BLACKHOUSE has become a favourite on the Leeds dining scene after arriving in the city centre almost six years ago.
Oliver has always been impressed with its offerings, so after a 14-month wait it was time we tested it once more.
My dining partner and I rocked up on a Saturday evening and were told we had been wise making a reservation as it was fully booked - there wasn’t a spare table in sight.
Before picking up our menus, we took a moment to soak up the sounds of the pianist playing some jazzy Jamie Cullum tunes.
The ‘grill on the square’ oozes a sense of New York sophistication, with dark woods, leather seating, high ceilings with low-hanging chandeliers and the huge glass frontage, which makes you feel you could easily be looking out over Times Square.
Sweltering temperatures meant we felt more tropical and used our menus as make-shift fans.
Our kind waitress, who was impeccably turned out despite the blistering heat, took our order and we expected some inevitable waiting time due to the restaurant being at full capacity. But within minutes – five minutes maximum – our starter arrived.
There’s a great choice of starters for veggies and non-veggies – from jumbo asparagus and deep fried brie to foie gras, potted mackerel and oysters.
Prices range from £5 to £8, or £12.50 for the oysters.
We couldn’t make up our minds though and opted for the Blackhouse sharing plate, which comes with ‘bang bang’ chicken skewers, duck spring rolls, calamari and thai fish cakes. At £14.75, it’s not cheap.
But the chicken skewers were incredibly juicy and the peanut sauce particularly tasty.
The thai fish cakes were absolutely delicious too, with lemon and herbs giving the fish a little lift and the sticky sweet chilli sauce offering a welcome kick.
The duck spring rolls tasted incredibly fresh too but the calamari, on this occasion, was a bit too rubbery and under-seasoned for our liking.
It was partly because of these reasons we left most of the calamari on the plate and partly because we were saving ourselves for the star of the show – the steak.
With so many city centre restaurants serving up a good steak these days, the bar has been raised.
I opted for the 200g fillet at £22.50, whilst my dining companion went for the special British Blue, 283g sirloin steak, at a budget-busting £30.
Farmed in Shropshire, the breed is reared only for its meat production and is exceptionally lean and tender, according to the menu.
It sounds like a lot of money, but when you notice the restaurant also offers a Wagyu fillet steak at £55, which sees the breed reared on a beer diet and massaged from birth, you realise you’re not pushing the boat out as far as you could.
The steak prices include either home-cut chips, buttered mash potato or a jacket potato.
Sauces such as peppercorn, blue cheese, diane and bearnaise – are an extra £2.25.
For those of you who aren’t red meat fans, there’s also a really good choice of salads, from Waldorf to feta and watermelon, for a more reasonable £10.
There’s also a huge range of seafood, posh pub grub-type offerings like burgers and fajitas, varying from £11 to £19.
From being seated at our table to eating our starters and having our main courses arrive, it took just 30 minutes – incredible speed for such a busy night and the service didn’t suffer either.
My delicious steak, which I ordered with the ‘surf and turf’ option of baby scallops, prawns, crayfish and garlic butter at an extra £5.50, was an absolute delight.
The meat was cooked to perfection and the garlic butter was bursting with flavour, with the tiny fish accompaniments adding a salty hint.
The jacket potato was light, buttery and fluffy but I ran out of my own garlic sauce and ended up pinching my dining partner’s peppercorn sauce.
His steak was equally delicious, I was told, but we struggled to justify the price tag, when other Leeds eateries are offering an equally good steak for a fraction of the price.
Seeing as we’d reined ourselves in somewhat and avoided the £55 steak, we were both up for dessert.
Ice creams and sorbets start at £3 to £4, while the sticky toffee pudding and black forest trifle comes in at a heftier £6.
I chose the summer berry pavlova with burnt orange sauce at £5.75, whilst my companion went for the warm chocolate fudge cake served with vanilla ice cream at £6.
My dessert was bursting with colour and looked like a work of art, with the bright purple and white-swirled meringue tucked on the corner of a slate plate, with strawberries adorning the outside and light cream tucked underneath.
It was polished off in seconds, as was the chocolate fudge cake, which was sweet and satisfying without being too stodgy.
By this point the restaurant was getting rather hot and I excused myself to the bathroom to get some air and cool down.
But it seemed the heat had become too much for one lady and as I went downstairs towards the bathroom she fainted in my arms.
It wasn’t a regular occurrence for Oliver to have ladies swooning but I did my best to remember some basic first aid skills and paramedics were swiftly called, who informed me the lovely lady had just had a funny turn and should be fine.
It was quite dramatic, but after I set my eyes on our dizzying bill, I was left feeling a little light headed too.
With a glass of wine, a beer and a couple of cocktails, the bill came to a whopping £111.
It’s a big price to pay for a slice of America, especially when other city centre restaurants are pulling their socks up and serving up such great steak.
But if you can stomach the pricetag (and stand the heat), Blackhouse is well worth a visit.
Address: 31-33 East Parade, Leeds, LS1 5PS
Phone: 0113 246 0669
Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11am–midnight