I've written briefly before about The Quality Chop House, way back when I used to do these round-ups. I'm not sure I conveyed very well how much I enjoyed the meal I had there, but it was very much indeed, so I let off a little "WOOP!" when I received an email inviting me to try out the new butchery class they're offering.
The Quality Chop House has undergone several different incarnations, most recently a rather doomed meatball restaurant, until Will Lander and Josie Stead took it on as new owners, with Shaun Searley as their head chef. I love the set up of it; in the main dining room where you can book into the oft-talked-about uncomfortable church pews of the Grade II-listed building, a set menu of a few snacks to start, a main and pudding is served for £35. In the wine bar, a small and boisterous no-reservations space, a full bar menu to choose from. Something for everyone (except maybe vegans). Now, they have a butcher's shop and deli next door, headed up by their butcher, Olly. It was he who led us through a two hour class on how to break up a whole lamb into component parts suitable for cooking.
I'm not going to go into too much detail, save that Olly is a brilliant teacher and despite what might have been seemingly gory, was actually much easier than I had anticipated under Olly's careful instruction and watchful eye. Dealing with a carcass per 3 students, this was certainly a hands-on class - we sliced and poked and sawed our way into creating shoulders and legs ready for roasting, while Olly gave us helpful tips on cheaper cuts that still yield maximum flavour. As someone who never goes in for a frenched rack of lamb, always preferring the shoulder or scrag end, especially for curries, titbits of advice were great - such as the neck fillet being a cheaper but damn-near-as-good a cut as the fillet.
Even more excitingly, we were shown how to remove the rib bones from the breast of the lamb - an ultimate cheap cut, but one often daunting to deal with - before being presented with a host of ingredients to stuff it with. At the bottom of the post is a rough recipe (as I had no scales) for what we used, which I then got to take home to cook.
2 hours flew by, and with the butchery class done, we scrubbed our hands clean and headed for the restaurant to sit down to dinner. A lamb-centric menu was prepared for us, and we started with a trio of dishes consisted of radishes cleverly enrobed in butter, a stack of steaming hot lamb croquettes with aioli and lamb ribs, impossibly crisp and drenched in a mint sauce with such tartness as to cut through the intense flavour of well bred lamb fat. Those lamb ribs were on the often-changing menu when I visited all those months ago, and rightly so too - they are SO good. It was all I could do from stopping myself from running off with the bowl to a corner to strip those bones dry myself.
A huge platter of lamb followed to share, family-style; blushing pink slices, as well as slow-cooked shredded, tender shoulder to the side, on a bed of buttery greens with ribbons of courgettes and herbed potatoes. I couldn't decide which cut I liked more, so I just kept eating both until there was nothing left to eat. My companions didn't go hungry either.
To finish, a gorgeous dessert of strawberry sorbet, meringue, white chocolate and a macaron. I am only sad I stuffed myself so silly that I could only appreciate this a little, but it was an accomplished and a palate-refreshing end. I was handed over my bag of meat, which had my lamb breast handiwork (which Olly kindly fixed a little for me... I'm really shit at tying butcher's knots), half a shoulder and half a leg and off I waddled into the night, to wobble my way home on my bike.
No less than three days later, I cooked my spoils of the evening. Yes, it's with the same accompaniments I had with the platter of lamb at The Quality Chop House. It was that good.
Stuffed Breast of Lamb
Serves 4 generously
1 lamb breast, ribs removed, in one piece
250gr minced lamb
2 stalks of rosemary, leaves removed from the stalk and minced
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped off and chopped roughly
6 smoked anchovies in oil, chopped roughly (normal ones also work)
A small handful of sea purslane, chopped roughly (not essential if you can't find it)
A large handful of wild garlic, chopped finely
2 shallots, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
A hefty pinch of salt
In a bowl, mix the minced lamb with the seasonings and ingredients well. Spread out onto one half of the lamb breast and then start rolling the breast tightly but not to squeeze the stuffing out. Secure with butcher's string lengthways and along the width of the cylinder at least 6 times. I was terrible at tying a butcher's slip knot, so use this guide. Roast on a high oven (220 degrees) on a rack for 20 minutes, then turn down to 90 degrees and roast for a further 2.5 hours, basting with the collected fat every hour.
Remove from the oven, leave to cool and then chill in the fridge for at least 3 - 4 hours, or overnight.
To serve, heat up a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Slice the lamb breast into 8 slices and pan fry (without oil, as the lamb breast is quite fatty and releases a lot of it) for 5 - 7 minutes each side, until crisp and golden. Serve with freshly steamed new potatoes tossed in a mint-heavy salsa verde and steamed greens.
So, for a thoroughly educational and fun evening - seriously, if this advertising agency world gets too much, I'm retraining as a butcher - and a wonderful dinner, the details are below. Yes, I was invited, but I would have happily paid every penny of the £135 all inclusive price tag.
Quality Chop House,
88 - 94 Farringdon Road,
London EC1R 3EA
Call 0203 490 6228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. I believe they do pork and beef as well as lamb too.