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17 November 2013

XXX Part III: Chop Shop

I've been wanting to visit Chop Shop, the new-ish steak joint on Haymarket, for quite some time and thought the occasion of my 30th birthday would be the perfect opportunity to check it out with some friends. The chocolate and peanut butter brownie sundae on the pudding menu only sealed the deal. The food was excellent and very good value, and the ambience was great, so overall, it was a good experience, although there was, unfortunately, a caveat*, of which more below.



First, we got in the drinks, and the list of house cocktails was short but impressive. I ordered the Passione Arrabiata: Calabrian chilli olmeca, reposado tequila, passion fruit and lime. It was fruity, sharp and spicy. I really enjoyed it, but the others' selections, especially the Masala Mai Tai, also looked good.


The menu has a selection of main courses — mainly steaks, but a few other options, including a patty melt and a couple of fishy and veggie options — and then for starters, you can choose from a selection of snacks, jars, planks and crocks, some of which are made for sharing. We wanted to save room for our mains and, in my case pudding, so we ordered some almonds, olives, two lots of hot wings and two portions of scotch egg, which was about enough for a group of seven.


Most of us ordered steaks for our main course, although had I not had a burger at lunchtime, I might have gone for the patty melt — at only £12, including fries, it's a steal, and the bite I tried was delicious. I went for the hanger steak, which was £16, plus £2 for some vodka peppercorn bacon sauce. The steak, which I ordered rare, was flavoursome, juicy and very good value. The sauce was nice too, but I couldn't really taste the bacon. We asked the waiter how many sides to get and he suggested four or five between us. As the two patty melters got their own fries, we ordered another portion of fries, some mash with crème fraîche and chives (which was yummy), and some roasted squash. The waiter then made a big deal out of how he thought that wasn't enough, and kept pushing it, even after we said it would be fine (I'd been eating all day, of course).


The service issues continued into pudding time. I had mentioned when I booked the table that it was my birthday, and many restaurants will do something nice for you, whether that is putting a candle in your pudding or giving you a little treat. It's just a nice thing to do when people are celebrating and spending a lot of money with you. The situation was complicated by my very thoughtful friend having baked me some brownies, which the staff put candles on and brought out; they also wanted to charge a £3 per person "cake-age" charge. Yeah, happy birthday to me, or what?! We decided to box up the brownies for later and order our own desserts. I had the brownie sundae, and it was excellent. One of my friends ordered two scoops of gelato and then panicked that they might serve strawberries on top (she is allergic), so went to check. When it arrived they had given her a brownie sundae too — including peanuts and peanut butter sauce and she's allergic to that too. Given it was the wait staff's mistake, they weren't particularly contrite or even nice about it.


If you are a group of eight or more at Chop Shop, you have to have a special party menu (to make life easier for the kitchen), but I didn't want to spend the run-up to my big day hassling my friends for food selections, so we were a group of seven. I feel like we were being penalised for being a large non-party group, which wouldn't have been so bad if the restaurant was rammed, but it wasn't that busy, even when we left. Our main waiter in particular had an attitude and seemed to be very condescending throughout the meal. If it had just been a normal meal, I wouldn't have minded so much — this is London, after all — but it was my 30th birthday dinner, and my friends and I were made to feel like we were just a thorn in the wait staff's side. I certainly didn't feel special or treated. And, as I said, we weren't scrimping: our tab came to £300.



This is a pity, because everything else about the restaurant was really good: fab food and drinks, and a lovely style and ambiance. I'd like to think that if you go in a smaller group, you'll get better service; perhaps just try somewhere more intimate and friendly if you're celebrating a special occasion and looking for a restaurant that offers great service as well as great food.

Chop Shop. 66 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4RF. Website. Twitter.

*UPDATE (25/11/13): I wrote a polite email to the manager expressing the service problems we experienced, but a week has gone by and I haven't even received a response, let alone an apology. Keeping your customers happy and eager to return doesn't cost a lot — especially if it means losing the future custom of seven potential return diners.

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