The revival of Farringdon’s Quality Chop House last year was good news for fans of produce-driven British food. And now there’s more to celebrate: they’ve added a butchers and shop next door.
In November 2012, Josie Stead and Will Lander opened a restaurant and wine bar on the site of a much-loved but fallen London institution, the Quality Chop House. They kept the name and, with the help of chef Shaun Searley, have established themselves as one of the best British restaurants and wine bars in the capital. The emphasis is on ingredients-led cooking that is seasonal, flavourful and unfussy. Not content to stop there, in December they took on the lease of the empty premises next door, and have opened a butcher specialising in whole-carcass butchery, and a shop with pies, parfaits and pickles produced in-house. We spoke with Will Lander to find out more.
You were a restaurant and wine bar, and now you’re a shop and butcher, as well. Was that always the plan?
It wasn’t the plan, really, but the more we thought about it the more it made sense – especially since the site was just next door. I knew it used to be a Leyland DIY store and that they still owned it, so one Saturday when I was in another local branch, I asked the bloke for the number of someone at their head office who might know more. A couple of months later we were open.
What are you selling?
The shop is split in two – one side is a butcher with the best meat we can find from our suppliers, and with our lovely head butcher, Ollie, to advise you. The other side is a shop selling cheese, charcuterie, and our pies, terrines and cakes. We make jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles and other condiments, too. Basically, it’s lots of savoury and sweet treats, produced in-house, as well as some of the things we find hard to get elsewhere, like Zalto wine glasses.
What cuts and types of meat will you be selling?
Everything, really. We buy in the whole carcass and find almost all the bits delicious, so we try to put them all out there. We are quite different from, say, a supermarket or bigger butcher because we work whole carcass. This means we only have a certain quantity of things: there are only a couple of fillets in a cow, two cheeks on a pig, and so on. If you come in looking for something specific, it may have gone, but hopefully we will be able to encourage you to try one of the lesser-known cuts that remain. We also sell game birds in season – these have always been a big part of our chef Shaun’s menu. We’ve got mallard and wild hare at the moment.
Are the meat suppliers the same as for the restaurant?
Yes. Our producers are small, but we use people like Swaledale – who send us brilliant lamb and mutton from Yorkshire. The birds from Yorkshire Game and the beef from big Ben Weatherall – who roams around Northumberland picking up lovely cattle – are superb, too.
What about the rest of the shop – what do you stock and sell?
We make most of our products ourselves. We are very lucky to have Pascal Wiedemann (formerly of Terroirs restaurant) helping us. He cooks up delicious terrines, parfaits and hand-raised pies. There are sandwiches and warm rolls and pies for lunch – we do a much-loved dish of beef-dripping mince on toast in the restaurant, which has made its way over to the shop to take away.
Are there any unusual flavours or products to expect?
I suppose our jars of chicken liver and foie gras parfait and whipped lardo are pretty special, and a little bit different. The smoked cod roe is probably my favourite. But there’s nothing too unusual. We stick to British seasonality fairly rigidly – quality ingredients in season are a must. One exception to the British rule (but not to quality and seasonal flavours) is that we have a lovely Italian lady who drives to Puglia every week and comes back with a van of exotic Mediterranean fruit and veg.
Are there advantages in having a shop and butcher attached to the restaurant?
The best thing is that we’ve significantly increased the skills we have available to us, and the number of young and talented people we work with. We meet every morning and come up with ideas for both sides of the business, and that drives what we do. Running a shop is not the same as running a restaurant, so we’ve employed people who are good at retail. We’re learning from each other. On a more prosaic note, not having to butcher half a cow in a tiny kitchen makes life a lot easier for Shaun, our head chef.
How do you expect the shop to develop?
It’s a big site and, in the spring, the basement will open for butchery classes, wine courses and so on. We’re just planning it now, and we’re very excited.
Five meat treats from the Quality Chop shop
- Salt beef sandwich. Every lunchtime we do a takeaway sandwich. It changes daily, and this is my favourite, incorporating lots of elements of the shop and butcher.
- Crunchies. Our nod to/theft from a popular chocolate bar you may have enjoyed as a child. We make honeycomb downstairs and dip it in very rich chocolate.
- Pork and pistachio terrine. A classic from Pascal's repertoire. This is light and fresh, rather than coarse and heavy.
- Venison from Cabrito. James at Cabrito has been supplying us with kid goat in the restaurant, and has now moved on to venison.
- Spider cut. A lovely cut of beef, named after the intricate marbling of fat that covers it, resembling a spider's web. Delicious.