The Quality Chop House, 92-94 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3EA

- Review -

The Quality Chop House: 'This is the best meal we've had this year' - The Editor

You’re right- writing about famous institutions like The Quality Chop House makes me feel like someone that loiters at bus stops, telling people clearly on their way to work all about the route.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get on with it.

Setting foot in Quality Chop House is to be wreathed in smoke and the deep sweetness of proteins and fats in various stages of caramelisation. Even the benches are reminiscent of thick slabs of treacle. There’s something fitting about a former working man’s club, as still displayed by decals in the windows, in the meat-packing district, repurposed for you to indulge in gert chops of several beasts. It attracts all sorts.

The table behind us discusses with estately fury as to why there isn’t an airport near Oxford or Cambridge before arguing over whose inheritance will foot the bill. The table across from us sees an initially nervous couple dining with their families for what appears to be the first time, soon becoming this homogenised, cheerful blob full of wine-steeped laughter fuelled by chateaubriand. Then there's the old couple sitting at the back, faces licked by candlelight, talking softly below the energised clamour of belly laughs and outright joy, holding hands across the table.

Being handed the menu sparks the kind of excitement that serves as a warning to pace yourself, as much as that notion irks me. But even the staff recommend doing so, as well as the Editor, so I do as I’m told.

The malted rye sourdough is the colour of bara brith with a yellow Duplo chunk of butter. Never before have I taken a piece of bread home because I a) couldn’t finish it and b) harboured plans to toast it the next morning. It’s dense with chew but yielding to the pull, armoured with a crust that’s intensely sweet and a little bitter. This whole idea of restraint is proving demonstrably difficult.

Cuboid croquettes of Mangalitza shoulder are fixed in place by an ivory black pepper mayonnaise. Inside reveals tender fibres of a beast that’s been put through a car crusher, shimmering with succulence- I’m twitching for another round. But I am under oath.

Lustered in a mahogany glaze that sinks into pitch-black edges is a chest-beating slab of Mangalitza bacon, resembling a piece of singed wood pooled in a varnish that has failed to set. Although the veneer is fist-pumpingly toothsome, beneath lies pork so tender that it could barely stop a whisper, let alone a standard-issue table knife. A burnt apple purée and brown butter jus essentially give you a mellowed toffee apple to scoop from with every bite. Normally, transitioning into winter is characterised as a downward spiral, but this is nothing short of an ascension.

Norfolk wild mushrooms all plump and round-edged are served with the ubiquitous egg yolk plopped in the centre. The slink of umami is backlit with an intense drip of lemon streaking throughout the dish coming from the beefsteak mushroom.

Having been picked that morning and shimmied down to London, it’s this kind of providence narrative that makes any “I wear a leather apron at home for my Aeropress” kind of hipster’s worth their single origin beans’ (which they roast at home on their imported hibachi), ears prick up. Swirling in the amber yolk, it envelopes this tender mix of lovingly-cooked mushrooms in a velvety, vanilla fudge-coloured emulsion that has me in that gross dilemma of eeking it out without allowing to go cold.

Nobody likes waste and backbones are something I have great affection for, so we opt for the ‘brill spine’ over the head & collar (difficult, given the value of cheeks). With the skin still on the top, it looks like a wet tarmac’d road between caramelised snowy cambers, slicked with brown butter jus beneath. Armed with a lobster fork, I’m a stethoscope away from performing keyhole surgery on an actual person after relieving every single bone of their pearly flesh.

Yes, it’s those potatoes. The ones that may make the more effete of London’s food scene tut and mumble because they’re edgy only in appearance, but there’s a reason things become famous. Chubby Jenga blocks of layered potato sliced, compressed into uniformity, deep-fried and strafed with a lemon-mustard dressing. A starchy shell containing its tender layers, these things were destined for greatness whether we like it or not.

The purple-sprouting broccoli might be slightly yellowed at the tips, but I really don’t care. Doused in a creamy macadamia Ajo Blanco, it’s full of bite and gentle sweetness.

Here it is. The Hereford sirloin. The crust on this cut looks like Ironbark with a crisp, honeyed fat cap that only well-aged meat possesses. Inside is a stern vignette from the searing that surrounds a deep pink, supple and pouting with juices with yet another sauce, the spitters of poured glass. Eyes rolling back into our heads in carnivorous ecstasy, nodding mutually, my Editor croons out the words that are very rarely thrown about in these situations “this is the best meal we’ve had this year”. I’m struggling to disagree and I’m an avid contrarian.

Stupidly, I bleated something without thinking and it caused me to wake up with a start the next day, in the same way hangovers can induce ‘The Fear’. Then it boomerangs back to twat me in my face- I said the dessert was 'like a space-age cappuccino’ presumably whilst waiting for my colouring-in book.

A knobbly walnut meringue that encases a malted chocolate ganache, sports a toupee of thick coffee custard that’s adorned with chocolate shavings. It’s a strip-show of several grades and textures of bitterness, all backlit with a sweetness that's a few grains short of intense. It has all the qualities of the end-of-meal coffee rolled into something that’s infinitely less dour. The last bite is met with a petit mort- that tell-tale sign of any exemplary meal.

I realise raving about the virtues of this long-established London institution is to pin the tail on the donkey unblindfolded, but here I am. Somewhere in the combination of disarming mismatched Granny ceramics, raucous buzz and a menu that has the incisively rare effect of self-limitation, The Quality Chop House doesn’t need my undying approval, but it’s got it anyway. You’re welcome, the entire population of London.