Lancaster’s only “chop house” opened in Church Street in September, with the added bonus of its location – a 300-year-old former pub and Masonic Lodge.
The chop house concept has been around since the Victorian era, notable localish ones being Mr Thomas’s and Sam’s Chop House in Manchester.
Originally, they were men-only establishments where businessmen gathered to hatch deals over plates of traditionally cooked meats.
This is no longer the case however, and I was able to take my wife on this occasion.
The concept is simple really, a menu based around steak – rump, fillet, T-bone, sirloin and rib-eye, with other meat and fish dishes, and skewered steak on offer as well.
Lancaster butcher Bryson Little evidently saw the market gap here in Lancaster and within a few months had re-developed the former Masonic Lodge, which has been out of public view for over a century, and which was originally built in 1690 as The Queen’s Head Inn.
It’s right across the road from The Sun Hotel and Bar, and sits well in that part of the city.
I called to book early on Saturday night, but was told there would be no tables until 9pm, and on calling back to confirm, I was then told there were no tables at all, until I said I’d only spoken to someone a few minutes ago and was calling back to confirm, at which point, finally, we got a table. That slight confusion aside, we were happy to be in.
In preparation, Liz and I headed into Lancaster and called at The Tap House in Gage Street, another recent addition to the city’s food and drink offering. The draught San Franciscan Liberty Ale, at 5.9 per cent, is excellent by the way.
The Church Street Chop House is, indeed, full when we arrive, and we are greeted by a waitress and then the restaurant manager, who sets us up with a table on the ground floor, called the Library Room.
The menu is robust and features many interesting dishes, including meat and vegetable kebabs, fillet caribbean, veal scallopini, and baked salmon and potted shrimps.
But it’s all about the steaks on this visit, so I order a 10oz Sirloin, rare – medium, with Chop House chips, and Liz goes for the 10oz rib-eye, medium, with horseradish creamed potatoes.
Both are priced at £16.25.
We also order the Chop House sauce and a plate of vegetables to share. We had ordered mussels to share as a starter, but there are none left, so we opt to have a dessert instead.
These things happen.
We also order a bottle of the house red wine, which arrives in a couple of minutes with two warm bread rolls.
The house wine is good actually, a Cuvee Jean Paul, priced at £13.50.
The steaks aren’t long coming out, and the smell is immediate and tastebud tingling.
Presentation standards are high, there is no blood, fat or water pooling out of the meat, and both steaks are thick cut. Both come with asparagus toppings, and the vegetables are steamed perfectly.
The chips are crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside, spot on as far as chips go.
You generally know if you’ve got a good steak by the first bite.
I usually go for medium, but had intended to go a bit “rarer” for this meal out and I’m glad I did.
The steaks are absolutely delicious, “you can taste the farm” as a family member is fond of saying.
I’ve had my share of steak in my short life, I’ve even tried it “tartare” in France, and I reckon this one is up there with the best.
What completes this dish, though, is the Chop House sauce, a secret recipe, I’m led to believe. There’s almost a curry style and flavour to it.
It’s a great consistency, and has that “warming” effect, without being too spicy.
I recommend this if you’re looking for something different to the, no less excellent, Diane or peppercorn sauce. In retrospect, the starter wasn’t needed.
The meal filled a steak-sized void in my stomach and soul, a statement I struggled to convert into an actual sentence at the time because of the wine. So we go for dessert instead, and order butterscotch and fruit pancakes, priced at £4.50.
This was an excellent idea, we both agree.
The dish is again very well presented, and comes with brandy snaps and vanilla ice cream. A lovely and refreshing end to our meal.
In conclusion, despite a few worries at first, this turned out to be an extremely good meal experience, one that left us feeling very satisfied.
Upstairs, in the Temple Room, where many of the original Masonic features have been preserved, some sort of gathering is taking place, but this doesn’t affect the relaxed ambience on the ground floor.
Given the attention to detail that has gone into this new restaurant venture, my expectations of the food and service were quite high.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Lack of starter aside, the main meal in fact surpassed my expectations, and the dessert turned out to be a real treat, and big enough to share, so all credit to the chef and kitchen staff for that.
Like the Tap House is for drinks, The Church Street Chop House is a solid and important addition to the city’s culinary offer. Its style and intention fits well with the building’s history, and the historic setting that is Lancaster.
Calls have been made for new and better hotels and restaurants in Lancaster of late as the city anticipates the thousands of new visitors the castle will bring, and this restaurant, in my opinion, especially given its proximity to the “castle quarter”, ticks that box.
The Church Street Chop House, in Church Street, is open Thursday to Sunday evenings, and as a cafe during the day from Monday to Saturday.