Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Quality Chop House - London

Eating a good steak is one of life’s pleasures, and, we invariably plan to have steak in London. At times we buy a top-quality steak and cook it ourselves. At other times we eat at the better steak houses, Hawksmoor and Goodman being two of our choices. On this occasion we thought we should go off-piste and visit some other place.

Quality Chop House, as the name suggests, serves chops and steaks among other food. This is located in Farringdon which is in the City. Going to the City by Taxi is an expensive proposition as your meter rapidly jumps with the traffic en route. So, it was the Underground for us followed by a 15 minute walk. This is not a problem at all, unless it is raining. Luckily, rain was not forecast.

Quality Chop House is an old restaurant – Progressive Working Class Caterer – as it is described on the facade, having started operation in 1869, the year Mahatma Gandhi was born. Seriously. The building is classified Grade II with Victorian décor. This means that not only is the exterior façade protected and cannot be altered but, since it is also listed with Victorian décor, the inside too is protected. The consequence is that the original flooring and wall exist and the seating is the original wooden benches and tables. The tables could not have been wider than 15 inches. The benches were narrow, no more than 10 inches, and had backs that were at 90 degrees to the benches. Obviously, in 1869 they had no idea of comfort and the working class were not expected to linger after eating. To slightly reduce the discomfort of the benches, removeable cushions were placed with strapping. Removable so as to be compliant with the Listing regulations. Frankly, the seats were perfectly alright and not really uncomfortable.

Will Lander is the owner of restaurant. In November 2015 we had eaten at Portland which is Lander’s other restaurant. A common theme runs thru both restaurants, spartan décor [at Quality Chop House he has no choice, the Listing requirements stipulate no alterations] a small affordable wine list with a separate page of more expensive wines, and, simple, less fussy, non tweezered food plainly described in a daily menu. Somewhat like St John the deeply influential English restaurant owned by Fergus Henderson.

On reaching, despite having made reservation, we were offered a choice of two tables. Both were small, one was at the toilet entrance, the other was 3 feet away from the toilet entrance. HRH the Queen of Kutch was understandably upset and requested a change. The request was granted and we were shifted to the benches. Much better.

The meal started with a couple of Negronis and a plate of very large olives. One snack that had caught my eye was Crozier Blue Custard, Beetroot & Walnut. This was an absolute knockout dish. Two small exquisite delicate pastry cases or tartlets filled with a creamy Blue Cheese Custard. One delicious bite each. At once creamy, crumbly, savory, sweet and sour. These Tarts epitomized the word “Moreish”. You really wanted to eat more. A smashing start to the meal. We were looking forward to the rest of the food.

HRH the Queen of Kutch did not want to have a first course. The soup looked very interesting, and, since it is winter, I thought a good hot soup would hit the spot. The soup was Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Truffle and Apple Brown Butter. Jerusalem Artichoke is a very close relation of what we in India call `Alkool’. The soup was wonderful, hot and satisfying. The Truffle added flavor and the Apple Brown Butter was the magic ingredient, adding richness with the butter and the Apple adding a sweet-sour note. Excellent.

For our main course we had ordered a Tamworth Pork Chop [Tamworth being a breed of pig] and a Blue Grey Sirloin [Blue Grey being a Scottish beef cattle breed]. As sides we ordered a portion of the Confit Potato that Quality Chop House is famous for, and some Hispi Cabbage garnished with crisp deep-fried beef fat. I think this a good place to write, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, just to get over the trauma of eating the Steak and the Beef Fat. Bhagwan muje maaf karo. The Steak was excellent, cooked medium rare with a soft core. The Pork Chop was a little disappointing. It was single dimensional, somewhat boring. Both cuts of meat had the fat left on which in today’s health conscious days, is a treat. Both the meats came with just pan juices; no fancy sauces or other additions to distract from the meat. The Confit Potato was a piece of art. I have a recipe for this dish in a book by Daniel Boulud and have often thought of making it but never done so. Potato is thinly sliced and layered and cooked. Then the potato cake is cut into blocks and fried. You get a block of Potato, crisp on the outside, soft inside and in several layers. You require skill, practice and the correct potato. This was really good. This Hispi Cabbage was nice too.

The Tamworth Pork Chop 

Blue Grey Sirloin Steak

Confit Potato

Hispi Cabbage with Beef Fat 

One pudding leapt out, and Orange and Pistachio Tart. This was ordered with a glass of Armagnac made by Helene Daroze’s brother. The Tart was quite something. The use of nuts and bitter orange was I thought quite Middle Eastern. This was a dessert we both like, texture and not coilingly sweet. A fine end to a good dinner.

At the end of the day, I do recommend this restaurant. Good food, decent service and an interesting menu. I agree it is a bit of a trek to the restaurant especially if you stay in the normal central London tourist hotel areas. Do make an effort. As an indication of the popularity, when walking to the restaurant on this Monday evening we passed several restaurants that were empty or near empty. This place was full and all tables fully occupied when we left at 9 pm.

Do make an effort and eat here.

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