Sometimes when the end of the week comes you just need that change of scenery to get your weekend off to the right start – even if it is just 30 minutes down the Great Western Main Line.

“It’s only been open a week, but literally everyone I have spoken to about it has raved about their steak,” one of my dining companions excitedly told me as I slumped into a wicker seat at a table outside a popular Bath pub having braved rush-hour rail travel from Swindon to the Roman city. A large glass of red was already awaiting me.

“But,” she turned to me almost scandalised at this point, “it is right next to the Premier Inn.” Obviously this last bit was in hushed tones so none of the neighbouring tables could hear.

“So you have dragged me all the way over to Bath to take me to a Beefeater?!” I laughed. Probably a little too loud for her liking.

Not that there is anything wrong with a Beefeater, but you know – we have a perfectly good one in Swindon that I could have gone to without having to part with 12 of my English pounds to GWR.

Having reassured her that Bar + Block sounded perfectly nice, very un-Beefeater-y, and just what the end of this week needed, relaxation kicked in – just as the plan had intended.

“But if it is rubbish we can always go somewhere else, there’s this really nice tapas pla…”. One final interrupting reassurance that I was perfectly happy with her choice of restaurant and we were on our way to the freshly painted restaurant on James Street.

She was quite right though, it was occupying that spot underneath the Premier Inn where a Beefeater can usually be found. No surprises then to learn that Bar+Block is owned by the same parent company, Whitbread. As only the fourth restaurant to open under this name (a way of engaging with a younger audience of steak lovers, according to an article on The Caterer magazine which I swiftly drew up on my phone while we were seated) it is certainly an exciting place to dine out.

The interior is a pleasant mix of oak beams, weathered red brick, and those oh-so-hip Edison lightbulbs that seem to be springing up everywhere at the moment. We were seated quickly (having prebooked a table) and began looking over the extensive menu.

A bottle of Malbec and a bowl of Sicilian nocellara olives (£3) were ordered to help us with the decision making process.

The menu features a number of grazing plates, sort of tapas with a steakhouse twist, of which they recommend three plates between two people as a starter. Among the choices are burnt ends (£4.95) which are crunchy, caramelised and smoky beef brisket pieces; mac and cheese bites (£3.75) and cheese and chipolte stuffed dippers (£3.75).

I was almost swayed by the wild mushrooms on toast (£5.95) while one of my dining companions almost ordered the salt and pepper squid (£6.50) but when our other guest said he was saving himself for the main event, we thought it might be wise to take a leaf out of his book. Especially as we had already caught a glimpse of the dessert menu.

As this is a steakhouse, all the usual suspects are on there. Rump, ribeye, sirloin, and fillet, all available in 8oz or 10oz servings. As one of our party was brought up on the continent, imperial measurements are a complete mystery to her, and I have to say after a couple of glasses of red, they often are to me too. But she erred on the side of caution and ordered an 8oz ribeye (£16.50) after I reliably informed her that translated to around 225gm.

Her partner was lured in by the speciality cuts section of the menu, featuring a spiral cut fillet (£25.50) as well as a surf and turf (£21.95) and something immense called the Tomahawk - a whopping 35oz-er barbecue marinated, slow cooked and finished over charcoal (£39.95). At the time I explained this to my European dining companion as being the best part of a kilogram of beef. GCSE maths in rural Devon did pay off, after all.

But despite not usually being the one to balk at such a hefty dining challenge, he instead went for the Tira de Ancho - a 14oz spiral cut ribeye, marinated in garlic, parsley and chilli and served with chimichurri (£26.95).

I, as ever, was slightly more indecisive, and so hedged my bets by ordering the mixed grill (£19.95) which came with a 4oz rump steak (that's 113g for those keeping score in metric) a slice of pork belly, a grilled chicken breast and a giant pork sausage. Accompanying the cuts were a bowl of Asian coleslaw, spicy beans with smoked bacon and beef dripping chunky chips.

The ribeye was like butter – and that is meant in the most absolutely positive of terms – the knife just fell through it, the meat was so tender. We all tucked in to a slice of her meal. The flavours that came with the Tira de Ancho were also pretty impressive and made for a really tasty meal.

In terms of variety though, I picked the winner. And unlike most mixed grills, there wasn’t a player on the team who was letting the side down. The steak was cooked to perfection; the flavour of the pork was crisp and on point; the chicken was not overdone, nor overpowered by the strong flavours of the darker meats, and the sausage most definitely wasn’t one of your six-for-a-pound from Iceland. It was crammed with flavour. The only problem was not knowing where to start first. The happiest of conundrums.

To be fair, we were all pretty satisfied after our mains that we probably could have sat and whiled away the rest of the evening with our bottle of red, but as we had skipped a starter, we felt – in the interests of journalism – we ought to give the dessert course a go.

My companions – who met while they were both living in Scotland – hankered back to their tweenage years in Edinburgh and ordered the sticky toffee pudding with two spoons (£5.95). I, meanwhile, would like to put my own choice of dessert down to my own Devon heritage, but I neither grew up on a farm, nor had much to do with cows as a child, so it can only be down to my own greed that I ordered the cheese block (£5.95). In my defence, I was ably assisted, as a cheeseboard is the most social of meal courses.

Perhaps it was rather cruel to subject the restaurant to such scrutiny on its opening week, but you would never have guessed that was the case. The staff were friendly, efficient and knew the menu inside out. If there are any teething problems with the new restaurant, we certainly did not witness them.

But is Bar + Block worth the half hour each way on the train there and back? Absolutely. Even if the last train out of Bath to Swindon is a bleak place, the wonderful, warm feeling of a thoroughly enjoyable evening makes the drunken hen parties all the more bearable.

Bar + Block

4 James Street West, Bath, BA1 2BX.

Mon-Fri: 6:30am - 11pm Sat-Sun: 7am - 11pm


Parking: Public car parks nearby

Disabled access: yes

Food: 9/10

Choice: 9/10

Decor: 9/10

Customer service: 9/10

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5