Thursday, 10 January 2013
A decidedly high Quality Chop House
Near the entrance to the dining room – glasses, coats and
a glimpse of the bench seats now with additional padding
Yesterday evening was a series of unexpected meetings. Before Christmas we had arranged with friends to meet up last night to try the recently reopened Quality Chop House at the top end of The Farringdon Road. Our friends knew the previous incarnation of the QCH but we had never eaten there, weren't aware of the restaurant's history and reputation.
From the Quality Chop House website: 'It has been an eating house since 1869. The designer, Rowland Plumbe, wanted to create utilitarian spaces for the masses that had a touch of glamour. The Chop House was the only restaurant he designed and soon became hugely popular – local residents and London’s literary elite shared its trademark booths and enjoyed "a plate of meat, bread and half a pint of ale for six pence". The previous incarnation closed in July 2010.
The double fronted Quality Chop House consists of a wine bar and a separate small dining room. When we walked into the dining room two tables were occupied – one with our friends and the other with a group of four. To our complete surprise two of these turned out to be our friends Gaeron and Kath – entirely a coincidence that they were there. I've known Gaeron since we were at Manchester University together many years ago. He and Kath are part of the group of us ex-Mancunians, who meet up once a year in a UK seaside resort, which must have a pier. This year it will be Clacton and its pier in May time.
Looking through to the kitchen
We started with a glass of the lovely N.V. ‘I Think’ Manzanilla, Equipo Navajos (£5 for a 125ml glass). Much deeper coloured than most Manzanillas, this has a beautifully austere concentration and length.
Dinner is a set four courses for £35 with cheese as an addition with a supplement (£3 if I remember correctly). The menu changes every day and if you are well organised you'll find it posted up on the website as well as the dining room wall.
The dinner menu
We were very happy with our meal. I particularly enjoyed the moist middle white terrine (middle white being a breed of pig native to the UK) and the main course medley of venison from the Denham Estate – cooked in a variety of ways. The style of cooking is reminiscent of the St John restaurants.
Middle white terrine
Medley of venison
Hot pot including more venison
After our Manzanilla we had a bottle of Maxime Graillot's deep coloured 2011 equinoxe Crozes Hermitage (£31). Maxime is the son of Alain Graillot. Closed with a screwcap this robust but soft Rhône red has a gamy, smoky character and worked well with the venison. The QCH website lists this as 2010 but they have now moved onto 2011.
Before we started our main course we had our second unexpected meeting of the evening when Jancis Robinson MW appeared at our table. Before Christmas I had read a review mentioning that the QCH venture involved Will Lander, son of Jancis Robinson and restaurant critic Nick Lander, and Josie Stead but this had slipped from my mind during the long Christmas break. So seeing Jancis, who had been eating in the wine bar and also enjoying the Manzanilla, was a surprise. There is a further connection as Josie's partner is Ed Wilson, who is involved in the Green Man and French Horn on St Martin's Lane. See posts here and here.
The service was friendly, informative and professional. As you would expect the wine list has plenty of interesting bottles from around the world with prices starting at £17 (a Cabernet Sauvignon from Château Thenac in the Périgord. There is plenty of choice of both red and white between £20 and £40. There are also 13 wines by the glass.
Although it is a bit of a trek from Forest Hill I'm sure we will be back to the Quality Chop House. It deserves to do well.
Towards Farringdon Road