After a brilliant, but incredibly busy, weekend I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself at the start of last week. Don’t get me wrong, most of it was self inflicted (my hen do was epic; I thought I was dying until Wednesday) but I was most definitely in need of a post-weekend pick me up. Thankfully Bar + Block was on hand to brighten my day, and I grabbed Ian for dinner and restorative drinks.
The venue itself is situated next to Fumo and is modern and stylish, offering booth seating as well as intimate tables for two. I couldn’t tell it was part of the Premier Inn next door (nor a revamped version of Beefeater minus the signage outside) and it stands alone as a decent setting for dining or drinks, thanks in part to the big bar in the middle of the room.
As we took in the menu a little bowl of popcorn arrived for us to graze on. No biggy right? Wrong: this stuff was flavoured with beef dripping. Yes, you heard. Frankly I’d have happily eaten piles of this for dinner but eventually we got cracking ordering our entrees.
The grazing plates double up as starters and are actually very generous portions, making them ideal as Tapas-style sharing dishes.
The Garlic King Prawns (£6.95) were heavy on the garlic and juicy. Next up was a generous portion of Salt & Pepper Squid (£6.50) that offered some heat thanks to the fresh red chilli. Mac n Cheese Bites (£4.95) completed the trio and the gooey centre of the fried bitesize chunks was flavourful. Three plates was just right for two people sharing.
Time for mains, and as tempting as the whole sea bass sounded there was no way I was coming to a place specialising in steak to eat fish. That’s like going to the cinema and sitting with your eyes closed, in my opinion. With meat in mind I opted for the Spiral Cut Fillet (£24.50) and – inspired by the popcorn earlier – Beef Dripping Chunky Chips. That sentence makes me feel happy even now. I also added the Heritage Tomato Salad (£2.95) side dish for some freshness.
A house speciality, so I was told, a 10oz fillet steak is spiral-cut before being marinated in olive oil, garlic and parsley. The tenderness of the beef was unparalleled and packed a real flavour punch thanks to the aromatic herby marinade. Fillet isn’t always the most flavoursome cut (I often chose it for its delicate texture over robust taste) but the Chimichurri-esq marinade gave the steak extra depth and a pleasant burst of fresh flavour. I also quite liked the ‘jelly roll’ cut and presentation; not for everyone but certainly a new way of eating steak for me. I asked for it medium and was happy with the way it was cooked.
The crispy chips were fat as promised, on the right side of savoury (thanks to the rich frying choice) and literally melted in the mouth. I mean, when something is 50% beef dripping is it ever going to be anything other than delicious? I felt instantly guilty for eating them and also the happiest I’d been all day; a sure fire sign of a decent bowl of chips.
Ian opted for the 10oz Fillet (£22.95) cooked medium rare and added Garlic Flat Mushrooms (£2.95) and Trio of Peppercorn Sauce (£1.50), and commented that the steak was well seasoned and cooked. Our sides came the wrong way round but that’s a tiny gripe, and the overall quality of the mains was very good.
Despite my better judgement (my jeans honestly were nearly cutting off my circulation by 8pm) we delved into desserts, and upon seeing my beloved Sticky Toffee Pudding (£5.95) I was sold. The combination of sweet flavours was pleasing, although the sponge itself was a little heavy; it was perfectly nice but I’ve had lighter versions of this dessert. The ice cream was deliciously rich though, and the mini chunks of honeycomb were an added bonus.
During the meal I also enjoyed a Sipsmith Gin Smash (£6.99) made with elderflower, lime and mint, cloudy apple juice and Sipsmith Gin, and an Espresso Martini (£6.99). This last drink was especially good. The cocktails were well made, although the choice available is somewhat limited compared to nearby restaurants.
All in all, a meal that exceeded my expectations (I kind of expected it to be like a Beefeater from 1993, to be honest) and would be more than enough to bring me back for a return visit. It wasn’t the fastest service (the three courses took two hours from start to finish) but our waiter, Rich, was polite and helpful and the steaks were very good.
It’s a well priced menu with sides and sauces for the steak mostly coming in at £2-£3. There’s also half price cocktails 5-7pm so you can have a nice time getting merry with your meat.
Bar + Block, 3-6 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PG
*Disclosure: My meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions, photos and hungover self pity remain my own*