Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer at the Chop House

I’d been asked to find a restaurant for the team, one not too far to travel to and one that could perhaps show off a little British-ness to our American guests of honour. I plumped for Butler’s Wharf Chop House as it met the two criteria and fortuitously a third which we could never have really anticipated – Butler’s Wharf can’t really be beaten on a glorious summer evening when you can enjoy the views and people watch and stunningly tonight was a beautiful sunny evening. We enjoy the sun setting on Tower Bridge, see the soaring skyscrapers glorifying successful money making of the mega banks winking in the distance at Canary Wharf and can discuss at length whether the Swiss Re building aka the “erotic gherkin” is a good thing or not. For the record, I think it’s a good thing and how when the hideous brown edifice that is formerly known as the Tower Thistle Hotel is looming across the sparkling Thames anyone can complain about ugly buildings.

The advance party had secured a good table outside and we can pretend that we are lucky enough to have night after night of such pleasures. We explain some of the quirkier typically British menu items to American J like mushy peas and bubble & squeak and I select guinea fowl, bacon & onion terrine, piccalilli for starters. I’m not a fan of piccalilli as I don’t do pickled things, but the terrine sounds fine. It turns out to be very tasty and even though I didn’t eat the piccalilli I like the colour on the plate.

There were plenty of delicious sounding main courses to deliberate but eventually I chose the peppered breast & braised leg of Telmara Farm duck, poached peach & gravy. We choose several plates of vegetables to share, cauliflower cheese, mash potatoes, green beans and buttered carrots. The duck is really tasty and the accompanying peach was certainly an interesting combination. I was rather taken by the cauliflower cheese though it didn’t really feel very summery. And of course the mash had to be sampled, good but quite ordinary!

There offer a savoury course at the Chophouse which I always think is quintessentially British quirk, on offer there’s Welsh rarebit, angles on horseback, British cheeseboard and Stilton. We don’t partake of any of them but I still like to see them on the menu.

I finish off with the elderflower and spring fruit jelly. I am thinking of Mark Hix’s Perry Jelly & Summer Fruits with Elderflower Ice Cream winning dessert from the Great British Menu and immediately fall for that. And it just seems so apt on this lovely summery evening. The jelly was light, fresh and fruity, probably not as fabulous as Mark’s as I think the perry would be a lovely touch but a great finish to our own Great British meal.

We are not naïve enough to think that the weather will last but are grateful for the opportunity to show off some excellent British food in such convivial sun-kissed surroundings for our esteemed colleagues; two forks for the Butler’s Wharf Chophouse.

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