You know, there’s a bit of a food snob in all of us, but, to be honest, there’s really no need. It’s rare to come across something so dire that nothing is edible.
And I know of many colleagues who would have turned their noses up at the invite to road-test Beefeater’s new menu. Not me, why? Simple. Not everyone wants to, or indeed can afford to dine out in Michelin quality restaurants. There are many, some with families, who simply want to dine on good quality flavoursome food - and that, my friends, is exactly what restaurants like the Beefeater chain offer.
You know what you’ll get, and it’s consistently good. And, it’s ideal family dining at a reasonable price point.
So, off we trotted to the newly revamped chain’s Newhouse diner, handily located off the M8 midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. There’s plenty of parking available including marked disabled spaces. There are also two access points, one of which is ramped allowing easy disabled access to the restaurant.
Having undergone a total refurb recently, this location has been brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Gone is the old-fashioned dark wood, outdated kitch accessories, uncomfortable seating and small cramped tables in favour of a chic, modern and stylish interior using stonework walls, a lighter wood wall panel effect all set off with modern artwork and wall murals.
There are plenty of tables for four, meaning you won’t be squashed as a couple onto a table unable to cope with more than a plate each. For those who want a little more privacy from the open-plan format, there are some smaller nooks and banquettes available. Nonetheless, if you’re seated in the main areas there’s still ample space without feeling cramped.
We were warmly welcomed on arrival by our hostess who showed us to our table and introduced us to Lynn, our waitress for the evening. We were presented with menus and told to take our time browsing while she took a drinks order.
It’s nice to see that there really was no rush to order and that the ever-helpful Lynn was able to answer any queries on the menu’s offerings.
Also very evident was the overall general friendliness of all the staff we engaged with.
So to the new menu. I had managed to prise my twenty-something ‘big kids’ away from everything electronic for all of ten minutes and first up was the mixed platter for two priced at £10.99, comprising: Buttermilk chicken wings, slices of breaded crispy flat cap mushroom, lamb kofta, spicy potato dippers and grilled flatbread pieces. Accompanied by ranch, piri piri and smoky BBQ dips. My youngest opted for the much healthier crispy beef Asian style salad at £5.49. The latter was one of this seasons new menu items which is described as: Crispy beef coated in a smoky BBQ sauce served on a bed of crispy salad of red pepper, cucumber strips, lamb’s leaf, red onion and slaw. Topped with chilli, coriander, fresh mint and sesame seeds.
The sharing platter was exactly as we expected - a gargantuan salver laden down with food. The buttermilk wings were tender and succulent, the meat just fell off the bone, and the crumbed dressing had enough of a crunch to bring them up to a different level for chicken wings. The flat cap mushrooms must have been grown on steroids as each ‘slice’ was a good half inch thick with a crunchy herbed coating! And there were several of them, The lamb kofta had just enough of a kick to them and were a good couple of mouthfuls skewered on a handy stick. This platter was a good mix of starters which complemented each other well and was a good option for two growing lads!
Now, daughter dearest, the one who can post-mortem a slice of bacon to remove EVERY trace of fat opted for the ‘slimmer starter’ (her words). This was, to my practised eye, a topping of shredded beef - on a salad!
Slimming, it may well have been, but was I glad to have chosen the ‘big boys’ filler.
It was a large enough portion for one, but, having managed to secure a forkful for reporting purposes, I found it bland and lacking depth, and wasn’t certain that the missing sesame seed topping would have made a huge difference. The salad base, which is detailed in the description as containing lambs lettuce, was actually two miserly sprigs! My thoughts on this, as backed up by my daughter, was that it was oily. The dressing, which isn’t mentioned in the menu descriptor, could have been lighter. Unfortunately, this dish is still a work-in-progress.
And so to the mains. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the lads were choosing steaks - large and filling, a bit like the writer actually.
Son number one chose a 10oz rib-eye paired with a peppercorn sauce priced at £18.39 with a further £1.49 for the sauce, while I opted for the new menu item of a 10oz extra matured Angus sirloin at £21.49. I upgraded from the sweet potato fries to the loaded cheesy beef fries at £4.49. These are crispy skinny fries, smothered in cajun cheese and bits of beef steak burger. These are manly chips, let me put that out there right now.
The rib-eye was served with slow-roasted tomato, grilled mushroom, lamb’s lettuce and unlimited triple cooked chips.
My 28-day-aged slab of meat version was accompanied by a choice of blue cheese or smoky bacon flavoured butter, Caesar wedge, tobacco onions, and a heritage style tomato salad.
Now, I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, because I’m going against the grain of my usual approach that centrally purchased food stock can never compete with locally sourced ingredients, but praise be, Beefeater obviously has a damn fine meat supplier. And, here’s another bit of praise while I’m in fine fettle, Newhouse has a chef who can properly cook a steak! It just gets better and better.
Both cuts of meat were tender, while there was little doubt the aged variety had more flavour. Given we had asked for a rare and a medium-rare this didn’t allow the fat layer to render down on the griddle and infuse the meat, nonetheless, there was still a nice summer reminder of BBQ’s and chilled beers. Both cuts of meat were as good as some I’ve eaten in restaurants of a much higher standard - and that’s a compliment!
With the sirloin, I wasn’t convinced that there was any real need for a slice of lettuce adorning the plate. To my mind it added no value to either the meal or the overall taste, therefore was superfluous. The ‘tobacco’ onions - sliced onions coated in a cayenne pepper and deep fried to resemble dried tobacco leaves - had their rightful position on this dish, adding both crunch for texture and a complimentary flavour. The ‘melange’ of heritage tomatoes, well I could take them or leave them. I’m sure that when these fruits are in season there’s going to be a lot more taste to them, than, as I suspect, these imported varieties.
Our female dining partner had decided to choose the BBQ Chicken ‘n’ Ribs: A half rack of slow-cooked pork ribs in bourbon BBQ sauce with a chargrilled chicken breast, served with skinny fries, chunky slaw and a spicy seasoned mini corn on the cob for £14.29.
This arrived and looked to be a good plate of food. The half-rack was a generous portion of ribs while the butterflied chicken breast was nicely charred in the cooking process. Going back to the ribs, the meat literally fell off the bone and was extremely tender topped with a sweet and sticky glaze which didn’t flood the plate. The chicken was juicy, and cooked perfectly having been lifted to the next level by the extra flavour imparted by that light charring from the grill. With such a thin piece of meat after being butterflied, it’s all too easy to overcook chicken, but praise again to the chef, this had obviously been removed from the heat at just the right time. The slaw, fries and corn cob were ideal additions to the plate.
By this stage it’s fair to say we were pretty much at the ‘stuffed full’ level, however, in fairness to the review, I soldiered on and tackled one of the chains new desserts - a Limoncello trifle, priced at £5.29.
The large sundae dish was rammed full of moist sponge soaked in Limoncello, topped with custard, a whip of cream, meringue pieces and a sprig of mint. The latter did nothing other than to add a nice wee bit of colour and was rapidly removed.
Such was the portion size of this one, that even with the assistance of my dining partners, we still never got to see the bottom of the glass.
So, was it value for money, did the food pass muster, would I return? - A very definite yes to all of those questions. It was an enjoyable dining experience, made all the more surprising coming from a chain, showing that Beefeater have substantially upped their game in the food stakes, and can definitely be regarded as a player in that specific marketplace.