Three Courses of Food News
Three Courses of Food News by Katy Salter
Three Courses of Food News by Katy Salter
Start your day the Spanish way, with churros dunked in hot chocolate. Pick up the addictive fried pastries from Iberica, which is opening this spring in the former Redhook space on Turnmill Street. Head chef César Garcia mastered the art of churro making in Madrid, and the result will be available for takeaway from the in-house deli from 8am on weekdays. The new opening is the fourth for the upscale tapas chain, which also has sites in Marylebone and Canary Wharf.
Forget meat with Malbec, it’s all about steak and cocktails right now. New opening Stripbar & Steak at Malmaison exemplifies this trend. The Charterhouse Square restaurant specialises in New York strip steaks, made with prime USDA Black Angus beef. Wash them down with one of the cocktails created by Arminas ‘Junior’ Girtavicius, formerly of Lounge Lover, who is heading up the bar. Girtavicius’s potions include popcorn-infused vodka and American pancake-infused Amaretto.
Master the art of coffee at Workshop. The new Brewing at Home masterclasses at the Clerkenwell Road cafe will teach you everything you need to know to make a perfect coffee at home, all in brilliantly nerdy detail. The two-hour sessions cover coffee’s journey from bean to cup. You’ll learn how it’s produced, how to buy better coffee, what type of water to use and the pros and cons of various home-brewing equipment. You’ll also master brew time, dose size and all the other variables you need to be a champion barista…in your own home at least.
Mark Hix takes a look back at London’s chop houses, all the rage in the 19th Century…
Two hundred years ago, London’s dining scene was about coffee houses, taverns, gentlemen’s clubs… and chop houses. My Oyster and Chop House in Smithfield is loosely based on the old-style chop houses. These places were one notch up from taverns, in that they served heftier cuts of meat for more extravagant diners and drinkers.
Chop houses specialised in hearty English food for hungry Londoners and most were originally for men only. Eating practices then were generally less refined, with less sophisticated meat cuts than we find on offer today. Meat wasn’t as carefully sourced because of transport limitations, and was less of a foodie interest, but feasting was popular. Oysters were incredibly popular, a cheap street food and source of sustenance for working men, which is why I introduced oysters at HIX Oyster & Chop House.
I made a point when I opened in Smithfield to source and specify cuts of meat on the bone only, except for the hanger steak or butcher’s steak as it used to be known – we serve it with a piece of stuffed bone marrow. Over the years, I have served traditional cuts like a Barnsley chop, big Porterhouse or T-Bones to share, and cut large double loin pork chops to split between two. One of the most successful dishes has been the mutton chop curry. We often can’t make enough of it.
Today, you occasionally see the odd chop house in London and other cities. Sir Terence Conran opened one in Butler’s Wharf in 1993. Charles Fontaine revived the Quality Chop House in Farringdon many years ago with great success, and after a few subsequent incarnations, it’s now a chop house once more under current owners Will Lander and Josie Stead. Outside the capital, there is Mr Thomas’s in Manchester.
A few years back I was on a fi shing trip in Ireland with Richard Corrigan, and he took me to O’Brien’s Chop House in Lismore. The restaurant has sadly now closed, but was owned by Justin and Jenny Green. We rocked up, and as I was about to step into the bar Justin stepped in front of me and said, “Mark, I have a confession. You may recognise some things from HIX Oyster and Chop House here!” I said that it didn’t bother me. In fact I took it as a compliment – everything visual and edible was executed fantastically and with passion.
I’m surprised chop houses haven’t caught on the way steak houses have
There are probably a handful of other chop houses dotted across the British Isles, some of which may well take the essence of serving the meat on the bone in chop house tradition and some purely using the name chop house. But with the revived interest in British food over the last couple of decades, I’m surprised chop houses haven’t caught on the way steak houses have. Maybe they’re the next big thing – who knows? I think there is something more interesting about a chop house as steak houses conjure up thoughts of the old Berni Inns. Remember them?