October 17 2020

Review: The Herd, Argyle Street

Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the very word ‘steakhouse’ shrieked of an experience that lurked only just above ‘burger joint’ (and only then only because it meant eat in rather than take away) in the canon of restaurant categorisations established in food world before ‘casual dining’ became A Thing. The term is, of course, still an effective form of descriptive shorthand today, but the tacky element has, fortunately, long since been lost in translation.

The gleaming, modern shrines to carni-centric delight that exist today are far, far removed from the high street chain steakhouses of yore, where the trademarked logos, grubby carpets and plastic banquettes probably tasted better than the bad beef on the menu did. But while a real, proper steak-related menu focus is indeed something to celebrate, it doesn’t have to come with an overloud clatter and pomp fanfare nor with myriad marketing slogans based around “passion”, “respect” and “TLC” given more menu prominence than the meat at the heart of the matter. The Herd, however, is a textbook example of Everything A Modern Steakhouse Should Be.

This intimate, subterranean bistro skilfully treads that fine line between super-cool and super-cosy with aplomb – think, whitewashed stone walls, chunky furniture, quirky artwork and sparkly lighting, all bang on-trend but not self-consciously so. Staff are efficient, confident and knowledgeable but properly friendly all at the same time, and required social distancing space between tables feels natural rather than ‘brave new world.’

On the menu, the starter route to a sturdy range of impeccably-sourced steak feasts to suit all tastes, appetites and budgets begins with classic opening acts such as bruschetta, garlic and chilli king prawns and chicken liver pate, and ends with familiar treatsome faves such as chocolate mousse, crème brûlée and rice pudding. Chicken, fish, lamb and veggie options are all available too, but given the restaurant’s USP… well, y’know. Or did we? We knew where we wanted to go but didn’t know which route to take. So, we opted for the most satisfying get-out clauses known to restaurant ordering, starting with The Herd Starter Board for two (£18.95): a splendid (and very generous) selection of charcuterie including silky beef fillet carpaccio; a tangle of distinctly non-rubbery calamari; several neat slabs of upper-crust halloumi; an utterly divine chicken liver pâté… and all the lovely frills and frippery (great bread; super sauces/pickle; etc) that make such an experience complete.

Our loved-up sharing theme continued into mains with the steak Sharing Platter for two (£49.95), which brings ribeye, sirloin and fillet together in perfect harmony and takes the concept of a sublime steak-out for two to another level altogether. We got saucy with both béarnaise and a mushroom and brandy medley to slather across our meat feast and added a couple of big, fat king prawns for surf’n’turf good measure, while the twice-cooked chips and huuuuge homemade onion rings that come as standard with all the steaks are about as far removed from ‘standard’ incarnations of the genre as you can get. There was T-bone on the menu and massive Porterhouse, too – when we’re not feeling quite so magnanimous regarding sharing, I know where Mr Pig will be heading when we next follow our noses to The Herd. But hey, there were still desserts to come, which we kept all to ourselves (oh okay, I let him have a little bit of my soft, silky milk chocolate mousse served with a chunky white chocolate edible spoon, and helped myself to a sample of his brûlée-topped, date infused Madagascan vanilla rice pudding, plus a shovelful of ginger ice cream.)

And all the while, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that this little piggy was a vegetarian until around the age of 30. How times change, eh? The Herd brings us all bang up-to-date while proving that, even today, not all steakhouses are equal.

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