BY PALOMA LACY
Bar & Block sounds rather like a trendy restaurant in New York’s Meat Packing District, at least to my mind, anyway.
This impression was cemented by the distinctly American flavour of the menu. In fact, it spans the Americas, with several nods to the well-established steak-eating traditions of South America.
Family-friendly in terms of space and price point, Bar & Block is a refreshing change for a central London restaurant, where spiralling prices fail to match diners’ stagnant wages. Dining with a friend, we shared three grazing plates as starters – two of which, upon reflection, were a bit similar.
Crispy salt and pepper squid, mixed with chilli and garlic, served with lemon and garlic mayonnaise (£6.50) was definitely the right way to begin. A generous portion of fresh fish arrived, well-seasoned and lightly cooked.
Mac & cheese bites (£3.75), though incredibly tasty, were a little heavy a choice, and a bit too similar to cheese & jalapeno-stuffed dippers (£3.95). The price of dishes continued to confound me, but a wander around revealed that the restaurant is in fact attached to a Premier Inn hotel, which finally made a lot of things fall into place.
The relaxed décor, cool in appearance but generic enough to give the feel of an all-day restaurant: mystery solved.
This place acts as the hotel’s restaurant and as such is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And so it was time to venture on to the main course. With so much steak on the menu and butchery mentioned on quite a few occasions, Bar & Block is probably not the culinary destination for vegetarians.
However, we did notice a halloumi and courgette burger. Every cut of steak is present on the menu, perhaps most interesting of these are the South American cuts: spiral cut fillet and churrasco de chorizo, both of which were marinated in garlic and parsley for 24 hours for ultimate tenderness and flavour.
Surprised and delighted to see beef wellington on the menu, a dish usually associated with higher end restaurants, we couldn’t resist trying Bar &Block’s deconstructed version for two to share. Along came a 10z fillet served on layers of puff pastry, with garlic spinach and creamy truffle flavour mushrooms and a velvety Malbec sauce. It was pretty good for just under £30 for two, but not a patch on the real article, which yields a juicy fillet by cooking inside pastry, which remains succulent, with the mushroom duxelle topping.
Again, budget busting is at the forefront of the restaurant’s business model, and Sunday is no different, with a roast just £13.50 per person (a minimum order for two is required), with a firm Latin feel. Sliced picanha – a juicy cut from the top cap of the rump mixes things up a bit and increases flavour hugely popular in South America – is served with Yorkshire puddings, beef dripping roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Cheddar topped cauliflower, seasonal greens and rich gravy. What a way to end the week.
We couldn’t manage dessert, but much like the starters, there were few surprises – chocolate brownie, pavlova and salted toffee apple crumble – all pretty standard these days.
Paloma was a guest of Bar & Block. 26-30 York Way, London N1 9AA.