When a family-run restaurant has been going for 40 years, they have to being doing something great. And then you toss in sustaining a business on a promenade in one of the busiest seaside resort’s in the country, alongside streams of cafes, bars and meters away from those famous Golden Arches, its deserving of a round of applause, right?
Well, I ate at The Eating Inn Steakhouse in Blackpool and things started with an unexpected blinging twist. When I was still 100 meters away, I spotted something that made me think “I’m gonna like it here”. It was a silver sequined model cow standing on the roof of the restaurant, glistening and shimmering in the evening sun, owning the night with all the glamor and fabulousness of Lady Gaga.
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It totally suited the ridiculousness and nowhere-else-like it identity of Blackpool. I mean, what’s not to love about a glitterball Frisian Daisy the cow? Shiny cow beacon aside, we lucked out with a balmy late April evening and wanted to make the most of the deep orange glow as the sun set, so sat outside, which is undercover with heaters above the tables, while the roof and sides are removable for even balmier times.
Eating al fresco abroad or on holiday is a given, but even in my 30s, it’s still a novelty and because let’s face it, the UK weather doesn’t allow it enough. It’s like that favorite treat you were only allowed every few months when you were a kid – you savor every second, because you don’t know when it will come again. As a bonus for this Strictly Come Dancing fan, the silver sequins also adorned the exterior walls, signage, while the interior was decorated in classes creams, with dark wood tables and open ceiling beams.
Family-run restaurants like this one, which has transformed a former fisherman’s cottage and was first opened by Michael Shorrock in 1980 before he passed on the the reigns to his son Ben, have secret ingredients no chain or corporate venue will ever be able to replicate – passion and pride. Generations are born into it. It’s in the blood, especially fitting if you like your steak swimming in it.
The enthusiasm and belief in the place shone through brighter than the flashing multi-colored lights on the front of the South Pier over the road, from the moment we were greeted to the wave goodbye as we headed off into the night. The service throughout was excellent, our two waitresses knew the menu like a dairy farmer knows their milking routine.
I believe I can tell when a venue has a poor work culture, when staff are stressed, overworked and lack training but you could tell these servers are proud and willing to work there, and that doesn’t happen by accident. We shared a portion of homemade hummus with toasted sourdough (£ 3.50) to get us going ahead of the meat feast to come.
Oh my, it was some of the best hummus I’ve ever tasted, it was double-cream thick and the brine-infused olive oil soaked up the grittier chick peas while I think about two full garlic bulbs went into the making of it which was fine with us, as there can never be too much garlic – be gone, Dracula.
It was topped with finely sliced sweet red, orange, and green pepper and rocket, giving you that texture you get with something like peanut butter. The chargrill-toasted sourdough fresh bread was firm enough not to go soggy when dipped and we enjoyed it so much, we asked for an extra portion to mop up the rest of the hummus.
We told our server to let the chef know how much we enjoyed it and a little later she bounded over to tell us we had made his day and that he is very proud of his hummus recipe. And so he should be.
Naturally, the menu is focused on the grill and steak options, but there’s also a pie special, burger, chicken supreme and several pasta dishes to choose from, for those non-meat fiends out there. We asked for our 8oz sirloin (£ 18, £ 2 garlic butter) and 10oz ribeye (£ 23, peppercorn sauce £ 2.50) medium-rare.
You do you, if you like your steak well done or cremated, but I’d be wounded if it came out gray with no pink. Ours had little puddles of bloody meat juice sitting on top, settling between the black chargrill railings and natural grooves of the meat. Like looking down an uneven pretty country lane, drying out after days of rain as the sun breaks through the louds.
The miniature swords, I mean steak knives, cut through the meat with remarkable grace and ease, opening up to let the juices run free, creating a moat around it, while revealing the anatomy of the cut and cooking, like a tree’s bark layers – from sealing, to grill temperature and time on the heat. A work of art.
The meat was so smooth and charismatic, it was like Tommy DeVito from was Goodfellas was talking in my mouth. It screamed “we have been doing this more than 30 years, we KNOW how to cook steak”.
The sharp and fiery peppercorn sauce wallops the back of your throat with a bang and contrasts well with that distinctive chargrill flavor on the outside of the meat, reminiscent of family summer BBQs. And not a silly topless muscle man apron in sight.
As I placed a generous dollop of the rich garlic butter on the steak, it drank it in while the rest jumped in with the pool of juices, disappearing as quickly as a snowman in front of a fire. But the flavors still came through, the sea-salt crystals and the garlic once again a welcome, dominant force.
The mushrooms were buttery and peppery, the chips were golden, fluffy and crunchy while the velvet mash was far better than mine, and I don’t say that lightly. Getting mashed potato right is serious business.
The chocolate brownie special (£ 6) was just the right size for sharing and holy cocoa-smokes that was a taste sensation. It was still warm, gooey, rich, crunchy on the top (hello, honeycomb crumb), inside had a hint of sponge and still managed to be light enough to not feel guilty of indulging in it.
The freeze of the vanilla ice cream married with the warm brownie like, well, vanilla ice cream and warm brownie. How has this chef managed to find time to train at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris while also perfecting hummus and meat cooking?
This is the first steakhouse, anywhere in the world, I’ve been to that didn’t feel pretentious, overpriced and snobby. And I’m going to level with you, apart from a slight mark on my wine glass and a toilet being out of order, I’d be seriously grasping to find any other negatives.
It was full of a blend of regulars, and out-of-towners like us, which is probably why it has managed to sustain its popularity for decades and through the often deserted seafront in off-season. Sure, it may be more expensive than the Maccies a few hundred yards away, but this is the kind of place you should save up to eat at as a treat, if you have to.
Your hard-earned cash will not be wasted and I hope that cosmic cow continues to dazzle for another three decades and more.
Food dviews by Denise Evans are published every Sunday morning. The restaurant did not know we were coming and our review is anonymous.
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