St John’s Chophouse
It might be only me, but when anyone offers me an all expenses trip to a restaurant all I can think about is STEAK. So the inevitable termly visit from the parents is centred around a decadent 3 course meal at none other than the St John’s Chophouse. Not only is this probably the best steak I have ever had, every time I go, but they also play Blackadder in the loos, what more could you want. This time round it was especially exciting as my aunt was up (she’d treated me to a romantic meal at Pizza Express on Valentine’s day – giving me something to do, couldn’t have spent it better) and even my busy london-lifestyle sister was gracing us with her presence. Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks the chophouse is an excellent choice as the whole place was packed, probably a good thing we’d booked on a saturday night…
Since I’m not very good at spontaneity (I’m working on it) , I had of course already perused the menu and was set on starting with some of their interesting sounding Three Squirrels English Sparkling Wine. This turned out to be only one of a set of excellent choices I’d already made before I sat down – yes I had looked at the menu that much. While sipping a glass of the bubbly stuff with distinctive notes of elderflower, we ordered a diverse range of starters much to my internal blogger’s delight. My aunt and mum went for the special, a salmon gateaux, layered with creme fraiche, beetroot cured salmon and smoked salmon. My dad, the quirkily retro prawn cocktail, with slightly more flavour and less acidity than its namesake but still served in a cocktail class. My sister had the cured pigeon and beetroot salad, which indulged every meat lovers dream, the pigeon melting in the mouth due to the curing process, while still maintaining the flavour of a piece cooked rare.
I opted for the poached egg on toast with mushroom/ mustard sauce – tempted by the similarity to my favourite breakfast treat, eggs benedict – the intense flavour and saltiness of the sauce was balanced by a perfectly cooked poached egg, the yellow yolk oozing lusciously from the centre.
We accompanied our main course with a lovely red wine served in big goblet glasses, something I can’t wait own when I have a full set of glassware for dinner parties (although the crystal glasses from Oxfam given to me by my parents for my birthday do look rather good on my cupboard shelf).
Of course for me this course was what I had been looking forward to pretty much all term, a sirloin steak, brandy and pepper sauce, bashed butternut squash and chunky chips. As any foodie should, I like my steak rare and bloody, and the chophouse didn’t fail me. Likewise the chips crispy and fluffy at the same time as expected, which I used to soak up the deliciously savoury brandy sauce. However the pleasantly surprising highlight of the dish was the butternut squash, it worked so well bursting with sage, I only wish I got more than one spoonful. They say all great women turn into their mothers, and that must be the case as my mum and I unwittingly chose exactly the same main course.
While regaling us with tales of her business course in London, my sister tucked into the market fish, a pan fired sea bream, kale and crushed new potatoes. While I was assured the fish was delicious, she was slightly underwhelmed with the crushed potatoes which appeared to lack buttery flavour and was slightly overwhelmed by mint.
My dad went for the supreme of the menu, the beef wellington. I’m trying not to hear the cries of outrage as I admit that I have actually never tried Beef wellington. The truth is that I’m scared of making it (it is one of the hardest dishes to make without over cooking/ soggy pastry etc) and I’m scared if I have it at restaurant it will be better than I could ever make it. Dad’s did not disappoint. I hardly had a chance to take a picture of it before it disappeared off the plate…. but I was assured it was delicious.
My aunt was clearly enticed by the specials again as she went with the seasonal duck with haggis hash and roasted carrots and parsnips. Again it hit the spot, crispy skin and melting meat.
I’ve never been one to turn down pudding, despite feeling both well fed, watered and intellectually stimulated by this point, having filled everyone in on my latest work and social highlights and being treated to equally exciting tales, mostly of my parents having gone out to free work dinners and invites to the opera (not that I’m jealous or anything..) The choice isn’t large, and certainly not exotic at the chophouse, but they certainly do Great British Menu incredibly well. I made my third good choice of the evening with the chocolate bread and butter pudding with marmalade sauce. The bitter chocolate was off set by the creamy and sweet marmalade custard, as if you were eating sophisticated chocolate covered orange peel while simultaneously indulging in your mothers most comforting stodgy sponge.
My mother enjoyed her creme brûlée or more geographically correct ‘Cambridge Burnt Cream’, which of course Trinity college take credit for oner french paste chefs… http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1298534/Which-came-Cr-br-l-e-burnt-cream-UK-claims-French-classic-own.html
Yet again the only disappointment was slight, in this case my aunt’s dessert was too large. No-one can eat quite that much chocolate pot (a very thick and rich chocolate mousse), I personally would’ve upped the shortbread and cut a little of the chocolate stuff, but I tried a little and the orange and ginger came through nicely , meaning it wasn’t too sweet.
Being the hugely organised family that we are, we spent most of the dessert discussing where our next meal out was – watch this space. Meanwhile check out the Chophouse website http://www.cambscuisine.com/st-johns-chop-house