Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Quality Chop House, Farringdon
The Quality Chop House on Farringdon Road is not, technically, new. There has been a restaurant in that same building with the same name for the majority of time since 1869, serving - as the moniker suggests - no-nonsense grilled meats and the like. There was, in the more recent past, an attempt to sell self-consciously trendy meatball sliders (God help us) which fortunately quickly moved to Westfield where it belonged, but the current owners have restored sanity as well as the attractive interior, and written a menu that harks back to its roots.
Like any such restaurant in London in 2013, though, what constitutes "British" food is up for somewhat liberal interpretation. The menu has plenty of St John-alike buzzwords like Middlewhite pork and the Longhorn beef that Hawksmoor and the Ginger Pig have made famous, but also sells fancy foreign snacks like charcuterie and lardo, and the Denham lamb comes with "confit shallots". Well la-di-da.
It's all good though. Pig scratchings would have been even better with an apple sauce dip, but it was after all just something to soak up a bottle of cava (an Easter treat, but we also needed something to deaden the pain of the unbelievably uncomfortable seats) and each had a nice balance between crunchy and chewy.
A crabcake was perhaps a bit light on the good stuff for £7.50 but was nicely seasoned and had a good crunchy crust. Look how nice the tableware is too.
Lamb ribs had been coated in mint sauce rather than as a separate dip, but once you got over the mess (finger bowls were provided) you realised the lamb had a great flavour and were perfectly cooked to just pink. And plenty of them.
Longhorn mince on dripping toast was everything it promised to be; a straightforward but deeply satisfying plate of loose meat on a thick slab of sourdough made soggy with cooking juices. A bit more toast and a slightly less mountainous helping of beef may have made a more balanced dish overall but I'd certainly rather have too much beef than too little, and £12.50 is a good price for a main course.
There was no room to pick fault with these lamb sweetbreads though. Tender little nuggets of golden brown, nestled in a tasteful arrangement of crunchy raddish and crispy bacon, they were dressed in one of those mind-bendingly rich demi-glace sauces that you wish you could just go away and drown in. Sauces like this are the reason I eat out; to make them yourself would take days, cost a fortune due to the lack of economies of scale, and you'd probably mess it up anyway. Well, I would.
By this time another bottle of Bordeaux had bumped the bill up past the average spend here for two people for lunch, but even so, alongside the utterly charming service (Josie, ex- of Heston Blumenthal's Dinner so there's a pedigree for you) it still seemed like a very reasonable total. And once we'd wobbled off into a taxi we both agreed we'd definitely be back, which in the end tells you all you need to know. I wasn't completely floored by Quality Chop House, it is after all just a solid British eatery serving familiar dishes for not very much money, but it slots so happily into the London dining scene it's like it's been here for the best part of 150 years. Which of course, in many ways, it has.