Restaurant review: Bar+ Block in Leamington
It's suitable that Bar + Block in Leamington is sited at a former bank in the town's Parade.
Because stored away behind the minimalist signage and presentation at the front of the restaurant and bar - conditions placed upon the chain by the building's listed status - is a rich and plentiful dining experience.
We were invited to try out the branch's summertime menu and to see how well the establishment had settled into Leamington town centre after its opening in November.
The first thing I noticed, having only glanced briefly at the menu before my visit, was that for a chain which specialises and takes pride in its steak dishes, there's also a pleasantly surprisingly varied seafood offering as well.
Hence our starters for our three-course meal consisted of the classic mussels marinière, middle eastern king prawns and salt & pepper squid.
All new to the menu for the summer, the latter two of these three starters - or 'grazing dishes' - had come recommended to us both during and prior to our visit. And for good reason.
Along with the popcorn with moreish savoury beef seasoning to nibble on before these first dishes came out - these were all a lovely way to begin our meal.
For our mains we chose deconstructed beef wellington - a surprisingly light yet equally rich and tasty variation of the traditional luxury dish - and the surf and turf, which had an added element of sophistication due to lobster tails being the shellfish part of the option.
The steak elements of these dishes were both cooked very well and with care - I don't usually opt for steak when dining out so this was a particular treat and break from the norm for me.
Our desserts were sticky toffee pudding- again a traditional favourite of mine - and the lemon & clementine cheesecake, which was suitably light and summery with its smothering of seasonal berries.
It was all delicious and, at a price of circa £40 per head for the food, not obscenely pricey for the quality and quantity.
Not only was our meal a winner but we found the staff at the restaurant - manager Aaron, assistant manager Paula and waitress/hostess DJ to be enthusiastic, warm and very friendly - even taking the time to write and give a birthday card to my partner.
We finished our lovely night with a couple of cocktails - it's fine if you only visit Bar + Block for the bar and said cocktails are on offer at certain times of the day.
But if you only go to drink there you would be missing out on a nice dining experience in a cool, well presented and happy setting which reaches a high bar for places to eat in Leamington.
We'd go back again - maybe to eat, maybe just to drink, probably to do both and we'd bring friends too.
But, either way,we're sure it'll be a great experience again.