Heading for the Chop

15 February 2008

Bloodthirsty alpha male Stef Porter enjoys a big meaty meal at the Chop House, where service is king and meat is in no short supply

The observant amongst you will have noticed that the once seemingly popular Number 1 King’s Parade has had a drastic makeover in the last three months. Previously dark, overpriced and strangely unsettling, the vast underground space on the corner of King’s Parade and Bene’t Street has been transformed into a modern, spacious and light bistro. Five of us went along to sample Cambridge’s newest restaurant last Monday evening. The weather was crisp and bracing, which made the warm, welcoming nature of the restaurant ever the more comforting. The waiting staff further warmed the cockles of our hearts with their talkative, friendly yet appropriately formal nature. One of the five of us, who shall remain nameless, lest his behaviour that evening tarnish his Cambridge-wide reputation, on several occasions tossed his heavy silver cutlery to the floor—accidentally, I hasten to add. The wait staff, however, would swoop over with a new eating utensil before the silverware had even struck the tiled floor, such was their attentiveness and formality.

The restaurant, as it is comprised of several downstairs cellars, is compartmentalised. Each chamber, as it were, has about three or four large tables, giving the impression of an intimate eatery, despite the restaurant’s deceptively large size. The name Cambridge Chop House seems entirely appropriate for a menu seriously biased towards those of a carnivorous bent. The menu is dominated by large hunks of meat. The one vegetarian option is a leek and potato hotpot. Not only is this option frighteningly generic, but it also contains the word “hotpot”, almost a plea for all herbivores to see the light and convert. If you are a vegetarian, further reading of this article will be fruitless.

Bangers and mash is a popular choice at the Chop House. On the specials board there was a choice of three sausages, three kinds of mash and three types of accompanying sauce. Twenty-seven combinations, no less. Options included Pork and Peppercorn Sausages, Hazelnut Mash (I am yet to be entirely convinced!) and Mushroom Sauce. Certainly hearty, but you’d hope so at £10 a time. I opted for a Barnsley Lamb Chop, and I can declaim confidently that it was perfectly cooked. Pink and tender—I could have cut it with a spoon. Other folk had steaks, which were equally well cooked, if not a little demanding on the wallet. Expect to pay at least £15. Perhaps the let-down for me were the small things.

The potatoes lacked any sense of conviction and some of the vegetables were half-hearted and overdone. Good food needs to take a risk, and I feel the Chop House plays it safe by putting all its eggs into one very meaty basket. Desserts were pretty good. The Sticky Toffee Pudding was great— topped nicely with some very high quality vanilla ice cream. The best pud, by far, was the Lemon Posset, which was rich, creamy and tangy. Again, though, not cheap. The most economical at an exorbitant £5. By way of drawing this review to a close then: Don’t go to this restaurant if you are vegetarian, frugal, a poor student, at all sensitive regard meat-eating and its origins or intimidated by attentive waiters. Do go to this restaurant if you are carnivorous, solvent, a wealthy student, a bloodthirsty alpha male and crave waiter attention. This meal out will be good, but you will pay for it.