It’s not surprising that we were invited here to enjoy a meal with meat as the show-piece. This was Blackhouse Grill at Smithfield, after all!
Smithfield’s meat market dates from the 10th century, and is now London’s only remaining wholesale market in continuous use since medieval times. It’s a bloody spot in other ways, too. Smithfield was the place of many executions of religious non-conformists and political rebels, including Scottish patriot William Wallace, made famous by the film Braveheart.
Blackhouse – The Grill on the Market at Smithfield is a smart yet casual restaurant and bar. It has a rather masculine ambiance with walls clad in natural wood, low lights and superbly cosy banquettes. Yes, meat is the draw here and appetites will be whetted by the sight of 28-day-aged joints resting in the cabinet at the restaurant entrance.
But there is more to appreciate here than red meat. There is a great selection of fish and shellfish and some veggies, too at Blackhouse. The menu offers innovation but also some retro favourites which are worthy inclusions. The food was enticing but the service was equally memorable, and it was rather classy theatre.
We ordered our starters, main courses and cocktails from our server, Paolo, who was just as characterful as the steak he was about to display. No, not just a single steak but the whole length of, in this case, rib-eye. This cut, in my opinion at least, has the best ratio of flavourful fat and well-textured meat. Paolo sliced a modest portion as requested, and then we were ready to enjoy our meal, now spiked with a degree of culinary anticipation.
My first cocktail was a metal mug of Maple Loves Ginger, which was Ketel One Citroen, stem ginger purée, and lemon, with sweetness from both maple syrup and pineapple juice, the predominant flavour. The dried pineapple slice was a tasty garnish and gave exotic flair to the copper goblet presentation.
Sumptuous with large prawns
My dear reader might be surprised by my choice of starter. Prawn Cocktail is indeed a throwback dish which was ubiquitous on home and restaurant menus a few decades ago. Strangely, it fell out of favour because it was so popular. It was popular because it was good, and it still is. The Blackhouse version was sumptuous with large prawns, plenty of the traditional Marie Rose sauce, along with some delicate triangles of buttered bread.
Tommy’s Collins was my guest’s starter cocktail of El Jimador Reposado, lime, agave, mint and ginger beer. El Jimador Reposado is a 100% agave tequila aged for 3 months before bottling. This partnered well with Piri Piri Calamari with Saffron mayonnaise, which was another comfort dish and a generous helping too!
Butterfly Perch was, as the cocktail bill of fare suggested, “perfectly matched with seabass”, my companion’s main course. The Seabass Fillet was wrapped in a lettuce leaf, stuffed with pearl barley couscous and then oven-baked to slightly char the lettuce while allowing the fish to remain moist. There was a garnish of choron sauce, which is a tomato-bejewelled Béarnaise sauce that goes so well with fish.
But I was waiting for that steak which had looked red and magnificent on Paolo’s chopping board. Blackhouse Steak Holder cocktail was my “Perfectly Matched” libation. Bombay gin, black grapes, Plymouth Sloe gin, star anise, maple syrup and blueberries combined to present a powder-purple delight with fragrance from the spice.
Consider flavour over bulk
The ribeye was from the Butcher’s Block selection. It was dry-aged in Himalayan rock salt resulting in a tender and perfectly seasoned cut. When ordering steak consider flavour over bulk. A steak falling over the edges of a dinner plate might seem impressive but it usually indicates a person who is in need of a good feed rather than one who wants to savour the best. The Grill on the Market at Smithfield IS the best. If you have a huge appetite then order one modest steak and if that isn’t enough then order perhaps a different cut for the second instalment.
Coconut Bakewell Tart was our shared dessert. This was a great balance between a good old-fashioned and familiar pud with a little hint of distant climes with that coconut which works very well in this typically-English baked tart. The smear of salted caramel sauce added perfect sweetness.
Blackhouse – The Grill on the Market at Smithfield ticked all available boxes. The location was well served by public transport. The décor was warm and inviting. The service was friendly and the staff were passionate and knowledgeable. All dishes and drinks were first-class but the meat will likely be the element which will assure many happy returns. I am impressed and planning my next visit to try a burger, which I expect will be the finest I would have ever eaten.
Monday to Wednesday: 12 noon – 12:00 midnight
Thursday to Saturday: 12 noon – 1:00am
Sunday – Closed
The Grill on the Market, Smithfield
2-3 West Smithfield
City of London
Phone: 020 7246 0900
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018