It has been almost a year since my last post about Blackhouse. I found myself there again a couple of weeks ago, this time as a member of a large group (11) celebrating a birthday. We were informed that as we were a large booking we would have to order from one of the set menus, no further explanation but two menus were presented to us of £35 and £40 per person. We took a vote and the £40 menu won. Curious I decided to compare the set menu against the main menu and how much each individual item on the set menu cost on the main menu (ie if you weren't in a large group)... I know I know I was being anal but I like to think I'm getting my monies worth when I'm eating out.
The conclusion was that if each person ordered the most expensive thing for each dish on the set menu (using the main menu for the prices) then this would equate to £41 per person. A massive saving of £1 per person. If you substituted one dish for anything other the price would be lower than we were being charged for the set menu. So I began to think maybe the set menu includes their service charge... Wrong. When we got to the restaurant it was also noted on the menus before us (the set one) that there would be a service charge added too... With such a large group already over paying for the food the service charge would be fairly substantial.
We were seated on a long table towards the back of the restaurant with those closest to the wall unable to vacate until the end of the meal due to struggling to even sit down as the space was that narrow.
A couple of our group were running late and the waiting staff were becoming inpatient and suggested that we have our pre-starter nibbles. We lamented and off they went to bring us bread and olives... A flaw in my analysis I had assumed that each of us would be able to choose whether we wanted bread or olives... However we weren't asked and they were brought straight out and it appeared that we had one of each to share between 3 people... Further lowering the cost per head. Despite the rationing of bread and olives they were very nice, with the bread warm and the olives sparse but juicy.
To start I chose the duck spring rolls, not the most expensive choice as this was foie gras and I still can't quite bring myself to eat it. Eating spring rolls in a steak house seemed a little bit off theme but they were okay and luckily came with a plum sauce as they were very dry. Within the group foie gras, spring rolls and chicken skewers seemed to be the popular choices.
There was only one steak option on the set menu, which was the same option as the cheaper menu... Baffling. We were essentially paying more to have bread and olives and a bigger selection of starters and desserts... The steak was the most expensive option and that was what most people ordered (in a steak house... surprising?) ranging from well done to blue. Blackhouse serve their steak a little rarer than your traditional pub and those unaccustomed to this found their steak to be a little too rare for their tastes.
Mine was cooked medium rare although ordered medium as I had previous knowledge of this fact and it was fine. What wasn't fine however was the amount of fat on my steak... Being in such a large group and unexpectedly finding myself with large pieces of fat in my mouth I had to act like a lady and rather than spit out the gross piece of fat I had to swallow the large chewy fatty piece whole. Several times this happened no matter how careful I was to avoid it. That must be about a week off my life right there. Unlike when you dine from the main menu there was no choice regarding your steak side, we all had chips whether we liked to or not.
Feeling pretty full by this point but still being my 'tight' self I ordered the most expensive dessert - the fruit and cheeseboard. The 'fruit' being approximately 8 grapes and some chutney. It wasn't amazing, the cheese was just okay and nothing special.
One of our group only had a main stating should couldn't, unfortunately, manage a three course meal and drinks afterwards, which was very unfair to her that she should have to pay the same as everyone else. Despite this being told to the waiters at the beginning of the meal it took one of our group to ask for a discount at the end of the meal pointing out that it wouldn't be fair to charge her the same amount. I'm not sure of the discount but they did give in and discount the bill.
In the end the bill came to £58 per head... I could have fine dined for just a little more. This was far from fine dining. I think it's plain to see that I won't be organising any large group meals here myself. Of course I will attend should another loved one or friend decide to come here I'm not that stubborn. It has made me less inclined to go for a meal here in a couple or small group, I think the same applies for most of our group. Possibly something Blackhouse should think about.