The manager of the much-derided London restaurant Salt Bae has spoken out for the first time – defending its insane prices.
The boss of Nusr-Et Steakhouse has applauded the sky-high cost of dishes, such as gold-covered steak and £50 cappuccinos.
Mr Mehmed said the Knightsbridge restaurant serves the best meat in the world and the backlash of five-figure bills is “just talking” in an exclusive interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Salt Bae – real name Nusret Gökçe – is a Turkish chef and social media star who went viral for his seductive meat seasonings and cooking techniques in 2017.
Read more: Hilarious reviews of Salt Bae’s London restaurant you can’t believe are real
He owns several steak restaurants around the world, including in his native country.
After opening its doors to Londoners in September, the restaurant has come under fire, with diners complaining of a £37,000 bill and others saying they paid £2,000 to be ‘treated like babies’.
But Mr. Mehmed isn’t phased by the haters, insisting you get what you pay for.
He said: “Some people just want to talk.
“People have complained because they’ve seen bills on social media for people who paid £10,000 for a bottle of wine.
“But you can find these prices all over London. The service and quality we provide is extremely high.
“It’s more interactive than most restaurants – we cook and prepare the food in front of you, like our traditional baklava, which is a hugely popular dessert.”
Gold leaf “does not improve the taste”
Dishes on the menu include an £850 steak studded with gold and a £100 burger.
But Mr Mehmed said the gold foil made no difference to the meat. He added: “It doesn’t improve the taste or change the quality.”
Mr Mehmed said the most popular dish is Tomahawk steak, which can be covered in gold leaf for up to £1,450.
He said it is popular because of its great taste and because it was the piece of meat that made Mr Nusret famous after a video of him salting one went viral.
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He added: “The Golden Steak is something different, it’s the best in London.”
They also do vegan dishes – a range of salads – which can also be sprinkled with gold if you fancy.
Mr. Mehmed insists that all staff receive world-class training and try every dish on the menu before working in the restaurant.
He said: “When I first tried them I was like ‘wow’. Every meat is very high quality.”
Salt Bae staff on low pay as whiskey sells for £25,000
But despite their world-class skills, the restaurant staff are paid pennies over the cost of the food.
One of their washroom attendants would have to work three weeks to afford a golden steak and a chef’s hourly wage is equivalent to mashed potatoes.
Asked about it, Mehmed avoided the question.
Despite the criticism, a series of celebrity guests have eaten at the London restaurant, including David Beckham and Gemma Collins.
Mr. Mehmed said, “We are also successful because the brand is popular and well known to customers around the world.
“We show hospitality, we show everyone to their table and cut the meat in front of them.”
The restaurant has an air of exclusivity, with a golden fence outside and darkened windows.
There’s a giant photo of Salt Bae himself on a wall near the entrance, next to which countless customers pose for selfies.
The interior also looks more like a hip bar than an upscale restaurant, with a strong gold and copper theme throughout, likely to match the gold on the dishes. Even the fire extinguishers are copper colored.
Mr. Mehmed admits that many items on the menu are expensive.
He says a glass of wine ranges from £12 to £50, or up to £25,000 for whiskey in a craft bottle.
But despite that, he insists the restaurant has something for everyone, including kids and diners on a budget.
Nusr-Et steakhouses are owned by Turkish hotel company D.ream International, which also owns chic sushi restaurant Roka and upscale restaurant Oblix at the Shard.
Mr Mehmed said the venture had been a huge success so far.
The London branch has made more money than any of the company’s other restaurants worldwide, he claims.
“So far so good,” he said with a wink.