When it comes to food, I like to be served up with no drama. High stakes hold no interest for me, but well done steaks, on the other hand, do.
The newly opened Bar + Block on Glasgow’s St Enoch Square is the first of its kind in Scotland, and instantly impresses on first glance.
Located just a minute’s walk from the shopping centre, Bar + Block strikes you with its spacious interior which offers an uncluttered, yet functional space. The wooden finish lends a homely feel, with comfortable booths and seats, all with the appropriate Covid-19 dividers.
There’s subtle hints to the food on offer in the drapes at the windows, as the red and white stripes subconsciously draw the mind to think of a butcher’s. Clever.
When glancing at the menu, it’s hard not to be taken with an extensive range of high-quality steaks, handmade burgers and grazing plates, alongside creative cocktails and craft brews. Four classic cuts are available, with rump, ribeye, sirloin and fillet.
The small plates phenomenon is catered for with the grazing menu, which has a selection of dishes that would be ideal for those looking for a quick and tasty bite. Options include a trash can nachos sharer, Middle Eastern king prawns, Asian crispy beef and cauliflower wings, but we selected Korean BBQ pork ribs (£5.50), mac and cheese bites (£3.95) and salt and pepper squid (£6.50).
The ribs – or to be precise, riblets – had clearly been charcoal roasted, giving a fabulous freshly-cooked taste to them, and the sauce pleased my mouth immensely, while the meat itself just fell off the bone. Winner.
The mac and cheese bites were little balls of macaroni cheese battered and deep fried, and were full of flavour – and not dripping with grease or fat, as could have been the case.
Our junior diner is a fussy one and requested the salt and pepper squid, but without chilli, and this wasn’t a problem at all as the kitchen were able to prepare this for her, just showing how well each dish is made for the customer’s individual tastes. And wow. What a flavour – think of scampi, and you’re in the right area, but with an added crunch. Her plate was clear in less than two minutes (As a sidenote, this came with a lemon and garlic mayonnaise which is beautiful – I kept this aside to go with my main course).
I ordered a speciality cut, recommended by our first-class server Jess, with the 10oz spiral cut fillet (£28.50), which is, as the name suggests, created from a spiral cut of the fillet, then marinated in garlic and parsley for 24 hours, to fully bring out the tenderness and flavour. I asked for mine to be well done, and this was exactly how it came out – it cut so easily.
I haven’t had a steak like this since I was in the United States 20 years ago, so I absolutely savoured the flavour, as the charred outside and the flavoursome inside combined beautifully to give me the taste that I adore. And then when introduced to the peppercorn sauce… this is how you do it. This is a good, expensive cut of meet, cooked to perfection, and it shows.
This was accompanied by beef-dripping tripled cooked chips, which were heavenly. These were good, proper, solid chips, and just what you want with a good, thick piece of steak.
My companion went for another of the speciality cuts, opting for Surf and Turf (£25.95), which was an 8oz sirloin, topped with lobster tail, cooked in garlic butter over charcoal, and served with the triple-cooked chips.
Her steak was medium-rare, and the colour inside was just the way it should be – the exterior browned, without being blackened, and the flavour was exactly as she had wanted. Bar + Block know how to do steak exactly as the diner requests it, no questions asked.
The lobster was fabulous – sitting in its shell, atop the steak, it looked like something you’d expect to see in an American movie, and this was definitely not a case of style over substance. The lobster was wonderfully fresh – it had that distinctive sea water taste to it, giving away the fact that it had recently been caught – and came out of the shell with little resistance.
Our junior diner was in the mood for a simple steak, and her choice was the 80z sirloin (£18.50), which was well done, and this was, in her own words, “delicious”. Again, this was a good cut, with nothing going to waste in the end, and cut perfectly. This came with French fries, and were cooked the way she wanted, with no burnt fries in her selection.
We also opted for a bottle of wine – as someone with a sweet tooth, I tend to prefer something that veers towards the dessert end of the scale, but in the end we settled for a bottle of rose, a Villa Maria from New Zealand. Perhaps it didn’t bombard the palate in the way that I would choose, but it was pleasant, open and refreshing, and worked well with the meat and lobster.
Bar + Block also has a small but perfectly formed selection of puddings – somehow, we were able to resist the zesty lemon tart, triple chocolate brownie, Eton Mess sundae, chocolate torte, chocolate churros sundae, signature chocolate and hazelnut dome and meringue kisses, all of which were strong contenders between us, but ultimately I choose the melting chocolate dome on Jess’s recommendation, again (£6.95), and my companion had a sticky toffee pudding, with custard (£5.95).
The dome was brought out with a jug of hot chocolate sauce, and I pour this over the top, with the darker chocolate melting the milk chocolate surrounding a ball of ice cream. And wow. It was a treat for the eyes to watch it melting and mixing together, and then the taste of the different chocolates together, plus the ice cream, was a perfect sweet combination with which to end my meal.
My companion, always a sucker for sticky toffee pudding, made this her selection and it was without fault. The crumb of the pudding was just how it should be – light and fluffy, far from dense, and with the custard on it, combined for what can only be called a sweet treat.
Bar + Block is the first of its kind in Scotland, as the owners, the Whitbread group, look to see if there is a demand for a steakhouse like this. Given its location, so close to Glasgow Central Station and the major shopping areas, it’s one that I know we’ll be back to. The staff are attentive, friendly and know their menu inside out, making perfect recommendations for me when I explained what my tastes were.
It’s cooked by people who know what they’re doing it, and is brought to you by people who care that the customer is getting what they want. What more could you ask for. Bottom line – this is how you do steak and service.
Bar + Block, 24 Howard Street, Glasgow, G1 4AG
0141 732 9430