~ The Chop House Reviews ~
Trip Advisor 2012
Anthony Bourdain, American Chef & author of Kitchen Confidential
Irish Restaurant Awards – Best Gastro Pub 2012
The Chop House was awarded Best Gastro Pub Leinster and went on to win best Gastro Pub Ireland, both in 2012.
A buzzy night out in Dublin 4 – Catherine Cleary- Irish Times
My mum and her friend have arrived by the time I make it and have been given the hot seats, literally – a timber bench with a toasty waft coming up through the boards from beneath. I had booked a table by phone the evening before. No one has a record of it, but it’s early so there’s a table free.Cushions, candles, painted tables and lots of painted timber make this a cosy place, although there’s a blow heater at my feet that seems to have been used earlier and then forgotten. It’s busy and noisy and it’s hard to make out who’s working here and who isn’t. There seems to be a no-uniform policy with the wait staff. So a man in golf club chinos and a jumper serves us. He looks and sounds so much like the actor Simon Delaney that I have to peer through the candlelight to make sure it’s not Delaney himself putting in some method work for a part in the RTÉ drama, Raw. (Fiona’s long-lost brother come back to run the restaurant while she has her gap year in Australia with her farmer friend maybe?). Later, a man in a 1970s Elvis suit heads upstairs to a party after popping his quiff into the kitchen to say hello. There’s that kind of laid-back casual feel to the place.
The next thing that will strike a new arrival to The Chophouse is that the food is not cheap. Most main courses cost more than €25. There’s an €11 cheese plate with something called “D4 chutney” on it. D4 chutney turns out to be a fig jam, a bit like the innards of a fig roll. Perhaps the figs have come from the orangeries of Donnybrook, otherwise the D4-ness of it is confined to the price.
There’s a goat’s cheese parfait with smoked beetroot starter, which is very good – not a huge portion but small concentrated flavours. The beetroot cubes had been drenched in a good balsamic and the cheese mixture comes on tasty toasts. Three mains are also pretty flawless. I get the fish special, a pan-fried brill with vanilla “crushed” potatoes. The fish has been fried in butter and then drenched in a luscious lemon butter, so it comes swimming to the table with some seriously delicious brown shrimp alongside.
The golden pool of butter has a few chopped chives and a lovely lemony kick and the vanilla works with the potatoes, thanks to the citrus sharpness. Mum’s rib-eye is perfect, juicy and full of flavour, served with a super-sweet tangle of onions on top and a hot pepper sauce with a kick like a mule on the side. Excellent skin-on chips come in a miniature silver champagne bucket. Beryl has a fish platter of fluffy and crisp tempura cod, smoked mackerel, deep-fried haddock cakes and a couple of quenelles of crab and herb mayo. “Absolutely delicious,” she says. The swoon of the evening goes to the chocolate fondant dessert, a generous pot of silken chocolate decadence like a sauce that’s been slowly thickened to spoon-sticking thickness. It’s served warm with good ice cream. My cheese plate with the D4 chutney has Kilree goats’ cheese, Bellingham Blue, Hegarty Cheddar and a French brie. It’s the first time I’ve seen Kilree, Helen Finnegan’s award-winning cheese, on a restaurant cheese board, and it’s as sensational as a cheese that beat off nearly 900 other offerings in the British cheese awards last year can be.
So they’re serious about food and casual about service here, which works to a point. It stops working when we’re repeatedly addressed as “girls” (all that’s missing is the adjective “golden”) and my milk and sugar but no coffee arrives. By then, the place is hopping and it’s time to hit the road.Dinner for three with two glasses of house wine came to €114.50.
Top of the Chops – Sunday Independent 24th January 2010 – Lucinda O’Sullivan
Chef Kevin Arundel was originally with L’Ecrivain before doing his own thing in No 10 Restaurant which was in Longfield’s Hotel, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2, and is currently closed. Arundel then moved to the Schoolhouse Bar and Restaurant on Dublin 4’s Northumberland Road for a number of years. Now, he has taken over the former Shelbourne House pub, creating The Chop House gastropub with Conor Dempsey, ex the excellent Dax Restaurant, as chef and business partner. It is located on the busy five-branch D4 junction which includes Shelbourne Road and Bath Avenue, a niche area which has become a tad trendy, with a couple of other restaurants and a popular pub. It is within a spit of Ballsbridge, Sandymount and Lansdowne Road so you will see jocks and Rosanna Davison clones hanging out in the bars.
The interior has been given a Farrow & Ball treatment of French grey, along with stripped floors, leather sofas, and high, black cast iron tables. “It’s a touch of France and a Chelsea gastropub in an Irish pub,” Arundel told us, making polite chat.
It was lunchtime, and I started with salmon gravadlax (€7) which was superb. Four vertically cut slices, the edges coated with herbs, were graduated and topped with a dollop of fromage blanc, delicious julienned strips of confit lemon rind, capers and a mixed-leaf salad. Brendan had a platter of homemade charcuterie (€9) – three terrines: chicken and wild mushroom; ham hock; and rabbit, served with a quenelle of fig compote and cornichons. Very nice, as were the accompanying breads.
Lunch mains included cod and chips; chicken; rib-eye of Charolais beef; a vegetarian dish of the day; open sandwiches of croque madame; a steak sandwich; and tuna Nicoise. A good chunk of cod (12.50) for Brendan was in a nice, light beer batter and served on a board with a section of lemon, tartare sauce, and a little stainless-steel pail of chips. Excellent.
The roast corn-fed chicken (€13) was from Les Landes, a region in western France renowned for its poultry. The yellow Landes chicken is part of the farmer-led Red Label scheme which began in France to promote traditionally raised farm chickens and meat, as opposed to post-war industrialised food. The chickens are raised in a pine forest using small, portable housing called Marensines. The French fondness for chicken goes back to the 16th century, when King Henri IV espoused the wish that every labourer should have a “poulet au pot” on a Sunday.
The Chop House Landes chicken, served “a la vinaigrette” with a crispy skin, was sliced, set in the middle of the plate with a fondant potato and draped with wilted scallions. The bird was delicious in that it did taste of old-style chicken, but you wouldn’t be over-stuffed with what else was on the plate! I was glad I had a starter – they might need to up the stodge or veggies a tad.
The dinner menu starters (€6.50-€10) and mains (€14.50 – €21) sound very interesting. Roast Corsican fish soup is served with saffron aioli, Gruyere cheese and garlic croutons, while raw sashimi tuna comes with soft quail eggs, radish, spicy pickled cucumber and a teriyaki glaze. Oysters are available with sherry vinegar and shallots, or as a curry and mango gratin. Slow roast belly of Old Spot pig comes with a fondant potato, apple compote and roasted jus. There is a daube of beef pie; fillet of hake with a red cabbage fondue; the Landes chuck; a 10oz rib-eye and, for the real trenchermen, a 28oz Porterhouse for two at €50.
For a sensible €5 we shared a fine, French-style chocolate tart with a pistachio ice cream. With a pint of J Arthur (€4.50) for himself, a glass of wine (€5), a coffee (€2.50) and optional service, our bill was €63.50. The wine list is compact, with wines from €20 per bottle. Good stuff!
Ross Golden-Bannon – Agenda – January 31 2010
Judging by the exterior of the Chop House, it is not the sort of place you’d take somebody on a first date, or even a second one. A massive tarpaulin sign announces the workaday name and it has the look of an oversized semi-detached house from the 1970s, complete with sun-room extension.The lick of paint only just gets it over the line of respectability and it still has a look of a pub for ‘auld fellas’. I loved it. It’s that rarest of things: a new restaurant that has focused on – get this – the food before the decor.I was with an illustrious foodie, the Chair of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, so I would have to watch my ps and qs, and peas and quails. When we discovered that the crew behind the restaurant were Kevin Arundel, formerly of L’Ecrivain and No 10, and Conor Dempsey, formerly of Dax, we figured we might be in for a treat.What about a simple pistou of mussels and clams with basil and seared baby squid (€7.50), or a nod to new tastes with the raw sushimi tuna with soft quail eggs, radish, spicy pickled cucumber and teriyaki (€8.50)?To start, I had the simple blue cheese salad (€6.50), which turned out to be a magical combination of sweet and savoury notes from delicate poached pear, earthy elements from sweet pumpkin seeds and darker hazelnuts, and a green peppercorn vinaigrette. An elegant little minuet of flavours to start.The Chair had the ballontine of suckling pig on toast with a remoulade sauce (€8.50). Quite the opposite of the delicate flavours in my dish, this was the Hallelujah Chorus to wake up your palate. Packed with succulent, sweet fatty flavours and cooled by a clever remoulade, this was a hybrid of the classic French version, with celeriac and a gutsy tartar sauce. Sitting on some excellent, homely bread, this was a champion starter.
For the main course, I slipped into nostalgia. Staff were well briefed and sold the good old-fashioned roast chicken to me so well that I had to order it. Probably a first for me in about five years. It is so rare to find good flavours in chicken and good restaurants that do, always have so much else to offer. Sadly, it meant missing the beef cheeks stew with pearl onions, mushrooms and smoked lardons for €14.50 (how divine does that sound?).
The roast chicken dish (€16.50) was made up of white meat, moist and flavourful (maybe in need of some crispy skin) and a thigh bone cooked separately to heavenly perfection. Add some home-cut chips and I’m back to my childhood and my parents’ Sunday lunch table, legs swinging, hoping for a nibble of the neck that was cooked with it. Weirdly nobody else wanted it, despite the fact that my mother pretended it was in high demand. Back to the present and the memory matched the reality of this classic roast chicken.
The Chair had the John Dory (€25) served with melted chicory. It is the sign of some considerable talent to know what dishes to play with and what to leave to sing their own song, as was the case here. Served on the bone, it made for a shared culinary joy of a dish.
As we drained our glasses of the excel lent Chabl is Domaine Vrignaud 2007 (€29), we considered a glass of dessert wine – sadly not on offer – but that didn’t stop us ordering dessert.
The cre’me brulée (€4.50) stood up to inspection and we both agreed that the chocolate delice (€5.50), was just plain obscene and should come with a film censor type rating. As the softly cooked, spongy exterior broke away, dark, warm chocolate sauce oozed out as shiny as latex but with the flavour of forbidden fruit. Don’t order it. You’ll probably get arrested.
The 1 980s music playing in the background gives a clue to this restaurant’s success. These guys have been around for a while and really know their stuff, they are tapping into the zeitgeist feeling for traditional food. I predict we’re going to see a lot more of comfort words and comfort food.
Let’s hope it is all as good as that on offer at the Chop House.
Watching the pennies:
Starter: salad of blue cheese, poached pear, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts and green peppercorn vinaigrette €6.50
Main course: beef cheeks pie with pearl onions, mushrooms, smoked bacon lardons and mash €14.50
Dessert: selection of ice cream and sorbets €4
Wine: Carta Vieja Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Maule Valley, Chile, 2006 €20
Dinner for two: €70
Breaking the bank:
Starter: platter of home-made charcutie’ res and condiments €10
Main course: 28oz porterhouse for two, served with hand-cut chips, red onion marmalade and bearnaise or pepper sauce €50
Dessert: chocolate fondants with pistachio ice cream €5.50
Wine: Chaˆteau Gaillard, St Emilion Grand Cru, France, 2001 €39
Total for two: €120
Tomás Clancy rates the wine list
Whatever about the food, the one thing all gastropubs should be able to get right is the alcohol. The Chop House has seven whites, eight reds, two champagnes and a Prosecco. With more than 200 wine importers in Ireland, it is disappointing that 15 of the 18 wines are sourced from one importer.
A good wine list creates value and quality by cherry picking Irish importers’ wealth of exciting wine. The wines are sound and several are good, but the proprietors have missed an opportunity to match the vino to the gastro ambition. Three reds and three whites are available by the glass, from €5 for the Mas de la Tour, Vin de Pays Merlot 2007, to €5.50 for the Porter Mill Station, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (a solid offering).
Best value red wine is the Bodegas Figu, Senorio de Figu, Crianza 2006 (€24). It’s a bright, New Worldstyle blackberry and vanilla charmer from Rioja. Best value white – and the star of the list – is Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (€25). It’s a lipsmacking Sancerre-style secret Icon wine at an amazing price.
Rating: ** 1/2
Paolo Tullio, Irish Independent – Food & Drink Home – Saturday March 20 2010
Last week I got a private preview of Dublin’s newest theatre, the Grand Canal Theatre. It’s a stunning piece of architecture: angular, bright and gleaming. It was designed by Daniel Libeskind, the architect currently working on the Ground Zero project and the designer of Berlin’s Jewish Memorial — an extraordinary installation of huge blocks which impressed me enormously when I saw it.
From the front the theatre is deceptive; it sits back from the Grand Canal Basin behind a newly built plaza and nestles quietly between the new buildings that surround it. It’s only when you see the stainless steel-cladded side of it that you realise how big it is.
It’s seven storeys high, which gives the stage all of that height for the flies — the part of a theatre that allows you to stage complicated scenarios by dropping and raising them. The stage itself is vast, big enough for even the largest of travelling shows, which means Dubliners will soon be able to see shows that, up to now, had nowhere to be staged.
The theatre has taken Harry Crosbie the past eight years to create and it’s the jewel in his crown. It opened two nights ago with the Bolshoi Ballet. He took me on a tour of it and, more than anything, I was struck by the level of finish of every part of it.
Long ago, the ancient Greeks discovered that the maximum number of people that could hear the human voice in an auditorium was around 2,000 and that’s the number that the new theatre sits. The acoustics have been tweaked by high-tech, moveable baffles which deflect and absorb unwanted echoes, the result being a clear and crisp sound.
“Not bad for an inner-city boy, eh?” said Harry as we stood in the auditorium, with me looking around in admiration. “Not bad,” he continued, “for a man who didn’t learn joined-up writing till he was 20″. He is, of course, the epitome of the working-class hero.
“A product of a deprived childhood?” I asked. Poor as church mice, they went to school barefoot except in the winter, when they’d wrap their feet with barbed wire for traction on the ice. Too poor to buy water, they had to bash oxygen and hydrogen molecules together to make their own. God, the hardships of his youth, people today would hardly credit it.
The tour was a prelude to our dining. There’s a new restaurant in town that I wanted to try and Harry was my dinner guest. We were off to The Chop House, Kevin Arundel’s newest venture on the corner of Shelbourne Road and Grand Canal Street, where The Shelbourne pub used to be. It’s still a pub, in the sense that there’s still a counter and a full licence, but that’s just a small part of the space, which is now taken up with dining tables. The décor is simple but stylish; it all looks very modern and clean edged in pastel colours. It’s a gastropub, but firmly in the urban mode.
The kitchen is run by Kevin Arundel, previously of L’Ecrivain, Number 10 Longfields and The Schoolhouse, and Conor Dempsey previously of Dax, so even before we went I was expecting the food to be good.
The menu is priced more or less mid-range; starters are priced from €6.50 to €10.50 and main courses from €14.50 to €24.50. If the word ‘gastropub’ has you thinking of buffalo wings, burgers and panini, the menu here will surprise you. This is gourmet fare, served in a pub.
Here are a few of the menu items: tuna sashimi with soft quails’ eggs and pickled cucumber in a Teriyaki glaze; a ballotine of suckling pig on toast; daube of beef pie; and slow-roast belly of Old Spot pig with fondant potato and apple compote.
Not your usual pub fare.
We got a table from where we could see into the kitchen, outside of which was a blackboard with a few daily specials on it. Two of the specials were a starter of pan-fried duck liver and a main course of fillets of John Dory, both of which I ordered, while Harry had the suckling pig ballotine and the cod and chips to follow. We ordered mineral water, two glasses of wine and an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa at €5.50 a glass.
The starters came with some good bread and we were well pleased. Harry’s starter looked good on his plate, a round cut from the ballotine (like a large sausage) and served with toasted bread. It tasted good too, but I have to say I thought the duck liver was better. I had to persuade Harry to try it — it’s not the sort of thing he’d usually eat — but he tasted it and even had a second taste.
The main courses arrived: Harry’s cod served on a wooden platter and his chips in a little galvanised bucket, and my John Dory served more prosaically on a plate.The first thing I look for with battered fish is whether the batter has absorbed a lot of oil, which it shouldn’t. Harry’s was well done and the batter was firm and not oily. The chips were also good, golden and crisp, and for €14.50 this was a well-made and well-presented dish. I liked my fish too, but as I sit here and write I find it didn’t leave much of a memory behind, other than it was quite nice.
By the time we’d finished these two courses, the place had begun to really fill up. It seems that, despite the competition just across the road from Juniors, The Chop House has found its niche already with regular customers. We had a dessert to share between us, a lemon tart with honey mascarpone, which was light and tasty, and had a thin, but tough, pastry. Two espressos, a third glass of wine and two bottles of mineral water brought the bill to €100.10, which didn’t include a service charge. The Chop House works very well: the food is inventive, the surroundings pleasing and the prices are fair. It goes to show that, even in a recession, there’s always room for a good restaurant.