Since it opened just over a year ago, the Cambridge Chop House on King’s Parade has become one of my favourite lunchtime haunts, for three reasons – excellent locally-brewed ales served straight from the cask, a selection of quality daily newspapers and, as mentioned elsewhere in the “Rooms at the Top” article, the beguiling atmosphere of the ground-level bar. However the number of people who had raved to me about the food made a grub-oriented visit imperative.
As we dropped in on a dark early evening the upstairs views were limited so we descended to the atmospheric vaults. These look very elegant with their white walls and tasteful furnishings, plus lots of nooks and crannies to add interest. We’d plumped for the lunchtime/pre-theatre menu, available until 7pm,
which offers two course for £11 or three for £15. Eschewing starters, we went straight for the mains where there was a choice of six dishes, along with the Chop House’s trademark sausage option. Jane chose Ham Hock Faggots with Chestnut Mash and Onion Gravy. She pronounced this an intriguing and imaginative combination, the faggots strongly flavoured, the mash beautifully creamy and the gravy especially sumptuous. It also looked a treat on the plate. My Fish Pie was also as good as it looked. It featured loads of succulent salmon (and no doubt some white fish which had melted into the creamy sauce) and was quite sloppy but in an entirely good way – just the kind of hearty dish you need on a cold evening.
Puddings could be selected from a list of eight, mostly “English” favourites like Spotted Dick, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Fruit Crumble and even Christmas Pudding made with Old Growler. I continued my quest for the perfect Crème Brulee (Cambridge Burnt Cream on the menu – no poncey French here!). The best Brulee I’ve ever had was at Girton College some years ago and I’ve been constantly disappointed ever since. The Chop House offering actually came pretty close, the caramel topping having just the right thickness and the cream the perfect consistency if not quite that perfect flavour. Jane’s Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding was greeted rapturously, the squidgy strong chocolate perfectly balanced against the spicy bread and some classy vanilla ice cream accompaniment.
So, an excellent meal, and we’ll certainly be back to try other items from the selection of classic British dishes here. The Chop House philosophy is to source as much of their food and drink locally as they can. The ale offerings on our visit were Dionysus and Sparta from Milton Brewery just up the road. The Sparta was in brilliant form - what a superb beer this is.
As an aside, the Chop House is to be applauded for having real ale in what’s essentially a fairly upmarket restaurant. I’m told they actually sell lots of it, often to people who wouldn’t normally drink cask beer – so from a campaigning point of view, this place is doing a great job.