Wood v Food: Steak-off shown down
Meat is murder for our man as he takes on a 68-ounce steak at Victoria Square's Nevada Spur restaurant.
It's an eating challenge that would make Desperate Dan think twice.
You have 30 minutes to polish off four 17-ounce prime rump steaks, plus two sides of your choice, to claim the coveted brown-hued winner’s t-shirt.
That’s a belt-bursting total of 68 oz of Irish beef - or just shy of two kilograms in new money.
Throwing down this gauntlet is the Nevada Spur Steak and Grill in Belfast’s Victoria Square shopping complex.
And having failed miserably in my last attempts to tackle our greatest tasting tests, I decided to dust off the expandable trousers in a bid to reclaim my lost honour.
Nevada Spur specialises in burgers, steaks and ribs served, as the name suggests, in almost laughably large American-sized portions.
But even among their usual gargantuan fare, the steak challenge stands out a mile and needs to be ordered at least a day in advance – at £65 a go.
I arranged to take on the medium-rare monster just ahead of the afternoon trade so there would be as few witnesses as possible to what I feared would be almost certain humiliation.
What little confidence I had – I am a devout carnivore – was dented shortly after I arrived by one of the waitresses who recalled that in her three years working there nobody has managed to complete the challenge.
Another employee put it starker terms, telling me: “You don’t look like much of an eater”.
Given that I’m just a heavy pair of socks shy of nine stone, it’s a perfectly fair and accurate statement, but it still dented my delicate pride.
The legend goes that one customer has managed the seemingly impossible feat but their name is lost in the mists of time.
After ordering my nemesis, with onion rings and spicy rice sides, I sat nervously drumming my fingers in the macho surroundings of the Nevada Spur.
The eatery, on the top floor of the complex, resembles what I imagine John Wayne would have built had he had the chance to feature on Grand Designs.
Kitted out in acres of varnished pine bedecked with replica Native American tomahawk axes, buffalo lamp shades and totem pole inspired carvings, I felt slightly under dressed in a checked sports jacket and a pair of expandable M&S trousers.
The chef had the steaks ready in double-quick time which the manager then reverently ferried to my table like some barbecue basted holy relics.
My first thought was: “This is going to hurt. A lot.”
The plate gave off more steam than the Flying Scotsman which made me remark, rather arrogantly, that the temperature could slow me down.
Stacked as you would see them in a butcher’s window were four foot-long steaks, about three quarters of an inch thick, glistening in a savoury barbecue glaze.
They left no room on the plate for anything else, so the side orders were brought in two small pots on a separate dish.
The manager would sit across from me for the duration of the challenge to ensure I didn’t cheat by palming a slice or 12 into my jacket pocket.
At the moment of my first bite the clock started.
The steak knife sailed through the tender meat and with one quick back-and-forth motion I had the first sliver on my fork.
The chef had hit the medium rare mark with astonishing precision with each bite as succulent as the one before and I was motoring through it rightly.
As I hurled the last piece of the first 17-ouncer into my gob I was surprised when the manager announced only five minutes had ticked away.
Buoyed by my swift time and a rare complimentary remark from my accompanying photographer I launched into the second steak with gusto.
After the first few whacks of the second of the quartet my bullishness proved to be nothing more than beginner’s luck.
My jaw muscles, honed by years of incessant chatter, began to show the first signs of tiring and my stomach had finally twigged that this was far from an ordinary lunch.
By now the meat had started to dry out so I began taking increasingly large sips of water to help force down each slice.
Stealing occasional glances at the manager’s timer it seemed the minutes were running out with gathering speed.
Leaving aside the final quarter of the second steak to save precious time cutting around gristle, I began on the third but with little enthusiasm left.
At this stage my guts were crying out: “Stop, you fool, before you kill us all!” and my waist was struggling for room against my belt.
I removed my jacket in a bid to stem the trickles of sweat running down my forehead but it made little difference with over 30 oz of meat now smouldering in my stomach.
The water, which I was now taking with every bite, proved to be a false friend as it reduced each mouthful to a cardboard-like paste that coated every cavity and took valuable energy to swallow.
The encouraging remarks offered by the manager and photographer had changed from: “You’ll not eat for a week” to: “The dogs are in for a treat tonight”.
With not-very-well-hidden sarcasm the photographer suggested I try one of the onion rings to give my mouth a break. I did not feel it was worthy of a response.
At barely a third of the way through the last steak but one, my jaw was barely moving and I knew I had to stop soon.
As the announcement that the clock was about to run out was made, I limply pitched the final thin slice into my mouth. I now hated steak more than anything in the world.
The game was up and I was consoled with the faint praise of: “You did very well”, from various staff members, though I didn’t buy it for a moment.
I had managed to get through a little over half of the 68 ounces, but the side orders sat in silent mockery at the edge of the table.
Everything hurt. I just wanted to lie down, but I found I couldn’t move.
The flashes from the photographer’s camera capturing the moment of defeat didn’t help the comedown from the beef overdose I had just taken and I began to feel dizzy.
Struggling to my feet I shuffled out of the Nevada Spur cursing the person who decided eating could be a sport and swore I would never return.
Wood 0 Food 1
Have you a food challenge for our man? Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org