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Bull & Bear Tavern & Eatery Houston report

b
bishopsbitter Aug 3, 2008 03:36 PM

In one of those strip malls where all the signage is yet to be more than a temporary banner over the entrance is the Bull & Bear.

Quite a good looking wooden bar fittings and cool dark and relatively OK space.

Two pints of Guinness were in fair to good condition.

Went for the Brit side of the menu. I'm sorry, but the food (although other people's more mainstream US-style stuff stuff looked better) was poor. We opted to share a Scotch Egg for starter, and my wife had steak & mushroom pie and I had the lamb chops.

First problem, the bloody Scotch Egg was hot (had just been cooked). This is wrong. The anthithesis of how a Scotch Egg should be served: which is cold cold cold all the way. In the same was a Melton Mowbray pork pie, anything else is just plain wrong, and the flavor of hot sausage does not allow the seasonings to shine through the taste as they should. Of course, I never thought to ask. Also it had been cut into 4 longitudinal sections two of which were "avec ouef" and two were "sans" [apart from a sliver of white]. A small point but . . . the whole point is the juxtaposition of boiled egg and pork. Therefore 50% of the thing was effectively ruined in the cutting up.

Maybe a small point, but it's things like that that make all the difference. Does anyone think of the point I just made? Or just leave it in one whole egg-shaped piece and let us punters do it ourselves.

Mains went wobbly. The steak and mushroom pie's puff pastry was not well cooked. And the mushrooms were not seen although they may have been there in trace amounts liek gold dust in a long-since panned out sluice. But the problem with both the pie and my lamb chops was a truly awful gravy slathered over both things. The gravy was a particularly unpleasant flavored one and ruined three perfectly good (cooked rare as requested) lamb chops.

We had good service, and noted a couple of other Brito-American voices (like ourselves) but the food defintiely was a "Thumbs Down."

As said, service was OK if a bit overstressed (there seemed only one waitress for a good number of tables in play).

I gather they have Hold Em poker tourneys which might be interesting. Also Karaoke and a DJ at times.

Other minor things (which added up) mushy peas were on the menu but "we haven't had those for months" I was told and made to feel a bit foolish for asking. Ditto a Belgian Beer on advertizement "We stopped carrying that but it was REALLY GOOD." O K .

The Red Lion in Shepherd continues to be the standard bearer for a "Brit fix" in Houston for me. The Black Labrador gets a slight mention for waitress-cuteness-quotient but otherwise I didn't think all that much of it.

I have heard rumors of a place over by the Bay (Bayview Duck Restaurant in Bacliff). It's a long way for me to go but it sounds like worth a check out - can anyone perhaps confirm the need to do so, or save me some gas and energy?? British ownership and perhaps a firm hand at the helm of the beer pumps?

But I have leapt on this hope-for-something-better-next-time bus before.

Thanks for reading.

bb

The Bull & Bear Tavern & Eatery
11980 (north side of) Westheimer Suite A, Houston, TX 77077
Between Dairy Ashford & Kirkwood

  1. b
    bishopsbitter Jun 24, 2009 03:06 PM

    Revisited today as voyeur only, but I have to report somethign may have changed here.

    They were doing roaring lunch business (I'd estimate at least 40 covers). "Businessman's Lunch" (a concept I knew and loved long ago in Detroit) special-of-the-day seems to be working wonders. And the daily special menu was quite interesting, full of choice, and reasonable all pretty much sub $10.

    A ribeye steak option. Burger (of course.)
    Lamb Shanks.
    Chicken with poblano over rice.
    etc. (including cold sarnies)

    Their full menu is also an option and has a combined American/UK set of options, again reasonably priced and fairly extensive.

    They must be doing something right in the kitchen, and the food I saw looked good and plentiful.

    (I was there only for a pint of Guinness on a hot hot hot day having to deal with the closure of "The Angel and The Ox".

    B&B Guinness was not on such good form as the late Angel & Ox. Neither was the (bar) service (as on previous odd visit) much in the way of friendly or welcoming to a new/ultra-occasional customer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bishopsbitter
      air Jun 24, 2009 04:05 PM

      That's good that B&B is making improvements on the food front, their curry was beyond abysmal. I've never liked their Guiness pours, so if I'm drinking there, I'll stick to American craft brews.

      1. re: air
        b
        bishopsbitter Jun 25, 2009 03:48 AM

        Indeed . . . a good pint of well-kept Guinness would be nice to find on the west-of-the-Beltway side of town.

        And the last-but-one time I was there I sat next to an Englishman who similarly declared the curry "****" . . .

        . . . but at least upon empirical evidence (place almost full with lunchtime diners on a Wednesday in an obscure strip mall in a mega-recession) something is clicking to bring the punters in.

    2. j
      jodycakes Oct 2, 2008 02:14 PM

      I actually have dined in B&B twice in last month and a half and have had mixed service & food both times.

      Ordered the curry with chips - curry was EXTREMELY salty, almost to the point that I sent it back and the Irish Soda Bread was awful - very hard & cold, as if it had been frozen and not properly thawed. Guinness was decent.

      Last Friday evening, met a friend - service was dreadful - and the staff could barely keep up with a busy patio - perhaps they should have one server dedicated to outside only.
      My burger was actually quite good - I like the fact that they don't serve you the typical Sysco frozen patty - it actually had some flavor and was hand shaped. The fries were awful as if they had sat in the basket way too long.
      I asked for some curry sauce to dip my fries in and she informed me that it would take the kitchen 15-20 minutes to heat it up for me, am I sure I would like some?
      What a stupid question...Guinness was good too.

      I have decided to perhaps give it one more shot for the British side of the menu...but after that, I'm done.

      1. chefaltieri Sep 2, 2008 10:01 AM

        What about fish and chips? Is there anywhere in Houston I can get real pub fish and chips without the fish being catfish?

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefaltieri
          neverfull Sep 17, 2008 06:02 PM

          i'd still send you to the red lion for fish and chips. ask for both the fish and the chips well done. they have a tendency to undercook the fish a bit. the grease from the fish will drip onto the fries so getting them well done will guarantee you crisper "chips." also, most people don't know this but you can order a half order of it (1 big fish filet vs. 2) which is more than plenty for a female diner.

          and the fish is not catfish.

        2. w
          Welshman_in_HOU Aug 31, 2008 12:11 PM

          I would save your time and money and skip the visit to the Bayview duck. Interior is OK - slightly OTT but popular amongst americans that have yet to cross the pond. They do have a regular brit contingent so its nice to occassionally go and mix with a few other foreigners - regular donations of 'The Daily...' newspapers also make the visit worthwhile. Food is typical of most of the other places offering british food - small fish portions with awful batter, french fries and baked beans with everything... if only they knew....

          I've been searching for the ultimate fish and chips during the past couple of months - someone told me about Alfies in Texas City so I made the trip there a month or so back. Imagine my suprise to walk in and find a real fish fryer - sadly the egg batter spoilt the day.... I agree that the Red Lion is probably the best so far but still a little under par....cod was the best i've had but the batter was a little lacking..... i never thought i'd end up paying 10 bucks or so for a sausage roll... puzzled too why everyone thinks you're supposed to serve scotch eggs hot!!

          Heard the other day that the expanding Baker Street pubs (Sherlocks chain) serve great fish and chips - someone also mentioned the wild kitchen (braeswood area)

          Looks like I'll just have to keep making my own chips and frying my own fish.... just need to find some good mushy peas......

          Good luck with your adventures !

          Jon

          2 Replies
          1. re: Welshman_in_HOU
            j
            James Cristinian Aug 31, 2008 12:44 PM

            There was an Alfies on Fondren and the SW Freeway in the early to mid 70's (now a rotisserie chicken place) and I thought it was great, went all the time but having never been across the pond I have no reference point as to authenticity. In the mid to late 80's I had a sales job and was in Texas City once a week. I went there once and never went back. All I remember was that it did not compare to the other Alfies, but not sure as to what was lacking, being over twnety plus years ago. I agree, if I want good fried fish, I do it myself, not in a batter, but like my grandmother made it in corn meal and other fixings. I also went to Red Lion, although it wasn't bad, it did not inspire me enough to go back.

            1. re: Welshman_in_HOU
              b
              bishopsbitter Sep 7, 2008 06:18 AM

              From a posting I made to Houston Chowhounds I can't vouch for Fish and Chips (although I think they are of McNugget o fish variety) but the Scotch Egg can kill ya!

              You tales of finding a "real fish fryer" was a turn up.

              Also on mushy pea front, Phoenicia Specialty foods on Westheimer have bargain large packets of dried peas ideal for making mushy peas. Slow cooker with tsp of bicarb and watch out for overflowage.

              Ditto with yours.

              ===

              [snip]which led us to
              further follies at Baker St Pub & Grill. I knew this was the same
              outfit from about town and across the country
              (http://www.sherlockspubco.com/) with English-style pubs. But a pint of
              Guinness sounded good.

              Decor was actually quite nice, especially the "toilettes" hidden behind
              the secret bookcase and fireside portrait of Winston Churchill.

              Menu was scant on English items but I did note "Scotch Egg" which can
              go nicely with Guinness for a snack. I asked "Is it served cold?" as
              that is the correct mode of serving and, if as I could envisage, they
              cooked up batches of Scotch Eggs en masse, and then zapped them warm in
              the microwave, then this was an eminently possible request.

              "Would you like it cold?"

              "Yes, if possible."

              [People familiar with bishopsbitter posts will feel a sense of
              foreboding at this seemingly intelligent interchange between two
              intelligent people: punter and bartender.

              ]

              So after a while 2 orders arrive. Not to say I am suspicious (more
              battle-wearied really like a canny old soldier) I felt about the egg.
              Aha. Boiled egg is cold. Very good start. I nearly launched in but
              something about the wrapping of pork (or pork sausage) looked wrong.

              I picked up a half and the back side of it is barely lukewarm, but has
              definitely seen heat in the last 5 minutes. I thought at first the
              plate, but the plate is stone cold.

              The meat appears to be barely warmed RAW pork with the texture to
              match.

              So I start one of those conversations that I seem increasingly to have
              these days.

              "Excuse me but how do they cook this, defrost from cooked and frozen?"

              "I don't know how they cook them, why is there something wrong?"

              "Well yes, I asked for cold, but this is warm and seems undercooked."

              "It's not cooked?"

              "No"

              "I'll go and ask."

              [pause]

              "I asked and they said they can't serve them cold as they have to cook
              the meat."

              "OK well then why did it not arrive hot? I don't see how the egg is
              cold and the meat lukewarm. This doesn't make sense."

              [cicada sound effect with expression suggesting I was a nut job]

              I try again, "Do you see what I mean. I asked for 'cold if possible'
              but if the meat is not cooked then that is clearly not possible. Nor is
              it possible to cook the meat and then when cooked clad it around a cold
              hard-boiled egg. Do see what I mean. This does not LOGICALLY make sense
              what's here in front of me. Not unless they've not cooked it, or barely
              at all."

              [flash of irritation at aforementioned crazy nitwit's persistent
              complaints]

              "So you don't like it?"

              "Well it's not about 'like' so much as I am trying to ascertain what
              they have served up here is all. This appears uncooked and therefore
              inedible."

              [Body language that says 'I don't get paid enough to deal with crazy
              English old farts like this one' and then ...]

              ... Plates are cleared and that's another episode in "Bishopsbitter's
              Why Didn't I stay At Home? Log Stardate 09-07-08."

              All they had to do was cook 'em (if, as seems the case, there was no
              practical alternative to serve cold) and we could have let them cool
              down sat-sitting in front of us.

              I've often thought that it might be a GOOD thing if an English guy
              staggers in and then in the future they can add "we recommend these
              served cold, authentic English style, most of our English customers
              like them that way. But no, instead they try to nobble Yours Truly.

              It's not that I mind as I can look out for myself (and in this case my
              wife whose order had the same problem) mainly, but this was a bizarro
              tale even of many told before.

              This definitely does not garner a Three Rosette ("I didn't entirely
              want to kill myself here") Bishopsbitter Red Guide Rating---indeed like
              when I was recently in Las Vegas and about 25 of the Miss Black USA
              PaPagaent contestants crushed into an elevator of which I was the only
              other occupant (a memorable elevator ride indeed but putting great
              stress on the old ticker squeezed between Miss Missouri and Miss Rhode
              Island)---I feel lucky to have prevailed in order to write about
              about "The Strange Tale of the Scotch Egg Tartare" a la Dr Watson.

              Thanks for reading,
              bb

              http://www.lacenterra.com/
              Baker St. Pub & Grill
              23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd
              Katy, TX 77294
              Phone: (281) 296-0500

            2. g
              gorley.com Aug 4, 2008 12:20 PM

              We've frequented the Richmond Arms - on Richmond near Chimney Rock for years. The food is usually great, and they've got over 40 beers on tap - not too many places you can get a Murphy's Irish Stout in Houston. Plenty of ex-pats - and they show lots of footy, especially live on Saturday mornings. Big Ben Burger and Bangers and Mash are my favorites.

              3 Replies
              1. re: gorley.com
                b
                bishopsbitter Aug 4, 2008 02:11 PM

                Thanks, I've been but maybe need to revisit. bb

                1. re: bishopsbitter
                  neverfull Aug 5, 2008 03:25 PM

                  red lion's food is definitely better than the richmond arms. no need for the revisit IMHO. email me the next time you head to RL. maybe i can meet you there and finally place a face to the name.

                  1. re: neverfull
                    b
                    bishopsbitter Aug 14, 2008 04:56 AM

                    I'll do that!

              2. b
                bishopsbitter Aug 4, 2008 04:34 AM

                I meant to add that they were decent enough to comp one drink owing to my wife's negative comment about the steak & mushroom pie. So they are trying at least which is good to note.

                I suspect though, that the gravy-from-hell is ladled over all the English Specialties (Bangers & Mash, Cornish Pastie etc) with similar unappetizing results.

                Merely opening a gigantic can of Franco-American Beef Gravy (humble though it be) would improve things 1000% if substituted for what they are currently using.

                bb

                2 Replies
                1. re: bishopsbitter
                  b
                  bishopsbitter Aug 4, 2008 09:52 AM

                  And I forgot one other thing. Spotted what looked like a brand-new Indian place - "Gourmet India" - attracting what looked like a very good-sized lunch crowd.

                  They appear to have a Web site. Anyone been yet?
                  http://www.gourmetindiahouston.com/

                  Would appreciate a report if so. Thanks, bb

                  1. re: bishopsbitter
                    danhole Aug 4, 2008 11:56 AM

                    bb,

                    I am sorry that your quest for british food has been so disappointing. Unfortunatelty I know nothing about it, so I can't help.

                    I would suggest that you post another thread asking about the Gourmet India. I'm not sure that many who would know would be looking at this review and find your question. Just a thought.

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