The Quality Chop House was built in the 1870s as a working man’s chop house. It closed in July 2010 and briefly reopened under the name Meatballs, but that incarnation did not last long. It reopened in November 2012 under the ownership of Will Lander and Josie Stead (previously manager at Dinner), and has returned to the old name. The communal wooden benches in the booths (themselves listed, as is the building) are still a tight squeeze, but now have a little padding to help the comfort of diners. Otherwise the dining room looks pretty similar, now with a separate bar area and wine off-license to the right of the dining room as you enter the building.
More important than the name is the intention to stick to the principle of providing good, honest British food at a modest price. At lunch the menu was short with three choices at each course; at dinner there is a slightly longer menu. The wine list reflects the considerable knowledge of the owners (Will’s mother is Jancis Robinson) and has an unusual pricing approach. Each wine is available to buy as a take-out, or to drink with the meal at a £5 mark-up to the takeout price. In principle this is great, but is not quite as generous as this description says, since the takeout price is by no means always the typical retail price. The restaurant aims for a gross profit of around 60% on its wines, which is certainly modest by London standards, but means that the takeout price has to be stretched beyond a typical retail price in some cases. Examples were Coto De Gomariz The Flower And The Bee 2011 at £22 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £12, D’Arenberg The Dead Arm 2007 at £55 for a wine that retails at £30, up to grander selections like Verget Corton-Charlemagne 2009 at £105 for a wine that will set you back about £84 to buy in a shop. By any standards these are fair mark-up levels for a London restaurant, and will doubtless attract people who like to drink well with their dinner. The chef is Shaun Searley, previous head chef at Bistroteque. Bread was bought in from the excellent St John Bread and Wine.
A starter of sprouts, chestnuts and pancetta was a suitably hearty dish for this cold November day, but although the elements of the dish complemented each other well, the pancetta adding a smoky hint to the dish, the Brussels sprouts themselves were distinctly on the al dente side of things. I can understand that the chef did not want to serve overcooked sprouts, the bane of so many home-cooked Christmas lunches in England, but he overcompensated here (2/10).
Much better was chicken leg with kale and wild mushrooms. The chicken was carefully cooked, its skin crispy; the kale was cooked lightly but not underdone, and the mushrooms (girolles, trompette) were very good (4/10). Poached pears in yoghurt were also cooked so that a good texture resulted, the poaching juices of red wine and anise rather like a mulled wine, adding a hint of spice without being too strong (3/10). Coffee had good flavour. The bill for lunch, with just (free) water to drink, was £31.50. At lunch this seems less of a bargain given the many special offers around at some top London restaurants, but in the evening the pricing will appear quite modest (£35 for four courses at the time of writing). Service was charming, and it is great to see the old chop house back in capable hands.
The notes below are of experiences under the old regime, for historical interest only.
The Quality Chop House sadly closed in July 2010. It will be missed.
The Quality Chop House continues on its merry way, with the Victorian wooden benches (which look quaint but are, to be honest, not very comfortable) and simple but appealing British dishes. Starters were £5.95 - £10.95, main courses £9.95 - £22.50, with side dishes around £3. You can even order bacon, egg and chips for dinner if you wish. The one-page wine lists starts at £4 for a glass, and has choices such as Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc 2007 at £39 for a wine that costs about £7 in the shops, or Rioja Vendimia 2007 at £32.50 for a wine that also retails at around £7.
A starter of seared scallops with chilli and garlic sounded better than it really was, as the scallops were tiny, the coral left on and were rather overcooked. The slightly spicy salad with the scallops was fine, but the main event was rather a let-down (1/10). Better was a properly made tomato soup, with good flavour and proper seasoning (3/10). A signature dish here is the salmon fishcake with sorrel sauce (I doubt this is a knowing reference to the famous salmon and sorrel dish at Troisgros, but you never know). It is a large, rich fishcake with a creamy sorrel sauce, resting on a bed of spinach, and is a meal in itself (2/10). Haddock and chips was a somewhat small portion of haddock whose batter was cooked a little longer than ideal, but the fish tasted fine and the mushy peas with it were the real thing. Chips were fairly crisp and well seasoned (4/10). Service was informal but efficient. This is a place that never seems to change over the years, and I mean that in a positive sense.
The following are brief notes from a meal in March 2006.
An amazing little place, originally a “working class caterer’s” and now reworked into a place doing very unpretentious British cooking. Here you can get egg and chips, but also gravadlax with mustard sauce, or potted shrimps. Best dish is the salmon fish cake with sorrel sauce, which is superb. The seating is on communal wooden benches. These would be one contender for the least comfortable restaurant seating in London, though there are so many candidates here that it would be by no means a certainty. One tip: “Theopole Roederer” champagne is definitely NOT Louis Roederer, so don’t make my mistake and glance too quickly at the name! Friendly service and fair prices.