Steakhouses are a difficult niche to get right, it requires careful sourcing and more careful cooking. Get it right and you have a potentially open chequebook of pricing; Wolfgang Puck’s ‘Cut’ in London being the obvious reference point where you can pay north of a ton for a rib eye. Birmingham does not have anywhere quite that ludicrous, though we do have a few places that take steak seriously with a serious price point to boot. I accept an invitation to review the new Beefeater Bar & Block because it probably would have passed under my culinary radar otherwise. If I am being honest, had I been paying I probably would have headed to one of Brum’s more established steakhouses which I am yet to post about over one with Beefeater in the title. And for that act of snobbery I would have missed out, for in parts it was very good indeed.
Inside Bar and Block is very much the modern steak house. Bare brick walls are given light by a neon cow that sits at the bar end of the room. We take place at a faux marble table, well lit and near the open kitchen. Staff are well drilled and we are talked through the varying cuts of beef that sit centrally to the menu, before taking little notice of their recommendations. Beef fat flavoured popcorn instantly makes me like the place, as do king prawns, gently cooked and drenched in a butter sauce with the zing and heat from lemon and garlic. These are better than a starter of mini meatballs which are well made, yet pulled down to the level of the bland tomato sauce they are sat in.
Here comes the money shot. A fillet of beef shows exceptional skill at the art of cooking a piece of meat to order. We ask for it medium rare, it arrives as that: butter soft cow, seared on the outer, with a consistent pink inside. It has been properly rested so there is no bleeding on the plate. There are good chips and an overly sharp béarnaise, but this matters little when the meat is this good. A belly of pork is too large a portion and too cheap for the quality served, with a mustard mash and batons of apple that cut through the animals fattiness. Sweet potato fries with feta and chorizo are a nice ideal well executed.
By now we are both cursing ourselves for ever questioning the quality, which dessert confirms was no fluke. I find the cheesecake too sweet, though my dining partner for this evening virtually licks his plate clean, despite claiming minutes before that he was too stuffed to eat anything else. Best is a lemon tart which finds the right balance of sharpness atop of some remarkably short pastry, with a lemon curd sorbet to bolster the citrus flavour. It is faultless in execution.
We don’t have a bill tonight but total up how much it would have been and agree that its seriously good value. Three courses here would just about cover what I payed for a truly dreadful steak close by at a celebrity endorsed restaurant with a nice view. Any prepositions I may have had about its attachment to the brand were short lived: We had some good food and a great steak in a nice environment, all served by attentive staff that happen to care. Bar and Block is a welcome addition to the city which I will gladly return to.
My meal was complimentary. My views remain honest