There’s much that’s faux about the latest incarnation of Beefeater, that slightly jokey chain of steakhouses with a history dating back over four decades.
The newly-opened Beefeater Bar + Block in Birmingham city centre has slightly edgy decor – exposed brickwork, piping and cables, a bit of neon lighting – that was no doubt created up by an expensive team of designers.
The menu draws heavily on the burgeoning artisan and street food scene.
The staff, though delightful, seem to be reading from a carefully-worded hi-guys-how-you-doing sort of script.
It’s owned by by the hospitality giant Whitbread but seeks to appear distinctly uncorporate, though it’s part of a budget hotel above.
Yet despite my distaste for chains, I rather liked it. Didn’t love it. But liked it. Sort of.
The menu ticks so many boxes that its author may well have suffered repetitive strain injury compiling it and eye strain as he nicked ideas by studying the menus of other outlets.
My wife, son and I dismissed the notion of ordering starters – the sharing boards (yawn), garlic prawns (bigger yawn) and salads (oops… I nodded off there) simply didn’t appeal.
Thus we progressed straight to meaty main courses, for Beefeater’s heritage is surely all about bovine protein.
And it was here that I began to warm to the place for the 8oz sirloin I ate was a fine chunk of beef: tender, flavoursome, charred on the outside and properly rare within.
A 10oz rump was cooked with equal precision and was well-received.
As was a huge plate of slow-cooked beef short ribs in an Irish stout and
The samphire that came as a garnish with the steaks was a nice touch – adding salty, vibrant snap to the dish.
The insipid and slightly floppy chips were less impressive and I was disappointed by the lack of depth in a blue cheese sauce that I ordered as a side.
Another side order of house, salad, however, was fresh, varied, nicely dressed and enjoyable.
Helpings were generous and none of us sought desserts, though I was slightly tempted by a Black Forest sundae.
There’s a range of beers, none which caused my jaw to drop in surprise or my heart to race with joy.
The wine list is well-constructed and kicks in at £12.95 for a bottle of house red or white.
The Argentinian malbec that we drank was, at £19.95, reasonably priced and had plenty of dark fruit flavours.
There are cocktails, spirits and soft drinks, too.
Over £90 for three people for one course each and a limited number of sides and drinks seemed steep.
It would be easy to rack up a hefty bill with three courses and more booze, though, equally, there are cheaper options.
Need to know
Expect to pay over £30 a head for three courses and drinks.
Go for the cheaper Express Menu, which offers a drink and a dish for under a tenner.
Vegetarians are catered for.
It’s child-friendly and fine for disabled customers.
There’s a breakfast and brunch menu.
Beefeater Bar + Block
3-6 Waterloo Street, Birmingham B2 5PG. 0121 227 5139.