Blackshop (Cambridge)

Location: Cambridge, Canada
Address: 595 Hespler Road
Type of Meal: Dinner

Blackshop is located on a busy street with plazas of motels, retail stores and restaurants.  Despite the chaotic big box store surroundings, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with a decent sized patio and various dining areas each with its own comfortable design and charm.
Excited to see goulash ($7) on the menu, I ordered it as a starter.  Sadly, it was a huge disappointment.  There was so much wrong with it that I’m surprised no one tasted it and decided it was unfit to serve! 

Firstly, it was a tepid temperature and had absolutely no flavour.  My fond memories of the goulash I had in Germany and Austria was a flavourful hearty stew with a hint of spice from the paprika.  Blackshop’s goulash was completely tasteless and I had to add a liberal portion of salt just to give it any flavour.  Worst of all, the consistency was overly thick and had a grittiness to it.  My only hypothesis for this awful texture was the thickening agent they used was not diluted into a slurry or tempered prior to adding it to the boiling liquid.  Regardless, they should immediately remove this from their menu.
My husband’s Caesar salad ($8) was much better and judging by the number of other patrons who ordered it is the safer bet as an appetizer.
Luckily, their entrees were an improvement and arrive in huge portions.  The short ribs in the beef bourguignon ($24) were tender and topped with a thick hearty sauce with tons of sliced mushrooms.  The smooth and creamy mashed potatoes went well with the relatively lean beef. 
Their menu descriptions are surprisingly detailed and described the beef bourguignon to be accompanied with “carrot flowers”.  I was interested to see what these would be given I didn’t think carrot tops sprout flowers.  In reality, they were just regular carrots cut into blossom shapes.  
My husband opted for the featured fresh fish of seared tuna ($35).  Apologies for the blurry photo but I had to quickly snap a photo before he dug in. Three decent sized portions of tuna arrived, which by itself was bland but when combined with the miso broth was flavourful.  This is an excellent dish for the summer with the light ginger & onion flavours and medley of carrot, bok choy, napa cabbage shiitake and enoki mushrooms.  I only wish they blanched the vegetables prior to serving as raw bok choy and enoki mushrooms have an unpleasant spongy texture.

Blackshop did have pleasant friendly service.  Our waiter, despite having to look after a large number of tables, was attentive and repeatedly checked in to make sure we were okay.  I’m sure if I could have brought myself to send back the goulash they would have addressed my disappointment.  Overall, Blackshop is a comfortable restaurant with large portions and perhaps would be a good place to order a simple lunch on their patio.  My only advice is to stick with the basics (the steak frites looked decent) and leave the more ethnic dishes to other chefs.

Overall mark - 5.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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