A discussion at work about how hard it is to get a steak cooked properly in a restaurant prompted our visit to Blackhouse. That, and the fact that I was forwarded a 30% off food voucher.
Blackhouse has taken over the spot formerly inhabited by Est Est Est on East Parade. It has been quite a revamp, too: the interior is all dark wood and leather, with a sort of ranch-like feel, as the dining areas are, literally, fenced off from the bar.
We arrived a little late for our 7pm booking so I was disappointed to be told that our table wasn't ready and that we could have a drink at the bar. I was even more disappointed because there were plenty of tables free.
Things weren't starting too well. The barman didn't come across as overly efficient (although he might have been hampered by working alone and having to deal with a large group that seemed to be just having drinks). We weren't given a drinks list so Andy asked what beers were available. They were rattled off and it was only when I asked about wines by the glass that a menu was produced. This suggests that there is an additional selection of wines by the glass on the 'guest list' ... but before I had an opportunity to ask about this, the barman had disappeared. And just as he was about to take my drinks order ... our table was ready.
Eventually I got my glass of Arium Reserva from Valdepeñas, Spain: a Tempranillo billed as an 'amazing alternative to Rioja'. Maybe it is, but I'll never know because the wine was served so warm it was like a slightly jammy, rich cordial. I was convinced it must have been body temperature and Andy agreed that you could almost bathe in it. Now - a full bodied red wine should be served 'room temperature'. Which means nothing. But 16°-18°C ... surely that's understandable? I'm starting to wonder if sending a wine back because it's too warm is justifiable ...
We started with some bread which was served warm, in a small loaf (or large roll), on a breadboard (with knife, obviously!). The bread we both rated quite highly but I was underwhelmed by the olive oil and Balsamic vinegar dipping combination. Blackhouse would be better served by paying more attention to the quality of the olive oil and using less Balsamic vineger (or omitting it all together).
As a starter we shared the chicken skewered on lemon grass with a Thai red curry paste. I felt (and remain) ambivalent about this dish: nothing wrong with it, utterly inoffensive ... but ... I don't think I'd order it again. Andy was a lot more enthusiastic.
Moving on to the main course, we both ordered 8oz rump steaks, cooked rare. We both had chips - although mash or jacket potato were alternatives. Although the chips were good, Andy was convinced they'd been frozen at some point in their lifecycle - I have no opinion on this! I ordered Béarnaise sauce, while Andy ordered a side of spring greens (£2.95 - quite a small portion, but a definite thumbs up in the flavour department).
Now - the steaks were ... perfect. They were actually rare. They were chargrilled, and had that great, smoky flavour. The Béarnaise sauce was creamy, and while I initially thought the portion a little stingy (at £1.95) I have to eat my words because it was actually the perfect amount.
But the main course was where our meal ended ... not because of poor service, as we had one waitress throughout the meal who was fantastic, not because we thought the desserts or coffee might not be up to scratch, but because we couldn't hear ourselves think. The restaurant is hard surface central and by fitting all the diners into the front section - with big glass frontage onto East Parade - it almost felt as though there was no breathing space for all the noise. And the noise added an edge to the evening: the staff seemed almost frantic, the sense of pace was frenetic. This is clearly not dinner date material!
While Blackhouse isn't cheap, it is offering you a good steak. You won't leave feeling hungry. And maybe at lunch time, you won't leave feeling deaf!
Bottom line: £55 (without discount) for 1 bread, 1 starter, 2 mains, sides and drinks.
1. Blackhouse, 31-33 East Parade, Leeds, LS1 5PS, phone: 0113 246 0669
tagged with: restaurant, leeds, steak Stumble It!