Tabletalk: Top of the chops
Making the most of its location at the junction of an increasingly trendy patch of Dublin, The Chop House charms Lucinda O'Sullivan with its delicious fare
Chef Kevin Arundel was originally with L'Ecrivain before doing his own thing in No 10 Restaurant, which was in Longfield's Hotel, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2, and is currently closed. Arundel then moved to the Schoolhouse Bar and Restaurant on Dublin 4's Northumberland Road for a number of years. Now, he has taken over the former Shelbourne House pub, creating The Chop House gastropub with Conor Dempsey, ex the excellent Dax Restaurant, as chef and business partner. It is located on the busy five-branch D4 junction which includes Shelbourne Road and Bath Avenue, a niche area which has become a tad trendy, with a couple of other restaurants and a popular pub. It is within a spit of Ballsbridge, Sandymount and Lansdowne Road, so you will see jocks and Rosanna Davison clones hanging out in the bars.
The interior has been given the fashionable Farrow & Ball treatment of French grey, along with stripped floors, leather sofas, and high, black cast-iron tables. "It's a touch of France and a Chelsea gastropub in an Irish pub," Arundel told us, making polite chat.
It was lunchtime, and I started with salmon gravadlax (€7) which was superb. Four vertically cut slices, the edges coated with herbs, were graduated and topped with a dollop of fromage blanc, delicious julienned strips of confit lemon rind, capers and a mixed-leaf salad. Brendan had a platter of homemade charcuterie (€9) -- three terrines: chicken and wild mushroom; ham hock; and rabbit, served with a quenelle of fig compote and cornichons. Very nice, as were the accompanying breads.
Lunch mains included cod and chips; chicken; rib-eye of Charolais beef; a vegetarian dish of the day; open sandwiches of croque madame; a steak sandwich; and tuna Nicoise. A good chunk of cod (€12.50) for Brendan was in a nice, light beer batter and served on a board with a section of lemon, tartare sauce, and a little stainless-steel pail of chips. Excellent.
The roast corn-fed chicken (€13) was from Les Landes, a region in western France renowned for its poultry. The yellow Landes chicken is part of the farmer-led Red Label scheme which began in France in the Sixties to promote traditionally raised farm chickens and meat, as opposed to post-war industrialised food. The chickens are raised in a pine forest using small, portable housing called Marensines. The French fondness for chicken goes back to the 16th century, when King Henri IV espoused the wish that every labourer should have a "poulet au pot" on a Sunday.
The Chop House Landes chicken, served "a la vinaigrette" with a crispy skin, was sliced, set in the middle of the plate with a fondant potato and draped with wilted scallions. The bird was delicious in that it did taste of old-style chicken, but you wouldn't be over-stuffed with what else was on the plate! I was glad I had had a starter -- they might need to up the stodge or veggies a tad.
The dinner menu starters (€6.50-€10) and mains (€14.50-€21) sound very interesting. Roast Corsican fish soup is served with saffron aioli, Gruyere cheese and garlic croutons, while raw sashimi tuna comes with soft quail eggs, radish, spicy pickled cucumber and a teriyaki glaze. Oysters are available with sherry vinegar and shallots, or as a curry and mango gratin. Slow roast belly of Old Spot pig comes with a fondant potato, apple compote and roasted jus. There is a daube-of-beef pie; fillet of hake with a red cabbage fondue; the Landes chuck; a 10oz rib-eye and, for the real trenchermen, a 28oz Porterhouse for two at €50.
For a sensible €5 we shared a fine, French-style chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream. With a pint of J Arthur (€4.50) for himself, a glass of wine (€5), a coffee (€2.50) and optional service, our bill was €63.50. The wine list is compact, with wines from €20 per bottle. Good stuff!
The Chop House,
2 Shelbourne Road,
Tel: (01) 660-2390