually.’ And it is, possessing more flavour than is usual in this tender but indolent cut. We share crisp Koffmann chips, and an oozing chocolate fondant pudding.

‘I quite like medium rare,’ she says as we wander out into the Oxford dusk. The soft crepuscular gloom conceals my mighty beaming grin.

About £40 per head; The Porterhouse, Mill Street, Oxford; theporterhouse-oxford.com