There was a time when most Londoners hankered after dainty portions of pretty food. Not so anymore. Now we want dripping burgers, chunks of meat and rough-around-the-edges presentation. Chop Shop capitalises on this with a rustic menu that focuses on all things meaty.
Chop Shop may be following the trend as far as the cuisine goes but it still carves out its own sense of style, which is refreshing to see. Gone is the grunge aesthetic typical of venues serving similar food, replaced instead by a particularly beautiful Haymarket setting (though it does invoke the look of a classic butchers - not least with the impressive whitewashed brick walls and tiling). Exposed brick interplays nicely with mosaic-style patterned artwork on the walls and beneath the bar, creating a unique, something-to-talk-about style. They have kept the rest relatively simple with little wooden tables in neat rows sat below hanging metal feature lamps and other reclaimed bits and bobs. However, the best feature is a wall with meat cleavers and knives sticking out as if they have been embedded in its very structure - it's almost like something from a horror film. Original, indeed.
Chop Shop has chosen to ignore the no-reservations policy that is catching on everywhere in London - a policy that combines the Brits’ love of queuing with our love of moaning about queuing. Thankfully you can indeed book a table here – hallelujah. As of yet it’s still pretty new (it's only just coming out of its soft launch period) so the service is, at times, a little confused but the friendliness is charming and it’s clear to see that teething problems will soon dissipate, as the vast majority is utterly faultless. You also get the impression that when word gets out a little more, this place will be packed, so get in early.
Chop Shop comes from the Altamarea Group, which is a pretty big deal over in the States but perhaps less well known here. It's headed up by Michelin-starred chef Michael White, who has worked with Will Guess (of The Rum Kitchen) to create one very readable menu indeed.
It has mastered the art of the one-side-fits-all menu, with just one page of simple dishes, laid out clearly. The menu focuses on a couple of starter type sections such as salads and sharing platters, before moving into where the real focus of this place lies: its meat (and more specifically, chops, something that sets it apart from the happy recent renaissance of the London steakhouse). You can, if you wish, order a burger, some polenta, a bit of salmon or chicken but you’d be missing a trick as the chops and steaks on offer here really are the real deal.
The selection is succinct and simple: there are a couple of steaks (£15-£28), beef chops (£16) and the highlight, the English White pork chop (£14). This chop is huge, almost filling the entirety of your plate. If the pretty diamond grill marks don’t make you hungry then the almost overpowering smell of the meat certainly will - it's delicious. The chop is moist, succulent and packed with piggy flavour, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper to bring out the sweetness of the meat rather than to dominate it.
Although it's hardly the most expensive bit of meat you'll find in London, it is something of a shame that you only get the chop itself, as you need to fork out another £4 to get sauce and a side to make a meal complete. That said, the vodka, bacon and peppercorn sauce is certainly worth the money, with a pleasant smokiness from the bacon and a slight undertone of vodka, adding depth rather than too strong a boozy flavour. A fried egg as a side is a fun choice, reminding older diners of the good old days(!) when gammon and egg was one the Britain's most popular dishes (dads across town will be happy).
Desserts pay homage to the US, not least a Chop Shop brownie sundae that's every bit as rich and as good as you might expect. Gelupo ice creams also make an appearance, with a variety of DIY toppings available.
Chop Shop has a fantastic selection of whiskies and bourbons with many bottles well over 10 years old. And rather than leave them to wallow on the shelf, they have incorporated them into at least one of their cocktails (all of which are a reasonable £9). The 'Haymarket' comprises Buffalo Trace bourbon, sweet vermouth and pink clove, which adds a pretty pink hue to the drink. This is blow your head off strong, though, and only for those who have a genuine love of bourbons and whiskies. If that’s not your thing then the Mai Tai is another impressive way to go.
The Last Word
Chop Shop is a nice combination of rustic grub with a reservations policy and very pretty surroundings. Hopefully this is indicative of the way London’s big meat scene is going – otherwise it’s going to be a long, cold winter of queuing.