The Quality Chop House is a building of two parts: one half wine bar and wine shop, the other half dining room. The building has been called The Quality Chop House since 1869, although several different businesses have been run under the name, and the current owners are working to keep the original spirit alive. With all the original fixtures and nice touches like vintage plates and cutlery, the atmosphere of the Grade-II listed building is one of quiet elegance. It is unimposing and unpretentious, but what you’re offered once you enter this humble space is nothing short of exquisite.
The menu is rather minimal, but it’s done with a precision that makes it work and, with a larger selection of starters than main courses, it almost begs to be shared and eaten in stages. Pork is definitely the main event here with numerous cuts prepared in several different ways, but the daily changing menu also features dishes made from parts of the animal which most people would shy away from: kidney, marrow, brawn, sweetbreads. This is one of the things that attracted me to The Quality Chop House from the outset; there is this unashamed use of the whole animal and done so simply that it cannot fail to be outstanding.
We were so taken with the list of starters that we decided to give up on main courses and order starter, after starter, after starter. Our tapas-like approach was graciously and willingly accepted by our waitress who encouraged us to take our time and follow our stomachs. The menu is not only minimal in its contents, but also in the way that its written, which means that you have to engage with the waiting staff and ask for descriptions and explanations, but they’re all so friendly and knowledgeable that this is no hardship.
Over the past few weeks, I have been haunted by marrow bones on food blogs and cooking programs. They have been everywhere and I’ve been growing more and more envious of those enjoying their melting meatiness while I can only look on, drooling. So when I saw marrow toast on the menu, it was a must. It arrived on thick-cut toast covered in a thin layer of finely chopped shallots and capers and the marrow, both lamb and beef, soaked into the toast making it tender, moist and full of meaty flavor. The watercress in a mustard vinaigrette cut through the fat of the marrow, but you were still left with its buttery richness luxuriously coating your mouth.
Brawn is meat taken from the pig’s head, cooked and pressed; in this case it was served resembling a terrine. It was moist, tender and just the right consistency, somewhere between a coarse and a smooth pate but still retaining distinctive pieces of pork. This was a good follow up to the marrow because it was cold, clean and light. While it still had a fair fat content, it was somehow refreshing and it got us in the mood for what was coming next.
This was the cold roast Middle White pork with runner beans and capers in a mustard vinaigrette. And it was sublime. Thin, wafer-like slices of pork which were meltingly tender with soft, succulent meat and smooth, buttery fat cut through with a sharp mustard vinaigrette and fresh, al dente runner beans. As with all of these dishes, and as is expected of a restaurant called the “Chop House”, the meat was the star and its quality was brought to the fore through simple preparation and simple presentation. This was pork at its best.
To break up the promenade of pork, we ordered the beef kidneys. Neither of us had ever had kidneys before and, although I am a fan of offal, my husband is not. He bravely offered to try them after I convinced him that if he was ever going to try them, this was the place to have them. I liked them, but he didn’t. Despite that, neither of us could fault the cooking. The confit potatoes were heaven and the beautifully pink kidneys were cooked really well and, to me at least, didn’t taste of offal at all.
Last, but not least, was the Middle White pork belly with fennel. The pork belly had been cut into thin chunks and deep fried so all the fat was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. The fennel salad complemented it beautifully, balancing the fattiness of the belly and freshening the whole dish up. At this point we were stuffed so, although we had both been eyeing up the gurnard main course, we had to call it a day. Over the course of our meal we tried two different wines, both whites because it was the hottest day of the year, and they were both excellent and well priced. There is quite a good selection of wines, as a wine bar I suppose that should be a given. They range from £20 to hundreds, but there is a good selection between £20-£30. One of the wines we wanted to try wasn’t available, but the waitress was able to recommend a similar wine which was lovely.
This was one of the best eating out experiences I have had in England and I would heartily recommend that you get down to The Quality Chop House as fast as your legs can carry you. They’re holding barbecue evenings the first Monday of each month throughout the summer and, alongside their a la carte menu, they have a lunch set menu which is two courses and a coffee for £15 and for dinner there is a four-course set menu which is £35. We had a lovely afternoon in the quaint dining room, chatting to our friendly waitress who came by just often enough and enjoying fantastic food and each other’s company. It’s just what it says above the door: quality.