When a meal done well is far from well done – Steak frites night at Paysan, Bloc, Victoria Park, Cardiff (No longer at Bloc).

I suspect, even with “plant based” stuff being so achingly on trend, many people (certainly in the UK) if asked what they would opt for as their death row meal would plump for steak (for me one that is cooked rare, really don’t see the point of ruining a bit of quality meat by incinerating it) and chips.

Surprisingly few who actually get the very dubious privilege of such a last request meal seem to request a steak. This is probably due to the vast majority of such requests relating to the States.

Looking at the info. on requests made, one (this was just one person) was for:

  • one Pizza Hut medium Super Supreme Deep Dish pizza with double portions of mushrooms, onions and jalapeño peppers,

  • a second pizza with three cheeses, olives, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, and Italian sausage,
  • 10 8-oz. packs of Parmesan cheese,

  • 10 8-oz. packs of ranch dressing,
  • one family size bag of Doritos nacho cheese flavor,
  • 8oz. jalapeño nacho cheese,
  • 4 oz. sliced jalapeños,
  • 2 large strawberry shakes,
  • two 20-oz. cherry cokes,
  • one super-size order of McDonald’s fries with extra ketchup and mayonnaise; and
  • two pints of strawberry ice cream.
Perhaps it was an attempt to delay the end as long as possible (they managed half of it, it seems), but I think after even half of that lot the bitter sweet embrace of the void would be welcomed.

Another request was for a mere two peanut butter cups and a Doctor Pepper – which seems to me to be a very odd choice for your last meal on earth. Given the choice, my last taste of something on earth would most  certainly not be Doctor Pepper (vile stuff)!!!

Anyway this bring me to Paysan, at Bloc in Victoria Park, which has recently added a steak frites night
(Thursdays) to its (now long) weekend offering. All very much in keeping with it’s French bistro vibe.

The place seems to be going from
from strength to strength, with tickets for their 3/4 course dinners from Find My Dine (lots of other goodies on their site) getting as hard as hen’s teeth to get hold of.

As the saying goes, quality will always out and never has it been truer than here with Grady Atkins producing one delight after another.

Bloc, which Paysan operates out of, has had a bit of a make over since my last visit and the bar stool set up (as an addition to the tables) is very much to my liking particularly as, in this instance,  I was dining solo.

Not sure how they have done it, but the kitchen area and the dining area both seem to be bigger!!

The food

On to the actual food (yes I know you all skip to this bit), the short menu offers onglet, rump or fillet for £14, £16 and £18 respectively, with the ability to add on a dessert or cheese for an extra £4 each (cheese is for 2 people min).The beef is from a proper local butcher, Oriel Jones, who have their own farm, so ticks lots of the sustainability boxes as well as having the all important flavour.

There is a choice of sauces and J and I often tussle as to the merits of a sauce with a steak.

My view is generally I like my steak naked, bar from salt (notionally on the basis of I want the beef to do the talking), whereas J is very much of the view that if a sauce is on offer she will go for it.

My reluctance re adding a sauce is probably borne more out of extreme tightness, as I am disinclined to pay extra for just about anything. Here the sauce is in the price so I thought what the heck and went for the roquefort.

In terms of the steaks on offer, I am a big fan of onglet (really good flavour to it), but as I have tried the onglet before here (very good it was too)and not being a fan of fillet (I tend to find fillet can be a bit boring with the all important flavour often sacrificed on the altar on tenderness, although I am sure that is not the case with Oriel Jones’ fillet)  I went for the rump (£16, with the frites and the roquefort sauce).

Lovely beefy hit from this piece of rump that only comes from proper dry aging. This sort of thing makes me very happy.

It may seems odd to write about being happy that beef tastes of beef, but all too often beef steaks (supermarket ones mainly) taste of bugger all. Personally I think this is why many people are surprised as to how like meat meat substitutes are taste wise.  They taste just like meat that doesn’t taste of meat.

Add to this a nice cap of creamy fat, on point cooking (good sear on the outside and rare to medium rare for a piece of rump is bang on in my book)and just the right amount of seasoning and you have a serious bit of quality meat at a diminutive price for dinner.

The sauce had just the right balance, with the ripeness of the roquefort coming through but not overpowering the beef.

Deft touches applied here by Mr. Atkins and it was fascinating sitting at the bar watching him work (absolute model of calm efficiency – God I wish I could work like that).On the frites front, these were bountiful and nicely crisp – great for mopping up the roquefort sauce

What really lifted them, however, was the seasoning applied. This was an ingenious powder made from a mix of dried baked potato skins and mushrooms. Really added that little extra, which operates to takes stuff from the nice to the blooming lovely.

As Mrs. SF was not with me, I was able to deploy the finger with inpunity to extract every molecule of the sauce from the plate.

My plate was pretty much wiped clean of any vestiges of sauce, not wanting to waste any little bit.There was a single pudding on the menu (£4), as well as cheese to share (£8), in the form of a rum baba.

I, of course, went for this (would have been rude not to).

The sweetness of the cake and raisins were nicely balanced by a warming hit of rum and the subtle sourness of the crème fraîche (made using kefir grains).

The Drink

On the booze front they have a small, but decent selection of beers and wines.

I went for a 175ml (£3.60) glass of the Castaño (a quality and very good value producer from  D.O. Yecla)  Ecológico Monastrell.Monastrell is a muscular (dare I say beefy) grape, which tends to come with a heavy ABV (lots of sun in Yecla). This one came with big fruit (blueberry mainly to me) and worked rather well with the steak.

The verdict

Another string to the already mighty bow of Paysan.

I love a steak frites and this was an excellent example of how good this seemingly simple (to bugger up that is) dish can be.

For £23.60, I got a great steak, a fab sauce, super frites, a boozy pud and a nice glass of wine . You really can’t fault that for a meal out in the evening.

It is clearly going down a storm as by 19.00 the place was pretty much full.

Would I go back? Absolutely – properly lovely stuff.

Big thanks to Grady Atkins for a brilliant Brucie Bonus course involving beef heart. Hand on heart (or rather in gob) it was stonkingly good.

All in all a meal done well (with the steak gratifyingly not well done).

The details

Address: Bloc (outside Victoria Park), Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF5 1JN.

Twitter: @FoodPaysan

Instagram: @Paysan.food

Hours :   kicks off at 18.30  (no bookings taken) and until they run out of steaks or 20.30 (which ever is the earlier), I I believe. Bar stays open until 22.00.