By Alastair Sadler
Within earshot of the buzz emanating from bustling Kings Cross station, on York Road, is Bar + Block. The buzz continues inside, as if London’s tourists, shopper and business types have paused for a moment for a drink and a chat at the bar before stepping back into the hussel and bussel of their lives.
We’re seated in the restaurant section behind the bar, a large square room with white planked high ceiling, brick pillars, and rough sawn planks softened with comfortable furnishings of varying shades of grey. In fact, if you had to list the standard design features of pretty much any modern restaurant, it’d include exposed kitchen, edison light bulbs, raw wood planks, and soft teal furnishings – exactly what we found at Bar + Block.
Nothing pretentious, nothing offends. It’s a statement in simplicity that creates a relaxed, efficient mood that sets the scene and draws the attention to the food.
And the food here is steak. Appetizer? Beef dripping flavoured popcorn. A good start. I don’t know when popcorn became obligatory, but the beef flavour was a nice angle.
For starters, we went for three grazing plates, designed to mix and match. We mixed, we matched. Wild mushrooms and poached egg on toast atop a slab of ciabatta. The mushrooms were tasty in their truffle and shallot sauce, if a little overwhelmed by the egg and ciabatta. Perhaps best considered part of the all day breakfast menu?
Then there was the cheese and jalapeño stuffed dippers. These mini cornish pasties of jalapeño stuffed with cheese offered equal proportions of crunch and ooze that slipped almost lovingly into the sour cream dip. Also on our list: crispy fried salt and pepper squid, perfectly juicy, with a chilli and lemon zing that was soothed with a garlic mayonnaise dip.
It’s a good start and a light meal in itself, but it’s time to get meaty.
Meat and Greet
Bar + Block is a steak house, so the decision was simple: steak. All Bar + Block steak is imported from the Pampas of Argentina from traditional British herds of Hereford and Angus cattle. The beef is aged for a minimum 23 days and hand cut on site. So the traditionally minded might like the eight or ten ounce rump steak: a delicious block of bold flavour with a firm texture.
I recommend the specially cut churrasco de chorizo, a 10 ounce spiral cut sirloin steak marinated for 24 hours in garlic and parsley. Spiral cut allows the steak to be laid out in a long strip, so it cooks faster, trapping in the flavour. My medium rare was perfect, the seared outer marbling yielding to intense flavor and adding texture to the soft juicy interior. I chose the fiery black sauce to add a little extra picante oomph.
Both steaks arrived on a simple block with no fussy garnish. This is about flavour, not Instagram. Steak, triple fried chips, and a small pot of sauce. Heaven.
To sip was a bottle of Beefsteak Club Malbec from Mendosa, Argentina. From the depths of its oaky red richness, into its intense ripened plum and blackberry rich fruity finish. Just right to accompany steak, as you would expect from a brand that takes its name from a private dining club established in 1705 that celebrated the beefsteak as a symbol of liberty and prosperity.
And for dessert? Churros Sundaes, of course. Long, thick batons of churros coated in cinnamon and sugar to dip, dunk, or spoon up a dollop of vanilla, chocolate, and honeycomb ice cream, with brownie chunks, cream, and chocolate toffee sauce.
Yes, the diet, like Elvis, had definitely left the building!
Conclusion: Although Bar + Block is not aimed at the very top end of the luxury market, it is exactly what it says it is. A fine steakhouse with a bar. Its simplicity is its character.
Go there for a fine steak and enjoy.
To learn more, visit their website at https://www.barandblock.co.uk/kings-cross
Contributor Alastair Sadler has taught salsa professionally in London since 1995 and created the world’s first Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive Salsa Course. His hobby is stand up comedy, and in addition to acting as MC of Streetbeat Comedy, he regularly takes his show to the Edinburgh Fringe. You’ll find him at www.streetbeat.co.uk