Le Relais de Venise has been affectionately known as ‘secret steak’ at work for some time, not because of the secret sauce (more on that in a moment), but because it’s invariably visited late, after angry Friday drinking and no one can ever find where it is; so I was excited to finally be able to try it.
I haven’t visited before, as this is one of an increasing number of restaurants in London that won’t accept reservations. This annoys my GEH, and waiting out in the cold is so much less appealing when you are hungry and can see empty tables at the neighbouring Brasserie Blanc with their well-labelled menu; so on this occasion we got there early. This chain only serves one thing – steak and chips – so I was expecting something pretty special, not to mention gluten-friendly.
They have worked hard to replicate the interior and ambience of the Paris original, by which I can only assume they mean it’s slightly tatty and the staff are rude. No matter, onto the main event. Steak and chips. You are asked only one question: “how would you like it cooked” and you will be served 2 servings of entrecôte (the second is kept warm) with copious piles of frites and their secret sauce. And there was the problem. Firstly the waitress refused to check for me if the sauce was gluten free. Secondly she made a show of checking before informing me that the chef “didn’t know”. Fine then, I’ll have it without the sauce. Except my plate came with an accidental blob of it – cue more eye-rolling from the waitress.
The walnut salad with tangy (safe) dressing was lovely, and being able to have chips was a treat, but without the sauce you are unfortunately left with a chewy, uninspiring cut of beef. At £21, this didn’t represent great value – in future if I want steak I’ll spend that at Gaucho.
Gluten Free-Ability: 4/10 (there were desserts, I just couldn’t be bothered with going through the rigmarole with the waitress)
Branches in Marylebone and Canary Wharf.
After my visit to Le Relais de Venise I contacted them with the same query about the ingredients of the sauce, and was given the same, curt, response: “Unfortunately we can’t confirm the sauce is gluten free. We do not know the exact ingredients.” I was under the impression that all restaurants were obliged to know if there are allergens in their food – but was shocked and surprised to find out that restaurants are not subject to the same strict controls as packaged food until the end of 2014. Looks like I’ll be waiting for 2 years until trying secret sauce then!
Update: several weeks later, and I finally received this response from a ‘Food Safety Hygiene Advisor’ from the restaurant:
“The sauce used at the Le Relais de Venise on its steak is made with ingredients that are described as miniscule gluten products, and may contain very low levels of gluten and for reasons of securing the recipe we cannot say the sauce is completely gluten free. “
Now I’m not sure what a ‘miniscule gluten product’ is, but sounds like it’s best avoided to me.