Book review: The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic

05 December 2019 by
Book review: The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic

Before it was the critically acclaimed site it is today, the Quality Chop House was a doomed meatball concept. Before that, it was the 1990s home of the Ivy's Charles Fontaine, and long before that it was a piece of gentrified Victorian real estate used to disguise a street full of vice and a river full of sewage.

What it has always been, from its birth in 1869, is a restaurant, and since its latest incarnation in 2012, the dishes on offer at the Clerkenwell site tread a line between innovation and antiquity. The skill of this book, authored by co-owners William Lander and Daniel Morgenthau with executive chef Sean Searly, is to perfectly encapsulate what has become its winning formula: the blend of the past and present with equal vigour for both.

From grouse with all the trimmings to roast cod with trotter tortellini and onwards to its revered confit potatoes, the dishes honour that perfect blend of elevating quality ingredients without fuss while also offering something new and interesting. The result is a collection of inspirational recipes and tweaks on tradition that won't require a full makeover of your kitchen to implement, but still display a fine dining poise. It is a deeply British collection with the odd flourish of inspiration born through circumstance; for example, the cannolis that serve as a testament to the area, once the spiritual home of Italians in London.

In her foreword, Marina O'Loughlin – who so loved the restaurant she made it her final meal as a critic for The Guardian – noted that the place has a fair number of regulars. "That might not seem particularly noteworthy" she adds "but it is".

London has a special way of rewarding high-concept restaurants that don't expect you to come back before happily folding into oblivion faster than you can say ‘private equity'.

What the Quality Chop House cookbook manage to capture is what keeps people returning and what has kept the place special, not just for the last seven years, but the past 150.

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