One of my earliest memories of dining out in London, before I even dreamed of moving here, was my dad taking my brother and I to a Victorian dining room in Clerkenwell to eat a roast dinner for lunch. I can’t remember what the restaurant was called but I walked into the dining room, with it’s high ceilings, and was surrounded by men in suits talking business while drinking ale from metal tankards. I was infatuated. I loved the setting – the old wooden pews, the creaky floors and of course the food.
So I was delighted when I was invited to the launch of Meatballs at The Quality Chop House last night. The Grade II listed building was built in 1870 and has operated as a restaurant for almost 150 years. Many times have I walked past and marveled at the building but never stopped to wonder what was inside. The Quality Chop House was traditionally a working men’s chophouse and was later favoured by the kind of businessmen that I mentioned earlier. But, after closing down in 2010, it was bought by Hugh Fowler (the man responsible for Wendy’s in the 80’s and more recently Hamburger Union) and the rest is history.
Step inside the restaurant and take in the surroundings. Although the building underwent a major refurbishment in the 1980’s, many of the original features have stayed the same. The beautiful but ever so uncomfortable oak benches, oak tables and ornate castings are still standing. Look to the back of the room, next to the kitchen opening and see a photograph of the previous owners. The lady in the middle of the picture (now in her 90’s) was one of the first guests to dine at Meatballs this week. I imagine she wonders what on earth a ‘slider’ is but I’m sure that she is also very proud.
Which brings me onto the food and drink. I ordered one of the blueberry gin and tonics (£5.95) to start with, plus a bowl of bread and olives (£2.95). The bread basket consisted of focaccia and mini brioche buns, which are also used for the sliders on the menu. Diners have a choice of 5 different meatballs, three sliders, a meatball burger, a few salads and a range of sides. Upon closer inspection, I realised just how cheap everything is. Three meatballs will set you back £3.95, three sliders (mini brioche bun burgers) cost just £5.95 and the sides range from £2.45 to £3.95. The salads are a bit more costly with the most expensive being the spinach and bacon at £8.95 – but who goes to an establishment called Meatballs and orders a salad?! Everything on the menu (except from the ice cream) is made on the premises.
We ordered a selection – three sliders with a mixture of fillings (pork, beef and ricotta with tomato sauce and Greek lamb with cucumber, dill and yoghurt sauce), the vegetarian courgette balls with a mild curry sauce and an extra ball of chicken with a caperberry sauce. An extra, or bonus ball as they are called will set you back £1 each.
For sides we ordered egg pappardelle and the pearl barley and tomato risotto. I was very intrigued by the pearl barley side as I have been cooking with it a lot recently (See recent recipes here and here)
The brioche buns are an absolute delight, light, fluffy and buttery. Pair them with a ball of meat and you have a winner. The beef and lamb were slightly on the dry side, both could have done with a tad less cooking but the flavours were fantastic.
I wasn’t sure about having a single chicken meatball in a bowl, I think it would have been better in a slider. But luckiy we had the bowl of pappardelle to eat it with and together they were delicious.
One of my favourites was the pearl barley and tomato risotto. It was absolutely divine – the pearl barley had a slight crunch and the tomato sauce was tangy. There was also a very welcome couple of slices of melted parmesan sat on top.
After sharing all of our savoury dishes, we were pretty full but that certainly did not deter us from ordering a chocolate brownie ice cream sandwich with hot chocolate sauce and a malt chocolate milkshake for dessert. The pudding arrived and my smile dropped a bit when I saw the size – I thought it looked pretty small and as I was sharing, I thought I’d walk out unsatisfied. How wrong I was! We tucked in and were both immediately in heaven. The crunchy and fudgey chocolate brownie, encased in warm chocolate sauce and cold vanilla icea cream (and proper ice cream too) was one of the best desserts I have had in a long time. The malt chocolate milkshake could have been a tiny bit thicker but it too went down a treat.
We were given a goody bag as we left, which contained a beatutiful bottle of blueberry gin. Giddy, full and with a smile on my face, I walked to the tube station already planning my return visit.
Meatballs also do takeaway, so if you work around the area, be sure to try it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Meatballs at The Quality Chop House opens to the public on Friday 26th August.
Food For Think was a guest at Meatballs at the Quality Chop House.