Beefeater Bar and Block, Waterloo Street, City Centre
I think it might be a prejudice left over from the 90s, but the idea of going to a Beefeater for brunch didn’t really sound very appealing. It conjured up ideas of the most beige kind of chain restaurant, and it was hard to imagine anything particularly special coming our way. However, the new Beefeater Bar and Block recently – we visited a few weeks ago – opened just off Cathedral Square in Birmingham, close to Fumo and other fancy venues beloved of business-types in the Colmore Row business district. This Beefeater is downstairs, and connected to, the Premier Inn above it, but is right in the middle of some very nice venues, from Pure at one end of the street, to the Old Joint Stock round the corner.
You barely notice it from the street, as it is tucked into the bottom of an office block with cars on the on street parking pressed right up along the frontage, but inside it has been very nicely decorated; stylish overhead lights, bright wooden chairs and tables, exposed brick, and designery wall displays trumpting their steak credentials fill the large space.
Diner-style booths line the windows, with a corner view of Cathedral Square and the beautiful Cafe Nero building opposite, although slightly dominated by the mass of cars parked both sides of the streets outside.
As this is also the hotel restaurant, hotel touches apply, the best of which is £3 unlimited drinks and toast from the self-service bar. They have one of those grim toasters with the tiny travelator inside to move your toast over the heating elements. Joyfully, this is not the usual weak and ineffective toaster of many hotels. One ride through, and the toast – on nice quality bread – was nicely brown.
More ornate drinks are also available on the menu. This berry smoothie was particularly well-received, and looked stunning in its glass as well.
To start with the full English, or ‘Bar and Block Works’, all your classic ingredients are present, with the sausage in patty form, with salt beef hash as an extra to the normal fare. The bacon was advertised as a ‘thick cut’, and this was nothing but the truth: the chunkiness of the bacon particularly impressed and was the most memorable part of the meal for some three weeks later.
Kedgeree, in a more experimental way to have eggs for breakfast, was tasty as anything. It was also more filling that it looks, as the enormous bowl has the effect of making it look like a tiny portion. But this was a filling breakfast, with a perfectly poached egg, and just the right hint of curry sauce.
Bar and Block make a feature of their steaks throughout their menus. The ‘steak eggy bread sarnie’, despite the slightly silly use of slang, was pronounced excellent; steak, cheese, and eggy bread together would always be a winner, but this was all well-cooked, and complemented again by nice quality toast.
The toilets are slightly bizarre, as you have to walk an unconscionably long way to reach them, up and down stairs and round corners and round a maze of corridors all carpeted in a very dull corporate hotel feel which doesn’t in any way match the newly-stylish finish in the main restaurant. On arrival they were were clean and deserted – I assume some hopeful users had got lost on the way – with black tiling and the modern commitment to fancy light fittings and taps well in evidence. The effect is very pleasant.
The nicest part of all, was that at the end of our meal, thanks to unlimited tea, we could sit and enjoy a chat, while the servers made no effort to hurry us out, which was just a lovely way to start a Saturday morning.
Price: medium: £3 for unlimited tea and toast; £7.95 for the Bar and Block works, £6.95 kedgeree, £3.25 berry smoothie
Atmosphere and design: contemporary, hitting all the hipster lights and exposed brickwork notes you’d expect
Food: wide ranging classic English, with healthy options, and American pancakes. Great toast machine.
Toilets: A very long way away, but nice when you get there
Enjoyment:a good place to eat and then sit and chat, sustained by lots of tea for a long time