Tuesday, 22 April 2014


It occurred to me when I received an invite from the team behind Blackhouse to visit their Leeds branch 'The Grill on the Square' that I had in fact never ordered a steak in a restaurant before. Mainly because of a reason... the price.

I am a BIG steak fan. Every three weeks or so I treat myself to a sirloin or rump (whatever looks best quality down Butcher's Row) from Leeds Kirkgate market and get my griddle pan a'sizzling. Two minutes each side, precisely measured with a countdown timer on my phone.

As a student I would usually treat myself to a steak from one of the local pubs, cheap and maybe not so cheerful but it did the deed in terms of providing that much-needed dose of iron that students tend to lack. But yes... steak in a restaurant was about to become a new experience for me.

After a long drive back up to Leeds following a short stint back home down South, I took Papa Wood as my guest to Blackhouse. Arriving on a Monday evening at 6pm, the restaurant was relatively empty and quiet but had a nice ambience to it. Some people were just enjoying drinks after work at the bar, whilst others were sitting down to enjoy a meal or some cocktails.

We took our seat at a table by the window and ordered wine. Red of course (I only drink white to be polite) we both went for the house French red, La Serre Merlot priced at £5 for a small glass.

The wine was served and the temperature was perfect. Not cold, slightly warm and exactly the temperature a red wine should be. I have never had a glass of red served where it has not been too cold before so this was a pleasant surprise indeed.

We had ordered some starters, I went for the Scottish Mussels in Cider and Chorizo (£7) and my Pa went for the Crispy Calamari with Lemon Mayonnaise (£6). Both arrived in good time, just over 10 minutes from order to table.

First up, my mussels came served in a shallow dish with a lid for the shells and a water bowl with hot water for what would become inevitably messy fingers.

The mussels were juicy and plump. They tasted fresh and clean with not a bit of grit in sight. The mussels were bathing in a shallow layer of cider stock, accompanied with two crisp tostada's on the side. When crumbled into the mussels they added an almost crouton-like texture to the dish. The chorizo was not overpowering or too salty and there was plenty of it to go about. The cider added a nice depth to the dish without it being too rich like its popular white wine and cream counterpart.

With seafood being the continual theme, Papa Wood's calamari came with the tentacles on. They had kindly asked him on ordering if he would like them to remove the tentacles but we don't do things by half in this family!

The calamari was fresh and coated in a light and crispy batter with a a rather decadent lemon mayo to add a bit of oomph. This was snaffled up almost instantly and received a firm nod of approval.

Next up is the headline act! Yes we both went for steak... with chips. I had a little discussion about this too as all the steaks are served with either a portion of chips, mash potato or a baked potato and whilst all three are obviously great variations of the potato in their own right, I could still not really envisage eating a steak with a jacket or a portion of mash!

I was told that their beef is sourced from local Yorkshire producers. It is prided on being of a premium quality and is aged for 28 days to ensure tenderness and flavour.

Papa Wood went for the Ribeye Steak (£17.95), a hefty hunk of juicy meat cooked medium rare and served with a little mini fryer basket full of home-cut chips and watercress on the side. This steak was indeed juicy and extremely succulent. Served as he had asked for, it came medium-rare. I had a sneaky strip and it was indeed succulent and tender. It had a melting texture in the mouth due to the marbling of the fat through the meat.

I went for the Rump Steak (£17.95), which was also cooked medium-rare. My steak was juicy, slightly firmer but was also tender to the taste. As a leaner cut, it was not as supple as the ribeye steak but it had good flavour throughout and was pink and oozing juice all the way through. A very fine steak indeed.

My absolute MUST for a steak is a good serving of horseradish. I know horseradish is a marmite-type love/hate condiment but for me it is the absolute making of a good steak. In my eyes too only the hot chunky versions will do, not like the creamy mild slop you find in a Wetherspoons.

I asked the waitress for some horseradish and HURRAH she brought over two shining little pots of hot chunky horseradish which just made my steak sing to an even finer tune.

We were both sold on the chips. Hand-cut skin-on potatoes which were soft and fluffy on the inside with a good crisp jacket on the outside. With a steak I want simple sides. A bit of greenery usually does the trick with some fresh salad leaves or even some steamed green veg.

A healthy one at heart, we shared side dishes of a Mixed Herb and Leaf Salad (£3.75) and a portion of Roasted Sprouts (£3.50) - however as sprouts were out of season we were offered baby cabbage instead. I was impressed to see a commitment to using seasonal vegetables where possible.

To accompany my steak I also had a second glass of red wine, this time going for a Spanish wine, the Borsao Garnacha at £5.50 for a large glass. This was slightly colder than my previous glass but it was well bodied in taste and went down very smoothly with the steak.

To finish we had a coffee each, Espresso (£2.25) for me and a Macchiato (£2.25) for who I think the staff were now wondering whether was my actual Pa or just a sugar Daddy I had brought along for the ride.

Glancing over the dessert menu we were both eyeing up the interesting looking apple pie which came with a Lancashire cheese crust and custard but alas we could not find the room for such a heavy dessert. Instead we shared an Affogato (£4.50) which came as a ristretto, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a shot of Amaretto. This wasn't something I would usually order but I was intrigued to see how it was served. It was a bit of a DIY job and a nice light offering from the dessert menu. I did however then pour the whole Amaretto shot on without knowing how strong it would be and after a few mouthfuls we couldn't eat anymore.

This meal would have came to a total of £82.25. A similar price to the total of the bill for the meal I had at The Alchemist a few weeks back (see post here) which for me seemed shocking considering the poor quality of the food and service.

It's also interesting to me and something that I think I should note that both The Alchemist and Blackhouse are run by the same restaurant operator.

However, in the case of Blackhouse, the standard of the restaurant, the service and the high quality of the food on offer was on a different scale altogether. For two starters, two mains, two sides, one dessert, three glasses of wine and two coffees this was a very reasonable price (although still not one I would usually be able to afford!).

Whilst this is not your average restaurant to visit on a regular basis, Blackhouse would be one that I would be happy to recommend to someone to visit for a special occasion or for a celebratory meal.
The service and the quality of the food were both very good and the atmosphere on that evening that we went was welcoming and relaxed.

Disclaimer: I was invited to review this restaurant with a complimentary meal for myself and a guest, however all the views within this review are my own honest opinions.

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