Becca – June 2014
Two things I should mention before I start this review in the interests of being fair. One, I have a really bad cold. A full on, coughing, spluttering, cotton wool head cold with a definite lack of appetite. Which doesn’t bode particularly well when eating out for a food review…
Two, I’m not a big fan of Jacobs and Field/Inn. Nothing personal, they’re lovely guys, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as good as they think they are. In my humble opinion, which honestly is not shared by the majority, their food is adequate. It’s safe, it’s predictable, average quality and so full of hipster that it sets my teeth on edge. I eat and see myself the whole time in Instagram Sutro mode with a Mumford soundtrack. Food is very slightly overpriced in all three of their venues and whilst it’s okay, the boys clearly have the knowledge and the skill to do so much better and be exciting instead of, well, dull.
I accept that’s a bit harsh so I agreed to visit there again for a team meeting in the hopes that I would suddenly see the light and just get it. My first visit a few months ago was memorable for the chipped nail polish wearing waitress who didn’t know what the chop house butter was. The steak sandwich completely passed me by on that day but I do remember the chocolate and salted caramel pot being quite nice.
Last night, I decided to order the beef short rib, served with house slaw, chips and chipotle sauce. It took a good half hour to arrive which was okay as we were chatting but I’d started to get twitchy when the plates arrived: two massive slabs of beef ribs, a smear of chipotle sauce across the top of each, a pot of chips, and a dollop of purply red indistinguishable sliced things comprising the slaw. I got stuck in to the first and smaller rib, a decent layer of crispy fat on the top with a nice layer of succulent meat underneath. No added flavour though, just beef which was okay but it could have benefitted from a rub. Another layer of fat which I scraped away. And another. A thin sliver of meat then more fat and suddenly I was down to the bone. Luckily I had another rib though, phew! Except this bigger rib had even more fat and far less meat. By this time it had started to go cold and the fat had begun to congeal. I was tired and rummaging through the fat was seeming like far too much work so I gave up and ate a few of the chips, which had a horrible similarity to mass produced frozen versions. And then I tried the slaw which tasted odd, really odd, so I didn’t eat anymore.
My co-diners were still tucking into theirs so I sat there and felt a bit sorry for myself. One of them, having professionally stripped a veal bone like a starving werewolf, poked around in the piles of fat on my plate to try and extricate more meat. Her eyes lit up when she spotted a rich seam on the underside of the rib bone, only to be disappointed on realising it was actually a thick vein of sinew. We agreed that there was no more meat to be mined. Beef ribs generally are a fatty piece of meat, but with good, slow cooking the fat renders down, leaving you with silkily smooth strands of meat – unless of course there’s hardly any meat there in the first place!
Next my co-diners poked around in my slaw. Upon tasting, both had eyebrows firmly lodged in their hairline! None of us could decipher the strange flavour, they mocked my description of washing up liquid but stale fat was the best they could come up with. All in all, nothing changed my opinion of the Jacobs chain which makes me sad as Oxford so badly needs it. Over to the others now for their comments on what they ate…..
Jacqui – June 2014
I’ve been to Jacobs Chop House for food twice now, first I had the bavette steak with salsa verde and fries (£12.50), then on my return visit I opted for the sirloin with peppercorn sauce and green beans (£18). I like steak, in fact I love steak – we cook it quite a lot at home. So, if I’m eating steak in a restaurant, I want it to be, at the very least, as good as my own. Thankfully for Chop House, both steaks I ate there lived up to the home cook test, but sadly, only just.
While the sirloin was cooked well and was well rested, allowing time for the juices to settle, my earlier bavette was a little less pink than expected (given the ‘served pink’ warning on the menu) and a little bland to the taste. The salsa verde was great, as was the peppercorn sauce – again though, nothing better than I make at home.
This is my dilemma you see – if I can cook the same plate of food, for less than half the price at home, what is my motivation to pay for it in a restaurant? And it’s not that I’m a professional standard chef, I’m just a home cook, with enough experience to cook a steak. There are other reasons to visit Chop House though, for one, the puddings I’ve tried have been excellent – the chocolate and salted caramel pot, along with the lemon posset, served up in tiny kilner jars alongside a tiny shortbread, are heavenly. The styling of the restaurant is also a plus, with the most divine vintage toilet roll holders I’ve ever seen – though the finish on the carpentry and tiling in the unisex loos leaves a lot to be desired (quite possibly part of the styling). They also have free WiFi and serve great coffee – as long as the waitresses remember to get the order right – which means it’s a great venue for working from. Overall though, I felt a little disappointed that the food didn’t match the wow factor of the design and was a little let down to see a lack of the cheap cuts that were originally promised.
I love the concept here, it’s right up my street, I also really like the guys that run the place; I just wish the execution of the food matched up to everything else – nail that and it becomes a place worth returning to regularly.