Quality Chop House (London, UK)

While this particular London trip was a flurry of visits to different cuisines ranging from Chinese, to Malaysian, to Turkish, I try to make it a point to visit at least a few places featuring classic British cuisine on each visit, both on the casual side of things (a near-obligatory visit to The Regency Cafe happening on this trip as well) and the formal end as well. After an informative trip to The Postal Museum and it’s related, not-to-be-missed Mail Rail exhibit taking you through old, compact mail tunnels running under the streets of London, it was time to wander down Farringdon Road and get a lunch of classic, old-school British fare at Quality Chop House.

Quality Chop House inhabits a pair of late 1800s storefronts on Farringdon road that have been restaurant space for almost all of their history. Quality Chop House does a nod to this heritage by serving a combination of classic British fare with modern ingredients and interpretation. As far as ambiance, Quality Chop House sets out to maintain the basic ambiance of a 19th century “Eating Hall”, and does a reasonably good job of that, including some surprisingly tight and cozy bench seating in the booths, and mismatched plate and utensil sets.

The basic menu at Quality Chop House is a prix fixe menu of classic British fare, with an attractive pricing of a two-course meal for £22, and a three-course meal for £26 (with some modest supplements for a few of the main courses).

For my starter, I couldn’t resist the agnolotti, a close cousin to ravioli where the pasta is rolled around the filling instead of stamped. Served up with a guinea fowl filling and sitting in a smoked bacon stock, each agnolotto was a tight little parcel of flavorful, slightly gamey guinea fowl, and the bacon broth was a very rich and smoky broth that served as a nice complement to the agnolotti. I’d definitely get this again.

Carol’s opted for the mackerel, smoked eel, and hazelnut starter. I’m not much of a fan of mackerel in general, but this was a well-prepared filet of mackerel in a light fish broth with a selection of smoked eel bits and poached hazelnuts, and much like my agnolotti, was basically a light soup starter. Carol rather enjoyed the flavor of the mackerel and the overall combination of fish and broth.

My brother, meanwhile, opted for another British classic: a terrine, this one of middle white pork and pistachios, and this was a rather flavorful and nicely spiced terrine with the pistachios providing both a nuttiness and a nice textural variation on a basic terrine (Of note, while “Large White” and “Middle White” remain common British heirloom pig breeds, “Small White” appears to no longer be around).

For the main course, both Dan and I opted for a solidly-British classic: Belted Galloway Mince on Dripping Toast. This is an old school dish that had fallen out of favor, and it’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: start with some minced, high-quality beef, first fried up and then combined with a rich tomato and red wine sauce, and serve it up on a chunk of bread that’s literally been fried in beef drippings from the mince. As you eat it, each bite is a bit of crispy, fat-laden bread with some mince and red wine sauce oozing into to. Sure, at this point my American readers are saying, “Hey, wait, that’s just some sort of pretentious sloppy joe!” And, to a certain extent, that’s exactly right: it’s just a great, simple dish that really focuses on a single ingredient (minded beef), and it works rather well. (For British readers, the Guardian did a nice writeup of the Quintessential American low-brow Sloppy Joe a few years back).

Meanwhile, Carol opted for something a little more highbrow, going for the Cornish pollack, with a Lincolnshire poacher and gnocchi, and this was a very well done piece of pollack, served up in a light broth with a handful of perfectly tender gnocchi, and topped off with a thin crisp of toasted Lincolnshire cheese; the combination was great from both a combination of flavors and textures.

Add in a few well-produced side dishes (kale with almonds, and a medley of onions and Jerusalem artichokes), and the overall meal was a nice combination of old school food and modern cuisine.

We definitely enjoyed our visit to Quality Chop House, and our delve into some classic British fare. I suppose on a return visit I’ll actually need to try an actual chop, but the food, cocktails, and overall ambiance were quite pleasant. As an aside, our trip to Quality Chop House also had us walking through the Exmouth Market, which had a surprisingly interesting variety of street food, include Ghanaian cuisine, mushroom vendors, and vegetarian Gujarati food stands. I’ll definitely need to return to that market and try out some of the food on a future visit.

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