Having been invited by the folks at Leeds List, last night Dan and I took a trip over to Sam’s Chop House to sample the food they have on offer. We’ve visited before but have to say it was years ago and wondered whether it had changed much.We did see some of the other blogger reviews online prior to our visit, ranging from scathing to indifferent and we really didn’t want that to cloud our experience.
We arrived a little before 7pm to a very quiet bar – there were a handful of diners but the atmosphere seemed eerily quiet. Shame really as the building and the interior surroundings grand and it was sad that it was pretty much standing empty.
We always like to sample to ales before be dine so we purchased a couple of pints of Rudgate IPA and perused the menu for a while. Ale lovers note that the bar has come interesting craft beers and also has an array of gin / whiskies. Something that they perhaps need to shout about a bit more.
To go with our meal, we chose the Granfort Pays d’Oc Cabernet Sauvignon Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2012, which was delicious and paired well with both starters and mains.
So, the food. Being a lover of scotch eggs chose the ham hock version for my starter, which was served with celeriac and mustard coleslaw and HP sauce. I thought this was a tasty, well seasoned start to the meal. Dan opted for the home made black pudding toad in the hole. The black pudding itself was fun – well seasoned, however it could’ve done with more sauce given the mound of mash and Yorkshire pudding that was served up alongside.
Onto the mains – given the ghastly weather I wanted something comforting and warming so had to go for the steak and kidney pudding. the filling was moist and melt in the mouth. The gravy was well seasoned and delicious. However, my suet outer was doughy and undercooked which was a shame. Had it been fluffy and dumpling-like it would have been a triumph.
Dan opted for the pork chop (We were at a chop house after all!) and it didn’t disappoint. A huge, juicy, well seasoned piece of meat. The watercress salad was dressed beautifully. This was ordered with the addition of peppercorn sauce, which although thin was tasty indeed.
For desserts I had to go for the sticky toffee pudding and I just needed that little bit more stodge in my stomach! The pudding was fine – a sticky toffee pudding that I’ve had in a million pubs before. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about either. it did the job filling me with warm stodge.
Dan went for the trio of ice creams and sorbets – we were given a huge number of exciting and interesting flavours which really excited us. Dan chose the gin and tonic sorbet, cherry and chocolate brownie and gingerbread. Yum! However, they arrived in a tiny pie bowl and looked less than we’d hoped for. Flavour wise unfortunately they disappointed too. The gin and tonic was watery and didn;t taste as advertised. the cherry and brownie was unfortunately bland. The best of the three was the gingerbread, but it could have been packed with more flavour. Ideally rather than having a huge list of mediocre ice creams, Sam’s needs to concentrate of a few and do them well.
Service was attentive and not rushed, the staff were warm and welcoming.
To be honest I don’t feel great about critiquing the food when I’ve been invited to eat it – it would have been much easier if everything has been amazing, but I hope that the comments Dan and I have are taken on board.
Downstairs we noticed framed newspaper clippings from Sam’s heyday, rave reviews from now defunct publications such as Leeds Guide, telling people to go visit this fab new opening. I think this is the issue – At the moment Leeds has such a burgeoning food scene that I can see why a place like Sam’s, needs to try and stand out. Sam’s was probably one of the better bars a few years ago, but they need to keep up and evolve.
So, Sam’s – would we go back? Yes, but for a drink only. I think Sam’s needs to decided whether they are a bar that serves food, or a restaurant with a bar. As I said earlier, they have a really interesting gin, whisky, ale and wine selection – and they need to use this to their advantage. Perhaps offer “gourmet” bar snacks – the scotch egg would be perfect!