When the summer sun finally decides to make a belated appearance when you are on a tiring shopping expedition with a close friend, seeing the miraculous wonder of al fresco restaurant seating under booming black umbrellas, paired with dinky wooden slatted tables and chairs, a chilled glass of white wine dewing the sides of a thin stemmed glass and the aroma of steak clouding the nearby air with a mouth-watering succulence; needless to say a pit stop at independent steak eatery Chop Bloc is a Chelmsford was soon deemed a must.
Simply styled we propped our sunglasses on our noses and tucked ourselves on their outdoor patio outside the front of the restaurant, square shaped black awning taking away the over-zealous heat whilst still allowing us to the enjoy the rays and the bright weather. In my mind, you can’t really go wrong with a steak house as long as the meat is good quality and cooked how you like it. As long as these two factors are hit on the head, the meal will always be a winner. I was intrigued to see whether Chop Bloc would be able to deliver.
Since I was with my fellow foodie Vick, I was in for a long haul lunch involving three full on courses. Sipping on a delicate New Zealand sauvignon blanc called Spy Valley, I picked the panko pork belly for my starter. The juicy cuboids of pork belly were generously covered in breadcrumbs and fried lightly to achieve a crunchy golden coating that didn’t steal the show from the meat, but merely enhanced it by providing a different texture and a slight buttery-ness. The pork belly itself was tender with the trademark strips of flavoursome fat, but for me, the star of the show was the sauce. If I’m honest with you, I have no idea what was in the sauce, however it was super sweet, reminding me of a hoi sin and maple glaze style cross. It was a sticky brown ooze that soaked into the breadcrumb coating delightfully, the sauce a match made in heaven with the juicy pork belly. The sprinkling of green salad garnish set the dish off nicely and I must say, I mopped this up with gusto.
For main course, I figured it would be a sheer crime to have anything other than the steak, although I didn’t opt for a traditional plate of steak and chips. Instead, I went for a steak baguette, hidden under the burger section of the menu. Served in a traditional, long French stick style baguette, the strips of roasted rump steak were completely melt in the mouth meat, juicy, tender with a rotund flavour and a soft texture. Really spot on meat, I could have scoffed that alone! Also in my baguette was some rocket salad leaves and a horseradish mayo. Accompanying my main was also a veal jus sauce which I found ideal to dunk my baguette in to really soak up some of those additional flavours. The jus was a little watery, but still had a nice taste that acted as an accent for the steak without being overpowering. In fact, that was a feature of the whole dish really, the steak was really allowed to be the star of the show and so it should be.
I decided to mix things up by swapping the fries that came with my meal for new potatoes instead, this buttery round potato pearls cooked up with small chunks of chorizo for an extra meaty, spicy zing that added a whole punch of flavour to a typically staid carbohydrate. Presented in a nice white side dish, the potatoes came up as a very generous portion for an additionally ordered side which was a very nice surprise indeed.
Although the hearty portion sizes left me feeling completely stuffed, we decided to take a 20 minute pause and then tuck into dessert, otherwise what kind of food adventurers were we? Scanning the menu, the warm weather had me pausing longingly over the sundae selection, however looking over the homemade dessert options, I spotted something that features very rarely on dessert menus but something that I really love eating: churros. This completely ticks the indulgence box for me, I mean what is better than taking a sugar sprinkled, light batter shape, warmly soft and gooey on the inside yet crisply satisfying on the outside, and then dunking said deliciousness into a vat of thick and unctuous dark chocolate. Enough said. To placate my ice cream urges, I asked to have a single scoop of ice cream with my churros, which the waiting staff happily compiled with. The churros came presented in cigar shapes, dusted with its trademark cinnamon sugar. The chocolate was dark and swamp-like in consistency so all in all, this dessert was perfect, again with the ideal portion size.
With all things said and done, I really enjoyed Chop Bloc. The food is really fantastic quality, with great execution on the cooking and presentation. The creative extras when it comes to sauces and matching these with your chosen meat is really different and something that helps the food to stand out even more. I literally still dream about the sweet sauce that came with my pork belly! The food is amazing; however this is reflected in the price tag, with the large glass of wine I ordered also setting me back a tenner. I think we ended up paying between £35 and £40 for our three courses and a glass of wine each. Although expensive, it’s a nice venue with rustic décor and suitable for people of all food tastes, including fussy eaters and those who only do British style fodder. I’d definitely go back!