Nowadays going to a restaurant and not being the one reviewing it, is very rare. However, this is exactly what happened on Wednesday night. I accompanied an old acquaintance to West Smithfield and to the freshly opened steak house – Blackhouse.
“Are you sure it’s a restaurant love?” my taxi driver chirped as we sped through EC4. “I’m sure 3-4 West Smithfield is that karaoke bar Pure Groove.”
“Well that’s the address he gave me,” I replied, while thinking, ‘if he has tricked me into going to some dubiously named Grease-themed club, there will be consequences.’
Fortunately it was my dining companion’s knowledge that proved superior, 3-4 West Smithfield was indeed a newly renovated, converted restaurant. I paid my £4 fare and went in.
For those of you that know me, my biggest pet hate is being late. I despise being late and am without doubt, if meeting someone, always on time. I find people who are late inconsiderate, rude and arrogant. What gives them the right to keep me waiting? Do they think that I have nothing better to do with my time?
Bearing this in mind, as I hadn’t been to the restaurant before, I arrived at 7.20 p.m with 10 minutes to spare. To my surprise and delight, my acquaintance was already there. We went straight to the table.
As we made our way through the restaurant, past the leather cushioned booths and smooth beams, I had a sense of deja vu. I’d been to this place before. But it had just opened? Then it clicked. Blackhouse is a chain and I’d been to the one in Leeds – on the night of my graduation no less.
The waiter, who used to work as a mixologist, came over and asked us what we’d like to drink. Cocktails seemed like a good call.
“What’s your favourite drink?” He asked me eagerly.
“Hmmmn, well probably, at the moment, a passion fruit martini.”
“Ah a pornstar.”
“Excuse me?” I said and flushed slightly.
“Oh, sorry. That drink is called a pornstar.”
Well, that broke the ice. As it so happened, I hadn’t ever had a proper conversation with my supper partner – and there I go ordering pornstars! He ordered a Vodka (Chase Vodka) Martini.
The Pornstar (which also came with a shot of Champagne)
Chase Vodka Martini
Clinking our glasses to a ‘reconnecting’ toast, we chatted freely and without awkwardness, which considering it was our first proper conversation, we both agreed was rather impressive. He explained the website he works for, its success and the dramatic increases in traffic each month. I talked about the online magazine, the restaurant and more alternative reviews. It was fun, interesting and easy.
We decided to test out some starters before moving on to our steaks. Between us we shared Chicken Liver pâté with Cumberland jelly and toast, Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad and Duck Spring Rolls with hoi sin dip.
Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad
The baby scallops were so small they would have been better labelled as embryonic scallops, but despite their stature, they were tender and tasty. The pâté had been kept in the fridge a smidgen too long and proved rather a battle to break into. Once room temperature had done its job, it became much more agreeable. The duck rolls were weak. They’d tasted as though they’d been made the day before and their insides didn’t have that crisp, fresh flavour that you want from this dish. There’s prepping and there’s over-prepping, and these rolls were an example of the latter.
The next course was where the restaurant came into its own – meat. He ordered the Rib Eye, I ordered the Fillet – both medium rare.
We also ordered a trio of mustards, field mushrooms, green beans and asparagus.
The Fillet was good, but the Rib Eye was great. Juicy and moist, it had been cooked at just the right temperature to melt its fat but not lose its flavour. After a little lesson on steaks from my companion, who was taught by the head chef of Gauchos, I shall henceforth be ordering Rib Eyes. The cow’s life is manifested in this bit of meat – and when cooked right, no other cut can compare.
Pudding was a Crème brûlée each. Sadly the chef had gone a bit overboard with the blow torch, which resulted in a crust as hard as the earth’s – buried under which was a pool of crème, which had the consistency of actual cream.
So, in conclusion, if you’re after a good steak then I’d suggest a visit to Blackhouse, but I’d stick to the mains to avoid disappointment.
Overall Food: ** Steak: **** Wine: *** Price: £££ Experience: ****
2-3 WEST SMITHFIELD, CITY OF LONDON, EC1A 9JX
020 7246 0900