Smiths of Smithfield is like New York - it's noisy, full of foreign labour, the people are off-hand and it'll be great when it's finished.

 

Smiths has got to be one of the longest running sagas in hype history - promised since last year, it only finally opened its doors in Mid May. On the ground floor they serve truly wonderful States-style breakfasts, on the first floor there's a bar, on the second a dining room and on the third a proposed rooftop restaurant with impressive views. I was saving myself for the restaurant but couldn't wait. It's now planned for August when I'll be feeling self-delusionally thin amongst the rotisseried seals on America's eastern seaboard where whale watching just means a day at the state beach.

 

So we went to the second floor instead. You walk up Charterhouse Street, the blood, guts and sawdust smell of butcher shops mingling with exhaust fumes, lucky to arrive without a vegetarian epiphany along the way.

 

Now, do I have sucker stamped across my forehead or something? I'm sure I must have something in my genetic make up that exudes D-list pheronomes. Every time I walk into a restaurant alone they put me crash clatter bang next to the service station. In restaurant terms is like sitting at the watering hole in a game park - though not as picturesque.

 

I complained - they moved me - to the window as requested. But once inside Smiths you wonder what took them so long - it's all done out in gutted industrial chic. There's exposed brickwork, reclaimed timber that no-one would have wanted the first time round, and heating ducts galore. If your home looked like this they'd condemn it, not open it to the public and serve food.

 

It's like Fred Flintstone meets blade-runner - supposedly big, butch plates of grub for husky men who can knock back ten pints, a couple of magnums of champagne, and who don't think a steak is something you tie your sweet peas to.

 

However, I'm not convinced. The food was commendable but, given the location, it's less of a carnivore's temple than you might think. There's as much fish as meat on the menu - skate sole, cod and haddock - as well as a couple of mincing pasta dishes. There's also a daily market special - dishes like shepherds pie and fish cakes. On Mondays it's minced beef and potatoes on toast - a bit too retro for me - just like Scotland, but without the Irn Bru.

 

Furthermore, the menu is confusing, for instance - 'Mains: all 91/2 pounds'. So does the meat weigh nine and a half pounds or does it cost 9.50? Then there's soup: 'All 31/2 or 7 pounds'. The latter, apparently is a main course portion. Who wants a basin of soup for goodness sake?. Not He-man the meat-eating barbarian, surely?

 

My own He-Man arrived late - such a common occurence that I'm beginnning to wonder if men have started wearing make up. or corsets or something else that requires lengthy, last minute adjustments before they can leave the office.

 

When he pitched up, he launched straight into a discussion of the top five killers of fiftysomething males. It's not often you start talking testicles within five minutes of making a chap's acquaintance.

 

Then he ordered Lucky Squid with chilli jam and the special - roasted turbot with samphire. I had a spinach salad and the Rib steak. Just call me Popeye and he can be Doris.

 

The squid salad was tender, fiery and delicious. What makes it lucky, I don't know - once you're dead and thrown into a frying pan, luck seems a peculiar concept. The spinach salad though adequate, was overdressed and a tad soggy. The Turbot was good, with a nicely blackened skin and glistening flesh falling apart in flakes as readily as a hysteric in a crisis.

 

The steak was of modest proportions but not for the faint,fat-fearing, hearted. It oozed flavour and with the addition of generous dollops of mustard mayonaiise and excellent chunky chips, was nigh on perfect.

 

I had a trifle to follow, a concoction of proper spongy, custardy consistency that was nothing like real trifle and all the better for it - topped with two inches of cream which, beach-minded, I dutifully ladled out and didn't eat.

 

He-man had some very nice baked peaches with a Glass of Sherry.

 

Watching the two men next to us pick over a breast of chicken and a roast skate I wondered where the press release's fondly imagined 'bunch of mates sharing a rib or two of beef' actually were. This feels like a lot of red-blooded posturing for guys who are firmly in the the closet, eating noodles and watching their cholestoral.

 

The days of Fred and Barnie going out bowling and stopping on the way home for a big brontosaurusburger are fast receeding. Nowadays they're at the gym with Wilma and Betty, concerned about Bambam's aggressive anti-social behaviour, and - apparently - deeply worried about their balls.