Is a "chocolate-fed" steak at Canterbury's new steakhouse really worth its £56 price tag?
In this week's Eat my Words, we visit Herd to find out...
Stepping inside Herd, it is quiet and peaceful – a world away from the bustling high street outside.
It is late lunchtime on a Wednesday and I am the only customer, save for one couple who leave shortly after I arrive.
The menu is simple, divided into 'steak', 'bird', 'fish' and 'land'.
The main fare here is steak, cooked on a grill over open flames.
It ranges from Nebraskan striploin at £29, to £32 sirloin, £36 fillet, sharing boards at just under £80 and – at an eye-watering £56 – Scottish wagyu, chocolate-fed ribeye.
I did a double-take when reading the latter and, testing the bounds of the Eat My Words budget but desperately curious, promptly ordered it.
"What exactly does 'chocolate-fed' mean?" I ask general manager Lexi when she takes my order.
Smiling, she explains the cows are fed one-third "regular cow grain", one-third beer grain and one-third chocolate.
"Actual, milk chocolate?" I ask, still unable to quite wrap my head around this.
"Yep, actual chocolate," laughs Lexi.
"The cows are also massaged every evening and they're also sung to," she adds. "They're very spoilt."
'Sign me up', I think, before soberly remembering the fate awaiting these cosseted cattle.
I'm still thinking about this when one of them arrives on a plate.
I'm all for reducing meat consumption and agree we could all stand to be more aware of our food's provenance.
But it's hard to think about much other than that, once you've pictured the cow you're eating nibbling on chocolate and being sweetly sung to sleep.
I must say, the steak was delicious.
It was perfectly medium-rare, as requested, and beautifully seasoned with an excellent chargrilled flavour.
It did not (I was pleased to find) taste of chocolate.
Lexi explained that all the chocolate-eating is simply to make the meat fatty, while the massaging is to distribute the fat.
The steak certainly did have a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth texture and a good amount of fat.
I ordered mine with truffle butter which ended up being rather unneeded, but tasty.
At £4, the side of chips was huge and, I would guess, probably enough for two. They were skin-on fries – light and very tasty.
Herd opened just over a fortnight ago, in the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen unit next to Subway.
The refurbished restaurant is beautifully decorated, with bare wooden floors and lots of wood and teal-coloured leather.
The seats are comfortable and background music plays unobtrusively.
As I tuck into my extravagant meal in the empty restaurant, feeling every bit like some high society spinster, I ask Lexi if it is typically like this.
She says the weekends have been busy, but weekdays quiet. No big publicity drive has yet been made about the restaurant's opening because, like many places, it is slightly short of staff.
When my bill arrives, it comes to a rather staggering £71.44, including fries, my Diet Coke, and service charge.
So: was it worth it?
Had I not been dining courtesy of KentOnline, I would never have plumped for a £56 steak.
I was glad to try it and if you have the budget to do so too, why not? It's nice to think you're at least eating something that has led a happy life.
But as I passed a homeless man sitting in Canterbury High Street after taking my leave, I felt rather shame-faced at spending what could cover a nice meal out for two, or an average meal out for several, on my solo lunch.
Was it the best steak I've ever had? It's certainly up there, and is head and shoulders above any I've had in Canterbury, which has until now been lacking a good steakhouse.
Out of five:
Food: The steak was undeniably delicious, as was everything else. *****
Drink: I only had a Diet Coke, but it was a good one! ****
Decor: The restaurant is a little on the gloomy side, but beautifully decorated to a high standard and feels special. Great ambience. ****
Staff: Very friendly and welcoming – Lexi was attentive and knowledgeable about the menu/cows. *****
Price: £56 for a steak is mind-boggling, but there are less pricey options. And piles of chocolate and cow masseurs must cost a lot? ***