Eating Around: Steakout Meat House, Stratford, London

When one is double dating for the evening, it is essential to find a location that hits the spot for us foodie-focused and cocktail-loving females as well as gets the thumbs up from our carnivore menfolk. When I heard about halal steak restaurant Steakout, I thought I could be on to a winner; especially if the sizzling plates displayed on their Facebook account were anything to go by. With three out of four of us diners passing through Stratford on our commutes home from work in central London, Steakout’s east London venue seemed like the ideal spot to sample. I promptly booked a table and managed to wangle a 10% discount over Facebook, as we were visiting the day after a social media campaign 15% discount code expired. A 10% discount was a great compromise here so customer service was already looking good.

Steakout certainly looks the part of a steak restaurant, with its sleek and manly black boarding and minimalist red and white neon sign neatly printing its name above the glass door. I got the impression that the look the restaurant was going for city-slicked ranch; this certainly continued inside with plenty of rustic red brickwork, neat wooden flooring and accents of its trademark deep red featuring on the booth side seating cushions and in trendy glow-style lighting that backlit behind the seating booths. With two floors, it has plenty of seating, which is evidently needed as quite a lot of large groups arrived at a similar time to us. We were shown downstairs to a cosy booth for four, with plump red cushions, and steak knives sharply glistening next to matching red napkins.

Drinks were interesting. I’m just going to lay this out there; I am very much a social drinker. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol overall and I don’t really drink alcohol when I’m at home. For me, I enjoy sipping on fine wines or slurping a G&T when I’m surrounded by my family and friends, and especially if I’m out for a meal. It’s all part of the treat for me. However, since Steakout is a halal restaurant, I can only assume that that then includes a no alcohol provision clause, as no alcoholic beverages featured on the menu at all. Of course, this could be to tailor to the majority Muslim population in that part of East London, which is why I also assume the fact that it provides halal dishes has made it such a local hotspot and ensured it has a good crowd in on most evenings. I don’t have a problem with any of this, but it sure makes it hard to pick a drink when your normal soft drink of choice is tap water. That certainly doesn’t make for an exciting night out. Luckily for me, Steakout has an extensive mocktail menu, so I kicked things off with a pina colada. This coconut and pineapple concoction came in a tall, thin glass, and although the drink itself was nice, it was so packed full of ice that it felt like I was being conned slightly as it was more ice than mocktail. Considering the mocktails were similar to what I would pay for a cheap cocktail, I was a bit disappointed with this.

We decided to begin our meal with a couple of sharing starters, so we chose the spicy lamb chops and the nachos with spinach cheese dip. Firstly, the lamb chops. They were presented on a long oval black sizzling dish, with four succulent grilled chops that had been marinated in Steakout’s special spice mix sat atop a little bed of fried up onions. Each chop was a nice size, and since there were four of us, we had one each.  They were very tender and juicy, so you could tell the quality of the meat was good. The spice mix added a gentle warmth to enhance the meat flavour and accent its lovely texture, but it certainly didn’t overpower. Matched with the onions, this really whet the appetite for steak later on. The nachos were pretty standard, with the crisps served in a basket next to a square black skillet dish, containing the creamy cheese spinach dip. It was basically a thick and gooey cheese sauce that was threaded with green spinach leaves, with extra cheese melted on top for good measure. It was very moreish with a strong cheddar flavour that flooded the crunchy nacho chips. It was interesting having the spinach laced through the sauce. I don’t think it added to the flavour or texture as cheese was undoubtedly the main event here, however it was a stroke of colour here and there, and when you got a bit on your nacho, it was still tasty.

For main course, we had to opt for the steak. Who would come to a steak restaurant and not have steak?!? I chose to have the 340g philly cheese steak, which was basically a sirloin steak served with caramelised onions and melted cheese all on top. Yum! There was a smaller 200g steak on offer for this dish, but for me, it was go big or go home! As well as choosing what type of steak you wanted, you could also choose what style; for example do you want your steak done in traditional Steakout fashion with its secret spicy braai rub served in a sizzling platter with the onions, or do you want to keep things simple with a more western dish, opting for a thicker cut with light seasoning? Since we were there for the Steakout experience, we all chose to have our steak cooked in the Steakout method. We then got to pick an accompanying sauce, so I went for a creamy garlic dip, and also sides. I decided to go for rice to mix it up, although with others in the group ordering fries, I knew I would be stealing some!

The steak was certainly an impressive size, filling a sizzling platter with gusto, squashing the wriggling soft onions underneath. What looked like three cheese slices had been melted on top of the steak, just to the point of stringy goo so it was soft and pliable to smear on the meat, but not bubbled with golden crispy bits. The steak was delicious, and a really lovely cut. It was juicy, a decent thickness and was just great to get my chops around. It was a hearty, meaty dish and to honest, you simply can’t go wrong with a good steak. Granted, I wouldn’t say the steak was in the echelons of Steak and Co, but it was a great piece of meat, cooked to how I liked it. There was a tiny bit of grizzle and fat, but not enough that it would come anywhere near to disturbing my enjoyment of the meal. The onions were a great addition for that classic steak and onion marriage, and the cheese helped tie all of this fantastic, full bodied flavours together under a blanket of creaminess. My garlic dip was a refreshing little accent served in a little black dip pot. I rather liked mixing it with my yellow toned rice, which was fluffy and yummy. The rice was pretty bog standard really, it just unassumingly sat on the side in a separate side bowl and let the steak be centre stage.

After this meat meltdown, it was round two of mocktails and this time I chose a strawberry daiquiri, which was a much better choice. Since the ice was blended as part of the drink, I found I had a lot more of it and the strawberry flavour was really fresh and evident. A much better mocktail all round in my opinion.

For dessert, Steakout have a typical dessert-shop style menu that’s all sundaes, waffles and stuff piled up as high as possible in a sweet mountain of high blood sugar. Divine. I tried requesting dessert, however they didn’t have my first choice because they’d run out of a certain ice cream flavour. This led to the dessert guy coming to our table to take a custom order. Sharing with my sister but with me in the driver’s seat, I went for a waffle topped with bananas and mini marshmallows and drizzled with ten ton of Nutella sauce. I then chose a Ferreo Rocher ice cream scoop while Jess went pistachio. When it arrived at the table, the waffle was generously portioned to enable Jess and I to share easily, with each scoop of ice cream in a separate bowl so we could sample our respective flavours easily. The waffle was light, fluffy and just pure yum and I absolutely adored the lashings of Nutella drenching the top of the waffle. This dessert is just a simple compile stuff together job, but when it combines all flavours and things that you love, what’s not to like?

We had a few problems with the bill at the end; the waiting staff had not amended our dessert choices, so we had to get that fixed. The good news is though that they ended up applying a 15% discount instead of a 10% and they were fine for us to have that extra off, which was nice. The service was very friendly and chatty, however no amount of banter can make up for when your food takes ages and when you can’t get anyone’s attention. Weirdly, if you go to this branch and sit on the downstairs level, a portion of the ceiling is see-through; clearly some kind of fancy clear plastic meant to create the look of space. However, we soon realised that this clear strip of floor led directly to the ladies toilets; and my sister and I were both wearing dresses with tables sat underneath the clear ceiling we were walking over. Whoever designed that was seriously in error there!

All in all though, I had a great evening and really loved every course that I ate. The meat is brilliant here, and the casual vibe is great for a weekday get together that’s uncomplicated and fun. I enjoyed the food and I most likely would go back if I happened to be nearby and had the fancies for steak.

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Eating Around, Dirty Bones, Carnaby Street, London

American burger joints are forever having a modern makeover in a bid to convince Londoners that it’s classy fodder really. Whether that’s by creating at atmospheric ambience or transforming burgers into unrecognisable relations, traditional burger restaurants can be a bit hit or miss. However, when my good friend Charlotte recommended that we check out casual American inspired restaurant Dirty Bones, I was definitely up for some investigating, especially since their Carnaby Street venue is mere minutes away from my central London office.

Although we visited on a weekday, the very small size of the restaurant meant that we had a 45-minute wait before we would be able to get a table. Eyeing up the food through the windows, we surmised that the wait would most likely be worth it, so we went on a hunt for some pit stop wine clutching our bleeper that would alert us when our table was ready. When we finally made it in to the restaurant, I wouldn’t say the décor was anything unusual or special; plenty of dark wood, clashing coloured ceiling lights casting glows of light into the dimly lit ambience, duck egg grey adorning the walls. We were shown to a row of tables for two, were Charlotte took the wooden bench seat, and I sat in the dining chair opposite, just enough space between us and the tables either side of us so that it didn’t feel invasive.

We decided to start as we meant to go on by ordering a cocktail, and since we are both coffee-lovers, we had to sample Dirty Bones’ spiked iced coffee, an intriguing mixture of Courvoisier VS cognac, Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, triple espresso and cream, served in a long glass and topped with chocolate shavings. The alcohol hit was quite subtle for me, but it was certainly enjoyable and far too easy to gulp down in happy slurps, the coffee  and chocolate combo a clear winner in my book.

While we enjoyed our first round of cocktails, we perused the food menu. We opted to share a starter of cheeseburger dumplings as they just sounded so different and fantastic. Traditional Chinese-style gyoza dumplings, that were soft and pliable as you picked them up but had a slight crisp on the outside, were stuffed with your typical burger mince and melted cheese for an American- oriental cuisine fusion. Presented with Dirty Bones’ signature burger relish as a dipping sauce, I loved the originality of this dish – I had not seen anything like it before and I haven’t since. The homemade dumplings were really tasty, and had obviously been fried a little on the outside to give them a slightly different texture to the occasionally soggy typical gyoza. The mince inside was a tasty little meaty morsel, the melted cheese helping to combine the filling. The burger relish dip gave that accent of slightly spiced tomato to the whole dish, which helped to pep up the dumpling shells. These were light to eat and a unique way to whet the appetite.

For my main course, I couldn’t resist diving in and ordering The Mac Daddy. It was certainly a case of go big or go home with this bad boy, as the brisket and dry-aged steak burger was piled with pulled beef short rib and lashings of luridly hued mac and cheese, BBQ sauce oozing around every edge and the sesame seed-adorned brioche bun top balancing very delicately atop the meat and cheese mountain. Served on a small, round grey plate, the burger looked delicious as the mac and cheese run gooeily down the sides of the meat. The mini pasta tubes were cooked perfectly – I don’t really do al dente – and the cheese sauce was strong and flavourful; I imagine typical American cheese was used to get the more vibrant orange-yellow hue. The cheese doused meat was also lovely and really thick and decadent. It was juicy, tender and made me feel like a complete carnivore.

The one thing that I feel is a bit of a con here, is that no sides are included with any of the main dishes. The main dishes are literally just the meat. So the plate with my burger, and just my burger, was the main meal. A burger main meal in the majority of other restaurants would include at least chips, and then perhaps you would order additional sides, for example some onion rings. However, Dirty Bones are cheeky here, slapping London’s premium prices on all of their side dishes, knowing you have to order one so that you can actually have a full meal. Despite my raised eyebrow at this rather underhand tactic, I order the cheesy truffle fries. These were basically French fries that were covered in a cheese sauce, which featured cheddar, aged parmesan and white truffle oil. Undoubtedly, the truffle was the star of the show here. I absolutely love truffle, and will pretty much order anything with truffle included. Luckily for me, truffle was the predominant flavour here, the cheeses merely acting as a gooey and creamy conduit and background flavour to the lovely, yummy truffle. I daydreamed about this truffle-centric sauce for days after my visit. No lie.

Since Charlotte was a smidge too full for a proper dessert course, we settled on another round of cocktails instead. This time I selected the grown-ups jaffa, which combined two of my favourite flavours of chocolate and orange and paired it with alcohol. #Winning! Featuring tequila, dark chocolate liqueur, orange syrup, chocolate bitters and a marmalade ice cube to top it off, this short drink was served in a tumbler, which to be honest, I always find a bit too small for cocktails. Nevertheless, I loved the flavours, which slowly got punchier the more I drank! Both the chocolate and orange flavours came through really nicely in the smooth liqueur style beverage, and I have to say the marmalade ice cube was a stroke of genius. It helped slowly add a sticky sweetness to the drink to counterbalance the chocolate and meant that drink constantly had an undulating flavour, which I quite liked. To be honest, I rather like jam in cocktails anyway as I find it really intensifies the flavour and adds a different tone.

I enjoyed my evening at Dirty Bones and would recommend it as a venue for the hard-core burger lovers among you. It wasn’t the most affordable of venues, although that might be down to the cocktails, however I thought the non-inclusion of sides with something as traditional as a burger meal was just a shade too underhand. The cocktail menu was very extensive and literally had something for everyone, with some very unique combinations. The atmosphere is perfect for hooking up with friends and having a natter, as it is very relaxed, comfortable and casual. The service was also good and the waiting staff were very friendly and chatty.

Holiday Munchies: Castello Restaurant, Frome

No matter where I am in the country, Italian food seems to call to me; a siren signal that magnetically pulls me towards the nearest cheese-topped pizza, meatball-adorned pasta, or cocoa-covered tiramisu. Even when on a road trip recently for my two year wedding anniversary, I still managed to smuggle in a meal at an Italian restaurant; Castello. Clearly popular with the locals in Frome, my husband Dan and I visited on a busy Saturday evening to explore why nearby residents came in their droves.

Castello quite a modern appearance, taking style tips from the big chains such as Ask and Wildwood to feature condiment-covered shelves filled with containers of dried pasta and jars of oil, while the wine-filled bar across the left hand side of the restaurant backed on to a pale grey brickwork wall. The restaurant felt spacious with roomy high ceilings and an open second floor with additional seating. As tourists to Frome, I felt we were treated more brusquely than the regular crowd, who greeted waiting staff with handshakes, air kisses and manly claps on the back. We were clearly the interlopers here, and our tiny table of two situation right in front of the drafty main doors and a bit away from the other tables only served to emphasise this separation.

I ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc and decided to go totally Italian with my starter, selecting the tricolore. This was basically a very simplistic salad featuring squidgy round slices of white buffalo mozzarella sandwiched next to slices of tomato and avocado, the strip of slices drizzled with olive oil for that Mediterranean zing. Decorated with an over-bearing basil leaf, this starter looked so simple and easy. I love buffalo mozzarella but rarely have it, which is the sole reason that I occasionally choose this staid and boring starter. However, I did like the addition of the avocado to Castello’s version, and I found the creaminess of this health fat laden veg provided a great accent to the similar creamy tones in the cheese. The tomato added a juicy wetness and the olive oil didn’t add much at all in all honesty.

I was feeling in a pasta mood, so I decided to pick the strozzpreti pugliese for my main course, making sure that I also got the trademark dusting of parmesan cheese on top from the passing waiter. This pasta dish, which was on the small side in my opinion, used hand twisted pasta shapes which I thought were great fun. It also included spicy and flavourful balls of luganica sausage, salty pieces of pancetta, wilted spinach leaves, red chilli butter and white wine, finished with a garlic oil. I really enjoyed the subtle heat and robust combinations used in this pasta dish. The sausage was the most dominant component in my opinion, and you could distinctly taste herb flavours coming through the sizzled meat. The oils added a real warmth to the overall dish which I liked, and although I didn’t find too many spinach leaves, I enjoyed them nonetheless as I don’t eat them much at home due to my husband not being a huge spinach fan. On the whole, again it was a simple meal but I liked the flavours and ingredients. Even though the portion was small, it still felt hearty because of the flavours. I knew I would still need dessert however.

For dessert, I actually steered clear of my usual tiramisu and opted for one of my favourite English desserts, but with a specific Italian twist; limoncello trifle. This featured Madeira sponge that was soaked in Italy’s pungent lemon liqueur, before being topped with lemon curd, amaretto biscuits, blueberries and whipped cream. Served in a glass desert dish, the blueberries were more on top of the dessert than in it, sitting like little eyes on top of the cream to stare me out. There was certainly lashings of the whipped cream – I’d say the majority of the dessert was cream – while the base of the dish was filled with the soaked sponge. The limoncello was potent and the violent zing of harsh lemon that excludes from the liqueur was certainly in effect for the trifle sponge, which was lovely and soggy. I denoted an absence of any lemon curd, which I suspect would have added a creamy and soft antidote to the limoncello’s vibrancy of flavour. It was a nice dessert and something different to try, especially as trifle is one of my favourites. I just wish the lemon curd could have made an appearance for an even better flavour.

The cocktail menu was sitting plaintively on our table, its pages ajar in invitation. Of course I had a glance and then felt compelled to try the cappuccino cocktail for the very reasonable price of £6.50. Served in a rounded martini style glass, the creamy concoction sounded right up my street, with amaretto, Tia Maria, fresh milk and coffee liqueur all shaken together before being poured out and topped with a dusting of cocoa. I adore creamy chocolate and coffee cocktails, so I was keen to sample this one. I found it distinctly average. It was thinner in texture than I was expecting, and the flavour was nice, but I think it could have done with a heftier kick of alcohol to really ramp up the flavour. It seemed to be a milder, dialled down version of what it should be.

Overall, I did enjoy my meal at Castello, although I think I would say a few tweaks would go a long way into raising both the food and drink to the next level. The menu covers all bases with a good selection of food and the prices were all very reasonable, which is a nice plus point. The service was ok, but I did think we were made to feel like outsiders, which contrasted so starkly to the warm welcome issued to Frome regulars. Tasty, but I’m not quite convinced I can see what all the fuss is about from the local folk.

Holiday Munchies: The Ebringham Arms, the Cotswolds

Luxury B&B’s are all the rage at the moment, providing quick getaway escapes for busy city types looking to swap a skyline of office buildings for a sunset of green fields. My husband Dan and I selected The Ebringham Arms in the Cotswolds for our bolthole of choice, as we were instantly drawn to the impressive accolades its restaurant had mounted up. It was almost compulsory that we check it out for ourselves when we were in the area for our two year wedding anniversary road trip.

I instantly fell in love with the décor the pub, with its rustic dark grey slated floor, wide bricked fireplaces and dark wooden furniture, accented with gold gilt mirrors, elegantly placed taper candles, and delicately hoarded bric-a-brac, which adorned every nook and granny of the pub lodgings with adorable countryside charm. Chunky wooden mantelpieces held stacks of colourful books, while black cast iron wood burners sat happily next to a pile of neatly felled logs. High backed bench seating was filled with checkered grey cushions to add comfort to the wood, while the bright sunshine poured in through small, low windows that matched the age of the beamed low ceilinged building. Wonderfully rural yet impeccably stylish, The Ebringham Arms oozes both countryside magic and effortless class.

Needless to say, I was excited to get stuck into our three course meal that came included with our room for the night. For starters, I went for fresh, green asparagus spears that lay heavily next to a pregnancy poached egg covered lightly in golden breadcrumbs. The egg nestled cosily against a thick blob of mayonnaise like sauce, to complete the array of textures. Spearing the yielding egg was immensely satisfying on every level, especially when the bright yellow yolk trickled and pooled across the plate in a river of meltiness. The al-dente asparagus provided the perfect dipping implement, with a stand-up flavour that shone through the sticky egg. The crunchy crumb was light enough not to bombard the delicate egg, but instead worked to jar against the softness for added bite. The sauce gave the dish a medium level texture, as well as a more citrus inundation. A simple starter no doubt, but well executed and certainly yummy.

My main course was epic. I can think of no better word to describe the pile of fish and chips I was presented with. The large fillet of battered cod was an absolute monster, stretching lazily from one end of the dinner plate to the other, its batter curling in crisp corkscrews at each end. The batter on the fish was the darkest I have ever seen, with chunky sea salt sprinkled over the top. The beer batter was thick all the way round the fish, providing an ample coating. It was crunchy, bubbly and the perfect armour for the soft, white flaky cod housed within. The batter was so crisp and crunchy that you couldn’t help but snap into it as you ate. The fish was also a delight, being so completely different from the batter. The fillet itself was a very generous size so it was nice and tall too. It really was completely spot on. The fish was served atop a mountain of skin-on fries, which were pretty standard fare, as was the lurid green splodge of mushy peas hiding in the corner of the plate. The fish was clearly the star of this dinner show and I would bow to its excellence time and time again. The huge portion really filled me up and I just loved how the battered fish was so flavourful in each component, as well as varied in its textures. A winning dish for sure.

Dessert consisted of a chocolate tart for me, and boy was this one special. Again, a very impressive portion size, and the large slice was accompanied by a passion fruit coulee blob, as well as a dome of light ice cream to contrast the tart. The tart itself was incredibly dense with a thick, unyielding texture that was heaven to bite into and fill your mouth with. Where it was so dense, it had a very robust dark chocolate flavour that was just dreamy. Despite being massively full from the fish and chips, I still savoured and enjoyed every spoonful of this luscious dessert.

The great thing about the room package that we had booked at The Ebringham Arms was that not only did it include this three course dinner, but we were also able to tuck into breakfast the next morning. Served in the back room near the flower-filled beer garden, the early morning sunshine flooded across the slated floor, the morning peace and quiet accompanied by the gentle chinking of cutlery and china wear, the hum of people happily munching food, and birds limbering up their tweeting from the safety of nearby trees.

I started my breakfast with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a smooth white coffee. I was then brought a gorgeous glass bowl filled with generous spoonfuls of thick and creamy Greek yoghurt, a juicy red berry compote mounted on top to flood deep ruby juice in rivulets down the pure white yoghurt. Licking the bowl and spoon clean, I set up my knife and fork ready for the main event.

A full English breakfast is surely a necessity when residing in the countryside, and I have to say, this was one of the very best, if not the very best, full English I have ever had the joyful pleasure to consume. Probably the only dish at The Ebringham Arms that we had eaten so far that was not a huge portion, each component of the breakfast screamed ‘quality’ and ‘fresh local sources’. The two sauces were thin and long with a vague spicy tone, while the bacon was tastily crisped and thick to boot. The tomatoes were standard fare really, as were the baked beans, which were presented in a large ceramic ramekin; ideal for dunking toast FYI. I promptly disposed of my mushroom on Dan’s plate – I just really dislike the slimy texture of mushrooms generally – and in return I stole his lump of black pudding. Now, I am a recent black pudding convert and I am only just finding my feet with this controversial breakfast ingredient; however the black pudding at The Ebringham Arms is unlike any I have eaten before. Presented in a circular tower, this black pudding tasted so incredibly flavoursome. It was pungent, it was so very meaty, it was crispy on the outside edges yet vaguely crumbly on the inside. This black pudding was delicious and I was more than happy to agree to the mushroom-black pudding trade-off for a second portion. Sat plumb in the middle of the plate was a self-satisfied fried egg that had managed to maintain a neat round shape. Its yolk wobbled appetisingly, plump and ready to piece. A very decent start to the day if you ask me.

We may have paid an arm and a leg for our package at The Ebringham Arms, however the food was absolutely wonderful. I can quite happily concur with its awards and accolades, as I polished off every plate I was presented with, admired every flavour combination and enjoyed every juxtaposition of texture. It is good, old-fashioned British food served at its prime in meals favoured by Brits everywhere. Classy and tasty, I only wish I could return sooner.

Homeward Bound: Beefeater Liberty Bell, Romford, Essex

The Liberty Bell has always been a reliable source of British pub grub, a mere 15 minute walk from my flat, making it an ideal date night location where both my husband and I can enjoy a few drinks yet still get home with ease. Partnered with Romford’s Premier Inn, the gastro pub used to be part of the Table Table chain, yet a recent renovation has seen it transform into a Beefeater. Although I know the differences are probably quite subtle and more nuanced – after all, it still serves British pub fodder – I was still keen to see what they had done to the place.

As you walk in, the most striking difference is the new décor. Beefeater have really overhauled and updated the interior to give the restaurant a really open feel, featuring plenty of large rectangular and circular tables, large mustard or coffee coloured leather sofa style seating, and quirky red or brown upholstered dining chairs. Wood panelling provides a barn-like vibe. Fun cow-related sayings perch on the walls, as well as other themed art, such as a multi-coloured cow cut out labelling the relevant joints of meat. It’s a light, bright space, and it has a really fun and casual atmosphere; perfect for kicking back after a long week at work. The nooks and grannies that previously hid seating when Table Table was in management have all disappeared, and Beefeater has embraced a much more homely yet classy vibe.

My husband and I were sat on an end table by the wall, providing an element of privacy. I nabbed the dining chair as Dan slid onto the mustard sofa opposite me, behind our wooden, square table. As he ordered a berry flavoured cider, I checked out the wine menu. I decided to try something a little different – my usual favourites are also naturally the most expensive on most menus, so I was trying to be savvy too! One of the cheaper white wines, it was pale in colour and vaguely fruity. It didn’t pack the fruity punch I was expecting and while it was delicate and light, it wasn’t the best wine in the world. Kudos for trying something new though, right?

As Dan enjoys a starter, I was cohered into sharing some garlic flatbread strips. This came up a lot bigger than either of us expected, despite it being on the sharer menu. So many starters are designed to share yet they come up minuscule, so this was incredibly refreshing. The large flatbread was cut into three vertical strips and served with a little ramekin of melted garlic butter for us to dunk the bread in. It was an ideal thickness, with a soft and plump edge, yet a crisp and crunchy garlic infused centre with a thin base. We dove in with a rip and pull tactic to divide the bread as we chatted.

For my main course, I looked to the seasonal menu. I wanted to try the beef rib wellington, however this happened to be the one and only dish that the restaurant had run out of! Cursing my bad luck, I scanned the menu and ordered my second choice, also on the seasonal menu. I ordered the beef fillet stack, naturally medium rare. The 8oz steak would be topped with a slice of streaky bacon, a slice of Somerset brie and a slow roasted tomato. Sides wise, the dish came with creamed spinach and crispy potato slices. I love a good steak, and at a venue called Beefeater, you kind of expect the beef to be pretty top notch.

I wasn’t wrong. The steak was perfectly cooked, and although I have had more tender steaks in fancier restaurants, there was nothing wrong with this piece of meat. It was just the right level of pinkness and it cut very easily, with a great, slightly chargrilled flavour. Lovely and thick, it was a tasty chunk of meat. I also liked the fact that the toppings provided me with enough juicy options to eat with my steak, so Dan watched in horror as my tomato ketchup dish remained largely untouched. Granted, the brie came up as a rather shrivelled and small slice, although it was nicely melted over the meat. The bacon was the smallest and skinniest slice I have ever had the misfortune to glance upon, however as a component of the whole dish, it was still ok. The tomato was nice and big, the roasting process really drawing out the flavour and giving it a lovely soft texture too. Each element worked really nicely together. If the dish had had less components, then I would have been disappointed, however all together, it was very nice indeed. The crispy potato slices were thin and rather nice. The creamed spinach was more like a sauce than a vegetable in my opinion as it was so liquid. I’m not sure that is entirely a good thing, however it tasted nice and I was able to use it to dunk my potatoes in so it wasn’t too shabby. Although the dish wasn’t entirely perfect, or as I expected, weirdly, it still worked, and I still enjoyed it.

Dan ordered a mixed grill and then promptly got the meat sweats. Each piece of meat on his plate was very generously sized and of good quality, leading him to say it was one of the best mixed grills that he had ever had. He struggled to finish, yet he still delivered a clean plate to earn a thumbs up.

For dessert, I went back to the seasonal menu to order a gin and tonic lemon trifle. I love trifle and I love gin and tonic, so this was very much a must-try for me. Served in glass straight-sided dessert bowl, the base of the trifle was very much like a sponge pudding with the gin and tonic soaked sponge fingers at the bottom. The gin was a main flavour which was great, as so often the alcohol can get hidden among other ingredients. The lemon curd that was meant to top the sponge was rather non-existent, however there was more than enough of the light and silky whipped cream on top to compensate, so pairing this with the moreish sponge was really lovely. It was a nice sized dessert and not too heavy after my main meal, so I’m really glad I got to try this one.

I couldn’t leave without ordering a Bailey’s milkshake too. Served in a traditional tall glass and garnished with chocolate shavings, it was basically a vanilla based ice cream, blended with Bailey’s. As with the gin, the Bailey’s was certainly present and correct, although not dominant throughout the whole drink so I’m not sure what the balance of the blend was exactly. It was creamy, cool and very nice indeed. An extra treat!

The Beefeater menu has a great choice and range to pick from, and we both enjoyed our meal there. Oddly enough, although I had little niggles about a couple of the dishes, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the food, and I’m still pleased with the food choices I made. I’ve even picked out a few dishes I’d like to try from the seasonal menu for next time! The portion sizes are really good, which is definitely something I value, and the waiting staff were chatty and polite. We spent just over £60 on our meal which is pretty much par for the course, so I’m happy with the price range too. All in all, we had a lovely date night, and I’m looking forward to going to my new Beefeater again soon!

Eating Around: The Swan, Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank, London

I’ve visited Shakespeare’s famed Globe theatre more times than I can count over the past few years, enjoying a wide variety of performances both in the outdoor circular stage area as well as the indoor Sam Wanamaker theatre. One thing however that I have been dying to do for absolutely ages is have a meal in the accompanying Swan restaurant. Peeking through the windows of this opulent looking British eatery, there was nothing I wanted to do more than nab myself a table and check out the menu. Luckily for me, my sister Jess and I received some money from our grandma at Christmas, with strict instructions to book ourselves in to see a performance and treat ourselves to dinner beforehand. We excitedly booked to see The White Devil in the Sam Wanamaker, preceding our show with an early Sunday dinner.

No doubt about it, the Swan restaurant is gorgeous. It’s so visually stunning that you simply feel more elegant and regal just by sitting in there. In glorious rich hues of gold paired with a statement charcoal grey and an abundance of modern ball lights and chic cream ceramic animal heads, the Swan manages to capture both trendy yet traditional, stylish and chic yet comfortable. It is glamourous in a rustically English way that polishes up lovely. It felt wonderful to be there as we were shown to our table in the restaurant, which is situated above the bar.

Ordering a bottle of Chenin Blanc from our suited waiter, we then turned our attention to the important task at hand – dinner. We had been given the Sunday menu which included the deal of two courses for £24.50 or three courses for £29.50. We immediately opted for the three courses. As we were mulling over our options, a bread basket was brought over, alongside a flat dish housing a disc of creamy butter. The bread had the holey inner appearance of a ciabatta, however it was also flavoured with herbs – I think rosemary, with green flecks here and there in the bread. With a dark, chewy crust and cut into thick doorstops, we knew we had found a safe food haven if this is how they served bread.

Starters was a tough choice, however I decided to play it safe and have the ham and savoy cabbage terrine, served with Yorkshire rhubarb and sourdough toast. Presentation wise, it was very arty and colourful. The terrine was the traditional ham coloured pink, flecked with large chunks of orange carrot studded throughout as well as the layer of bright green cabbage running through the centre for an extra splash of colour. If this wasn’t lurid enough, the rhubarb actually came in the form of a vibrant and robust puree, served as a puddle next to my lightly toasted half slice of sourdough bread. The puree was potent and punchy in flavour, really enlivening the terrine. It was colourful and creative and I enjoyed tucking in to this playful plate.

As it was Sunday, I decided to remain stoically British and have a roast dinner, however I veered away from the classic cuts of meat and inside opted for the pork belly, something I don’t usually have at home. When my plate arrived, I couldn’t resist licking my lips at the satisfyingly large hunk of meat sat dead centre in my plate, an island topped with crackling that was surrounded by roast potatoes, a caramelised onion, boiled carrots and cabbage as well as a large and imposing Yorkshire pudding. A dish of apple sauce was placed on our table, and our waiter poured gravy over our meals from a silver gravy boat. Wowee what a roast. The pork belly was amazing. The underbelly meat was tender and flavourful, the fat absolutely bursting at the seams with rich yumminess, while the crackling adding a moreish juxtaposition in texture, despite being more chewy than crisp (maybe due to the gravy?). Regardless, the meat was splendid and proves just how decadent a simple dish can be when executed perfectly. The Yorkshire pudding didn’t have the soft and squishy centre that is usually my calling card, however it was yummy and crisp. The roast potatoes were spot on with that delightfully fluffy centre paired with a crisp outer shell, while the colourful veg added a nuance of colour and healthiness to the edge of the plate. The onion was an unusual but really lovely touch – I haven’t had caramelised onion served with a roast before, however I think this combo really worked. This was some impressive roast dinner.

Despite being full to the brim thanks to the more than generous helpings, we were not going to stumble at the last hurdle, no siree. Plus, I had already spied the vanilla rice pudding served with plum compote and I was not going anywhere until I had tried it. Oh it certainly lived up to my dreamy expectations. The rice pudding itself was wonderfully flavoured so as not to be overladen with vanilla, but rather just beautifully accented, with the texture at that fantastic middle ground between goo and set custard which basically equals rice pudding perfection. The plum compote was zingy, flavourful and a real taste injection which was magic with the rice. The whole dessert was sprinkled with flaked almonds too giving the dish extra crunch and a creamy, nutty element. It was a match made in heaven with these flavour combos so I adored every spoonful. I didn’t need room to breathe, I just needed more dessert!

The wine we had selected was also fabulous and a great choice from Jess. It was fruity and light, very drinkable and bursting with zingy, fresh flavours. Our waiter helpfully propped it up in an ice bucket next to our table, even refreshing it when the ice turned to water to ensure our wine remained at an icy chill. The waiting staff were incredibly professional, poised and polite, with a splash of charm thrown in.

Price wise, with the bottle of wine, our meal came to £91. Usually such a price tag would have me cringing – not that I’ve ever paid that much at a meal for two! – but luckily this was a Christmas present treat, so we could afford a bit of a blowout treat on something so special. And it was special. The food was magnificent and I can’t compliment it highly enough. It may be basic and simplistic British favourites but the food is also uniquely playful and exciting, in both colour, appearance and taste. I absolutely loved going to The Swan and I think I’ll definitely be putting this on my Christmas list again next year!