The Radisson Blu hotel isn’t one that springs to mind as a destination for a meal, since the unveiling of their multi million refurb I’d read some reviews and got a free invitation to try the place out, so thought why the hell not?! From the outside there’s not much to give the impression it’s got a brand spanking new restaurant, there’s just one of those folding display thingamebobs indicating the existence of their new Fire Lake restaurant and cocktail bar.
They’ve obviously spent money on interiors going for more of a boutique hotel vibe. I used to walk passed, peer inside and think it looked nice enough for a business meeting perhaps, but nothing really drew me in. The new cocktail bar on the left of the entrance is a bit of a draw and it’s a good strategic move putting it there, luring in a steady stream of well dressed customers to the plush bar.
The rest of the space is divided into comfortable seating areas with statement hanging fire pit, cosy dining areas, plush semicircular booths with a view towards the kitchen, in particular the pass and Josper grill. I was certainly impressed by the design they’d gone for and seems like they’ve spent their money well.
We were seated at one of their semicircular booth type affairs, so we could see the chefs at work and given a few minutes to look over the menu. On first impressions it looked a little try-hard and over complicated – definitely requiring some early explanation, such as calling starters ‘mingling platters’ – what’s that supposed to mean, also ‘bundles’ which are basically set meals shown on display boards, one of which was a 3-course bundle with ‘no bills wines’?! A short time was spent trying to decipher the menu, then a few questions were asked – some answered more successfully than others. I now know that the ‘no bills wines’ are glasses of medium house wine, however I’m still none the wiser what the hand held pulled pork item is – is it a sandwich, a wrap, a bao? Your guess is as good as mine!
I felt a little sorry that the waitress was put in a situation where she had to explain the random terminology to us, but I suppose if they’re there, it’s simpler to clarify things from the start.
On the plus side we had no complaints about drinks, we were recommended a fantastic bottle of wine to go with our meal; a Brazilian Miolo Tannat which was quite full bodied, very smooth and drank very well.
From the starters (or mingling platters) I chose crab croquettes, deep fried breadcrumbed stuff I couldn’t go wrong with, whilst my friend went for mussels. The croquettes were lovely and golden, but were let down by the contents which I found cloying and lacking in crab. The tomato and wild garlic chutney it came with was tasty, but I didn’t get much of the wild garlic and the addition of charred spring onions was surplus to requirements. The mussels weren’t particularly big but were well cooked, with some lemon focaccia to dunk into the liquor delicately laced with Sam Smiths bitter. The focaccia itself was lovely and soft, however I would’ve preferred it minus the lemon.
For the main course I went straight to the ‘cooked on coal’ section which listed a few fish and seafood dishes then the rest meat, such as fillet steak, the fashionable onglet (hangar) steak, also corn-fed chicken and sausages. The menu mentions the use of cooking on charcoal, so it would’ve been nice if staff spoke about it, considering it’s an important aspect to their food. It all arrived nicely presented, however it was off putting having a thick piece of string still tied around the meat (on both plates). Personally I also could’ve done without the paraphernalia – the silver buckets and gravy in glass jars (brought on the same plate as the food) weren’t doing anything for me either.
Food-wise the fillet was perfectly cooked, but I didn’t really get the smokiness I expected. The chips and intense gravy (their title not mine) were both good, in particular the gravy which was glossy, rich and full of meatiness and the tomato and mushroom were nice enough accompaniments. Alongside me the rib was also well cooked, however the béarnaise needed more sharpness and punch. One thing on the menu that we were intrigued by were the Bradford onion bhajis, we were told the menu tried to have a link to the local area…. fair enough but I found it bizarre to have them on the menu then have nothing else to really go with them. We ordered a portion to check them out and I was disappointed – the thickness of the batter was ok, but they didn’t hit the mark in spice and were a little bland.
For desserts we went for the selection to share, the best bits were the moist ginger cake and the liquorice ice cream which was excellent, the worst bit the warm doughnuts which were heavy.
Overall our experience was a little hit and miss, I think the menu tries too hard to impress and would be better keeping things a little simpler. It isn’t the cheapest of places to eat and therefore the quality needs to match this. The restaurant has only recently reopened so maybe still finding its feet, the staff were lovely so I hope they iron out any niggles.
Radisson Blu Hotel
No 1 The Light