You may have noticed LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) and I have been making more time recently for ourselves. We had a fantastic first weekend away together since being parents at Cornbury Festival earlier this month, and this week we treated ourselves further to a date night in the city: a three course meal at Birmingham’s Bar+Block Steakhouse.
It’s privilege to live close enough to the city that it’s an option for an evening’s date night. A quick hop on the train from Redditch, and we can be there within about forty minutes. Arriving at New Street feels like we could be a million miles away, and there’s something about walking the streets of the city centre that makes me feel younger, cooler and more free-spirited. There’s so much choice for places to eat and drink, but it’s going to take a lot to find anywhere that offers steaks like those we had at Bar+Block.
Bar+Block is part of the Beefeater family, taking the best of the Beefeater values but appealing to a younger, edgier crowd, with a more upmarket vibe. Upon arrival, I liked the feel of the place: it was vibrant, colourful and with a variety of seating options it seemed like a place that would welcome you whether you wanted a quick bite to eat, a full blown dining experience or just a drink. In fact, whilst we were there a noticed an express menu option for those wanting a quick meal (served within ten minutes) for under £10 – making it a great option for your lunch break.
In no time at all, we were sat in our own booth at the front of the restaurant, with a lovely view of the open plan kitchen at the back and a pot of beef-dripping popcorn to try. I always trust a restaurant with an open plan kitchen – I don’t know why. There’s no where to hide is there? And I think it’s important for customers to see the chefs at work. You can hardly complain about how long it takes for your meal to properly cook when you can see exactly how hard-working they are.
Beef-dripped popcorn is something I would never have ordered on a menu, but as a little pre-dinner taster, I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious! I’m a bit of a sucker when restaurants give you little extras: like popcorn, bread rolls, or handmade lemonade, but I was also pleased that the waiter brought us over a bottle of chilled water for the table too without us asking. We ordered a beverage each (glass of wine for me, cider for LPD) and perused the menu.
I knew I was having a bit of a blow-out tonight, so in order to at least get some vegetables on my plate, I went for the chargrilled vegetable topped houmous whilst LPD chose salt and pepper squid. Bar + Block usually recommend three of the grazing plates but knowing we were going all out with mains and pudding to follow, we played it safe and just ordered the two. In hindsight, I’d have loved to try the Asian Crispy Beef as recommended by Lucy at Real Mum Reviews – but maybe that just gives us a reason to go back in the future?
The starters were brought out and put in the middle of the table, and we were both given side plates to use. I don’t know if this shows how uncouth and common we are, but we just ate off the central plates anyway! The houmous was gloriously fresh, and the flatbread must have been good as I almost had to physically fight LPD for the last piece of it. The Salt & Pepper squid was a real hit too – with a hint of heat with a cooling mayo dip to round the taste off.
Although I did strongly consider some of the other options on the menu, LPD and I both couldn’t resist trying a steak each for our mains. After all, it is a Steakhouse. I wouldn’t call myself much of a meat connoisseur, so I asked our waiter for his recommendation. If I was left up to my own devices, I’d have probably just gone for a plain rump steak and not been very adventurous at all so I was really happy to go along with his suggestion of the Churrasco de Chorizo, a 10oz sirloin spiral cut steak marinated in garlic and parsley. LPD didn’t need long to decide on his pick: Deconstructed Beef Wellington, which sounded like some kind of epic Masterchef creation.
Both of our steaks were melt-in-the-mouth beautiful. In hindsight, I wish I’d have ordered a bit of side salad to just add a few extra vitamins to the plate, but the meal itself was quite filling, and I was saving myself for a spot of pudding! Our mains were really full of flavour and rich tastes, and I am so glad I asked our waiter for his recommendation. Delicious!
Does anyone else check out the menu about a thousand times online in the week preceding a restaurant visit? Although I couldn’t choose between a lot of the dishes in advance, as soon as I saw the Mixed Berry Pavlova on the dessert menu, I knew I’d have to have it. I love pavlova. And my Grandma makes the most amazing raspberry pavlova (she made one for our wedding as I knew our dessert table wouldn’t be complete without it – and it was the only cake I ate that day!).
This mixed berry version at Bar+Block didn’t disappoint, although I would have preferred it if the fruit hadn’t been swimming in syrup but that’s just a personal preference. We rounded our dinner off with a coffee for LPD and a cup of tea for me and we left three hours after we arrived with lovely full tummies and a lot more relaxed.
Was it worth it?
We were very lucky to have been invited to try out Bar+Block, and so our meal was complimentary in exchange for this review, and whilst I didn’t add up what we would have spent exactly, I’d estimate that the bill would have come to over £100. For us, that’s a lot of money to be spending on one meal out, and we’d be more likely to only go for a one course meal to better suit our budget had we paid for it ourselves.
Being completely honest, for a meal costing this much, I was hoping for better service. Our waiter was lovely, and I couldn’t fault him when he was with us – but he just wasn’t with us very much. We’d almost finished our main courses when he came to check everything was okay with our food (which, bless him, he did apologise for) but as our meal progressed, we felt like we were kept waiting a few times, and we did have the call the manager over at the end of our meal to finish up. It was such a shame, as I left feeling like they’d undersold themselves a little bit. It probably didn’t help that I’d read Lucy’s review beforehand, and she has absolutely raved about the service – so maybe my expectations were raised a little too high? But it’s worth giving her Bar+Block review a read too if you’re considering booking a table, as I’m not sure our experience was necessarily indicative of what it’s like usually.
It definitely wouldn’t put me off returning though, especially as I’d still like to try that Asian Crispy Beef. A great go-to place for good quality steaks in the city centre, where you can guarantee the quality is going to be top-notch.
Disclaimer: we were invited to dine at Bar+Block for the purposes of this review. All content, opinions and views remain my own.