When it comes to eating steak in top UK restaurants, the correlation between quality and value is generally confusing. Over the past decade, London and the home counties have become overwhelmed by high-end steak restaurants, with so much focus on provenance and ageing. For the most part, this is a good thing: after all, there’s far more to a perfect steak than simply cooking it. But it has also encouraged a whole new league of snobbiness. Some restaurants serve exceptional steaks at a relatively good value, while others capitalise on making steaks so eye-wateringly expensive they serve as nothing more than a status symbol. The whole discourse raises two key questions: ‘which steak restaurants are actually worth the fuss?’ and ‘which steakhouses are magnificently over-hyped in need of a swerve?’ Perhaps surprisingly, the answer to the former is surprisingly few.
Chef Tom Kerridge recently made headlines for charging £87 for a 10oz sirloin of 30-day-aged Dovecote beef at his The Hand and Flowers. Yes, to charge £87 for a 10oz steak is outrageous, but the practice isn’t new. CUT at 45 Park Lane, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel charges £128 for a 10oz sirloin of 21-day-aged Wagyu from Suffolk; and social media sensation ‘salt bae’ is preparing to open a London steakhouse, which will offer a gold leaf-embalmed for steak for a mere £700. At Quality Chop House, steak prices begin at around the £40 mark. Sure, that’s more expensive than some places, but both the quality and the cooking are generally remarkable.
View this post on Instagram
Just around the corner from Exmouth Market, Quality Chop House has been operating since 1869. Inside, the space looks exactly as it may have done 150 years ago, with chequerboard floor tiles, dark wood panelling, and plenty of narrow, wooden booth seating evocative of Victorian pie and mash shops. As for the food, the menu changes daily and is comprised of seasonal, predominately British dishes with welcome European flourishes. To begin, it is headed by a selection of snacks. At many restaurants, it is common to skip the snacks and dive straight into the starters, but the snacks section at Quality Chop House is home to some of the best dishes. When they’re available, salty croquettes filled with slow-cooked Mangalitza pork with pickled walnut mayonnaise are an absolute must-try, as are the meaty monkfish skewers draped with thin slivers of preserved lemon.
Usually reserved for the winter, the Quality Chop House signature mince on toast is another must-order, occasionally served as a hot lunch to take away from the shop next door, or to heat at home alongside other treats from the restaurant and its favourite suppliers. While meats are the main focus here, a recent lunch featured a gorgeous tranche of monkfish with golden raisins, green tomato, and an absolutely inspired curried brown butter.
A side of charred and cooled courgette wedges with raw yellow courgette ribbons was fine but paled into insignificance alongside the confit potatoes: one of the most celebrated side dishes in London, and for good reason. The Quality Chop House menu’s only constant since 2013, having been introduced to by chef Shaun Searley, the potatoes are sliced thin then pressed overnight to form a huge, layered slab. This is then cut into 3cm chips which are fried in duck fat to deliver both unrivalled crunch and richness, finished with a drizzle of Dijon mustard vinaigrette to slice through the fattiness like a warm knife through butter.
Then there’s the steak and chops section of the Quality Chop House menu. Barnsley or Middle white chops are usually available, plus a large Blue Grey bone-in ribeye steak. A crossbreed between Galloway and Shorthorn (traditionally a dairy cow), the Blue Grey has some of the Galloway’s ruggedness and savoury character alongside the Shorthorn’s deep marbling, ultimately ideal for large cuts of steak. Available in two sizes (800g £80/1kg £100), the 800g steak is plentiful to serve two. While it’s certainly not cheap, the quality of the meat is exceptional while the delicate cooking does it justice. Cut into thick slices and served alongside the bone, which some of the tastiest scraps cling to, the steak is heavily charred on the outside and deep magenta inside, with perfectly rendered fat bringing plenty of flavour to the well-aged beef. Easily one of the best steaks in London.
Quality Chop House can be found at 88-94 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA.
RELATED: An ode to St. JOHN