I take my birthday as seriously as Christmas. No word of a lie, I absolutely love my birthday – mainly because it gives me a brilliant excuse to meet up with friends whilst sampling all of the bars and restaurants that I have been dying to try out. One that has been on my agenda for a while now is bar and grill restaurant The Brickyard, situated in the heart of Romford, a mere five minute walk from the station. Featuring on The Only Way is Essex had given it a slight air of notoriety and the imposing exterior of flame lantern guarded main entrance and muted grey railings just made me even more curious. Knowing it was a tad on the pricey side for you average dinner out, it made perfect sense to check out this modern venue as a birthday treat with my fiancé Dan.
The darkly exciting exterior excludes an air of mystery and class that is almost impossible to pass, large advertising sheets on the railing show casing their variety with offers for Sunday roasts juxtaposed with nights in the bar with popular DJ’s and classical piano evenings. Covering all bases with their three floors and two bars you can’t help but think what a tantalisingly irresistible venue this is. We had booked a table for the night of my birthday, which happened to be a Tuesday at 7.30pm for dinner. As it turns out, we didn’t really need to book as the restaurant was pretty much empty, with a scattering of guest on one half of the restaurant, but not clustered in at all. It felt very roomy, and we were seated at a table of four after being given some options about where we wanted to sit. Settling down into a trendy mottled fabric covered chair, I was in awe of the general exclusive atmosphere – as if you were part of an elite club privileged to be enjoying The Brickyard.
There is only one word to describe The Brickyard really – glamorous. Yes, it has elegance with the mint-cream, leather button studded couches, crystal chandeliers splintering rainbow light across the room and upmarket heavy white linen tableware; however it doesn’t have the opulent frills often associated with elegance. It also has a trendy, grunge kind of cool, with its mottled exposed brick work, heavy steel ceiling beams and light-bulb lit logo dangling above the bar. Despite this, it still oozes armfuls of class and upmarket panache, so the most complete and fitting description is glamorous. The Brickyard is quite simply as glamorous and show stopping as a classic red lipstick. Luxuriously thick mint-sage green curtains framed the ceiling to floor windows edging the restaurant, giving a fabulously exclusive and secluded aurora. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.
With a glass of silky smooth Chardonnay adorning my hand, I perused the menu eagerly after the nod from Dan signalling that yes, three courses would be required. For starters, we both went for the same option (after Dan was refused his warm duck salad), which was the duck and pork rillettes. 12 hour slow cooked duck and pork was mixed with fresh herbs to create triangular slabs of a flaky, dry pate style dish. I couldn’t really taste the herbs, but the flavours of the meat definitely came through, which I enjoyed, although if I’m honest, the highlight for me was the burnt apple chutney, that had a fantastic caramel undertone and a sticky sweet texture. The chunks of apple were large enough that I had to get my knife involved and I just loved this gooey texture paired with the dryness of the rillettes. It was also served with a decorative salad garnish, which I ate anyway, as well as sharp shards of crackling which I passed on to Dan after seeing his adoring glances at the crisped up and crunchy morsels. The dish was served on small, rectangular black slate plates, which I actually found rather difficult to eat off – it wasn’t really that easy to cut the food on this style of plate and it was also a smidge too small for my liking. On the whole though, the flavours and combinations were delightful and it was also the ideal size for whetting my appetite for the main event.
Usually I spend eons oohing and ahhing over what to pick when I order dinner out, but after only one read through of the menu, something had already caught my eye enough that I simply had to have it. I opted for the pan fried loin of venison, partly because it is a meat I enjoy yet rarely have, and partly because of the blueberry and chocolate port wine jus that was served with it. The strips of dark meat were nestled against a circular bed of spinach, with a decorative smear of celeriac puree accompanying it. I even pushed the boat out with a side of dauphinoise potatoes that arrived at the table in a dinky burnt orange ramekin, complete with melted cheese topping and sprinkled with chives.
The venison was simply stunning. Venison to me tastes very much like an excellent steak, with a denser and firmer texture that has a much richer meaty taste and texture to it. It was served in wonderfully thick slices adorning my plate meaning I could really get stuck in to the perfectly cooked meat. I think the sauce was incredibly imaginative and a truly inspired partner in crime for such good quality meat. I could actually really taste the chocolate, which only enhanced the delicious depth of flavour that was freshened up with the pep of fresh fruit with the lively hint of blueberries now and again. This combined with the decadent port wine base of the sauce really hit the spot for me and I found the mixture absolutely faultless and so tasty with my venison. The spinach was pretty much just boiled really so nothing really to comment on there and the celeriac puree was so inconsequential and small on the plate it didn’t really enhance or detract from anything or add much to the overall dish.
I’m really glad I went for the side dish, as portion size wise, I don’t think it would have been filling enough for me without it. Granted, the majority of the dish was the wonderful meat, which they were very generous with which is rare in fancier restaurants, so that was a big plus point, however there wasn’t that much else on the main plate to fill me up. The thinly sliced dauphinoise were really yummy to eat, however it was a lot dryer than I was anticipating, as I was expecting that under all the fluffy cheesy topping I would reveal layers of sliced potato drenched in a creamy white sauce. To be honest, the sauce seemed pretty non-existent although I could see remains of it in places that still added to the general flavour of the potato. It was still really lovely to eat though and I did enjoy them, it just wasn’t entirely what I was expecting and not really what I believed dauphinoise potatoes should be about. On the whole though, I adored my main course and could quite happily have eaten it all over again if I had been presented with it. That venison was so divine and the perfect choice for me.
Dessert was the completely delectable choice of banana and toffee cheesecake, served with small spodges of what was labelled as vanilla ice cream, but tasted more like plain old vanilla cream to me, due to the light whipped consistency and texture. No matter however as the cheesecake was brilliant, each mouthful a pleasure to devour, and it was also nice and light so I didn’t feel overstuffed afterwards. The mousse was bubbly and bursting with toffee tones, streaked with buttery banana which is a fabulous combo in my book. The biscuit base was perfectly fused together as well as being soft yet crunchy so that was lovely, especially with the dried chocolate lines decorating the top of the cheesecake that had a satisfying crunch to them. It was also a decent sized slice so I wasn’t left longing for more. This really hit my sweet spot and was the ideal finish for my meal.
Dan also enjoyed his meal, opting for the same starter as me, but then moving on to a traditional 10 ounce sirloin steak for his main course, with the most decadent chips I have ever seen – needless to say I had no qualms pinching one for my plate. They were incredibly thick with a natural chunky cut and a home fried exterior that was the perfect level of crispiness for me, with beautifully soft and fluffy potato inside. Served with these spot on chips, the steak also came with the classic tomato and mushroom combo. For his dessert, Dan went for the apple pie, which came with a tall and slim white ramekin holding smooth pale custard, flecked with vanilla. The pie used a light short crust pastry which guarded the gooey apple innards.
So, for the three courses, a glass of wine and a coke, our meal came to approximately £73, which is tad more than I would usually like to pay, as this works out at about £36 per person, when I usually try and aim for a maximum of £25. Granted, this is a special birthday meal out so the extra cost was perfectly justified, especially when you consider the excellent quality of the meal, as well as the different food options available which enabled me to try some imaginative combinations that I loved. My favourite course was probably the main course, although it was a photo finish with that phenomenal cheesecake for dessert. The wine was the idea accompaniment as well and really hit the nail on the head in terms of depth of fruity flavour and smoothness. Our waiter was civil and took our order efficiently, however he always seemed in a rush despite the restaurant being pretty empty and he didn’t really inject any friendly personality into his service which is a shame. He came across as if he couldn’t be bothered which is a complete contrast to the well thought out, planned and executed menu. All in all though, I would heartily recommend The Brickyard as it has a fabulous atmosphere, wonderful food suitable for all the family and a handy location. Definitely a place to save for a special occasion though.