A colleague and I had just finished a meeting in the area, so we thought we’d swing by The Black Lion in the H Hotel (SZR) to test out their new menu.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Black Lion when you walk in, is how gosh-darn smoky it is. As a non-smoker, I found it really off-putting and almost walked out, but we managed to find a table right near the back, where we were almost away from it. It would be nice to have a designated non-smoking area, although it would be a difficult one with the central, round bar.
We were brought over a couple of menus and both ordered a pint of Brew Dog Punk IPA on tap. Obviously they keep their beer well, as it was just how it should be, good carbonation with the tropical, fruity flavours standing out.
Food-wise, they have quite an interesting selection of pub classics and “street food”. The “Brewdog Millionaire” really stood out for me – Salted Pretzel and Madras Chicken Wings with a Beer Cheese Fondue? Yes please! I naturally chose that for a starter, alongside the “Yorkshire Chip Van Fish & Chips with Scraps” for main. My colleague picked out the “Yardie Jerk Lamb Samosas” and their “Banging Burger” for main.
The starters arrived about 10 minutes later and although a little smaller than we were expecting, were visually appealing. The samosas had a lovely crunch and the braised lamb was a tasty-twist in the center with the mango accompaniment tangy and clever. The wings were off the chart though, perfectly cooked and awesome – especially with a colossal scraping of beery fondue cheese on top. They were demolished in seconds.
After a very solid start, we had high hopes for the mains and again, we were not left disappointed. The burger sat up on the plate proudly and the patty inside was thick, juicy and tender. The potato bread had a delicate crunch on the outside, but was light and fluffy on the inside – constructed supremely to hold in all that juicy meat.
My fish & chips was impressive too, the batter was beautifully crunchy and the fish remained flaky and moist. I’m not a big fan of fat chips in all honesty, but they were well-cooked – crispy on the outside, soft in the middle. The mushy peas are a sad omission on many menus out here, so it was pleasing to see them here and they passed the test, punchy and well-seasoned. They even had batter scraps that are extremely rare to see here. Overall, a big tick for both of the dishes.
We had to get off afterwards to go back to the office, but we both commented how enjoyable all four dishes were. They’ve successfully done the basics well and I’ll be interested to go back and try more of their “street food” menu as the selections we had – although a tad overpriced – were great.
FOOD: 13/15 – Could hardly fault any of it. Four very well executed dishes of pub and street food (although I’d argue you struggle walking around the streets with a fondue!).
SERVICE: 11/15 – It was pretty impersonal (to be fair, it’s a pub – not a fine dining restaurant) but food came quickly.
DRINKS SELECTION: 3.5/5 – They have a few decent beers and Brewdog Punk IPA on tap was a welcome addition.
AMBIANCE: 2.5/5 – It’s a pleasant enough pub, but lack of a non-smoking area tarnished my experience somewhat. I hate having to go get my suit dry cleaned after one wear!
DESIGN: 3/5 – It’s your standard pub. Nothing spectacular about it and they could do with more segregation from the smokers, however it’s comfortable and otherwise inoffensive.
VALUE: 3.5/5 – I think the street food is expensive, but the mains are reasonable for the type of venue it is, in a 5* hotel. You can use an Entertainer voucher too which makes it even better!
TOTAL: 36.5/50 – I feel a bit guilty about giving this place only a 36.5 – especially looking at some of the other similarly scored restaurants that I’ve reviewed. However, a bit more of a smile with the service wouldn’t go amiss and more consideration for non-smokers would make it one of my top places to go. Most importantly for a lot of people – the food was excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.