Chop Bloc review Chelmsford’s newest steak restaurant
Chop Bloc opened at the start of the year, and I’d been looking forward to visiting the restaurant since I heard they were due to open. Although I was invited along to the official Chop Bloc launch night, it didn’t offer the chance to try the food. I finally got the chance to visit on a late Saturday afternoon in mid-March.
I’d been looking forward to coming here for months, and finally got the chance to visit last weekend.
Being a new restaurant, it was no surprise to me that I was able to book a table online. Using bookatable.co.uk, I was able to get a table for three people for later that evening, and the process was quick and easy.
We arrived a couple of minutes early and got greeted as we entered the building by a surly girl who I assume was Maitre D.
“We have a table booked for 5.15pm in the name of Danny UK”, I said to her as warmly as I could.
She surveyed the bookings list, snapped “Follow me!” and turned on her heel, leading the way upstairs. The lack of a warm welcome or even a smile was a little off-putting, but as we sat in our seats we were told that a waitress would be with us shortly, I figured that maybe the girl was just having a bad day. Someone offered to hang our coats up, and as we handed them over she disappeared and left us with our menus.
The waitress came over and took our order for drinks, returning a little while later to do the same for our food order. Once again we noted a distinct lack of warmth from the staff member. It almost seemed as though she was scared to make eye contact or engage in small talk.
We’d all gone for different main courses, having equally agreed to skip starters. I chose the fillet steak, which I had to Google the weight of, as I’ve only ever ordered steak in ounces rather than in grams as it was presented on the menu. Mrs DannyUK chose the salmon whilst Loz picked the veggie burger.
As I’d ordered my food I, fortunately, had the foresight to ask what the steak was served with, as it didn’t say on the menu. Thankfully I asked as the steak was served alone, and things like fries, vegetables and sauces were extra. I didn’t mind the fact that these were additional items though I’d have been annoyed had I been expecting a plate of steak, chips and veg, only to be served with a solitary steak. I certainly felt that the staff member could have mentioned this - even if only trying to upsell rather than just making sure I knew how little I’d be getting.
The food arrived fairly quickly, and all three mains tasted good and were presented well. The steak was cooked exactly as it was ordered, which is normally the big mistake a restaurant can make, though it has the be said that the fries were completely ruined by being over salted, though, which was a shame.
One of the mains was served by a guy who worked there. As he handed over the plate he warned that it was very hot and to be careful, and joked about it which was the first notion of two-way pleasant interaction we had with a staff member since entering. The waitress serving the other two meals remained shy and inhibited.
As we ate, we found it strange that nobody checked that our meal was ok. Had anyone said anything, I’d have complained about the fries being too salty, but given that I was hungry and nobody came over, I finished all of them, grateful that I had a full drink to quench my thirst.
Once again, when the plates were cleared away there was very little interaction offered by the waitress. That said, it didn’t stop us ordering dessert and although the choice was remarkably small, it was perhaps the best dessert I have ever tasted (the Chop Bloc crème brûlée was creamier than I’ve ever had before. It was absolutely gorgeous.)
Our desserts were cleared away and when we declined tea or coffee, the waitress spun on her heel and went off somewhere else. We thought perhaps she’d gone to fetch the bill, but fifteen minutes later we’d not received it and had to ask someone else to bring it.
Considering that there were only three people dining, it was a surprise to see that a service charge had been added (something I normally expect to see for parties of 8 or more). I asked to pay the bill without the service charge and the waitress said that wouldn’t be a problem but that she needed to get the bill reprinted.
I thought that this may be an excuse for her to speak to a manager or senior member of staff to try and find out how best to handle the situation, and fully expected someone to come over to discuss why we were perhaps unhappy with the service. Nobody came over, though, and ironically, after refusing to pay the service fee, the waitress was more polite and friendly than she’d been all night.
She returned with the bill that now showed no service charge, we paid quickly and left, deciding that we should find our own coats rather than wait for anyone to show the initiative to tell us where they had been put.
With hindsight, I wonder whether my expectations were too high, or whether I wanted too much. As I said previously, I had been looking for an excuse to visit Chop Bloc for some time, so maybe I had built up the experience in my head too much.
Thankfully, my two fellow diners agreed with me and reassured me that things could have been a lot better.
Overall the food was decent without being mind-blowing. All three of us finished our food without leaving much behind, which is always a good barometer of a successful meal. Certain things could have been done better though I can only cite the fries as needing reviewing, and even that issue could have been easily resolved with someone checking how our meal was.
The service aspect was the most disappointing, being poor from start to finish. I can only assume it’s either a training issue or a bad day. Although I disliked the service, the food was good enough for me to happily give t another go, though I suspect that if the staff haven’t improved their attitudes then my next visit may be my last for a while (though I may well go back in a few weeks just to do another Chop Bloc review.)
The price was a little more than I would perhaps expect to pay at a chain restaurant like Miller and Carter, but it was by no means overly expensive given that three mains and three desserts came to just £90 including drinks. This price would have been a good £30 - £40 more expensive had we all chosen steak.
This Chop Bloc review was originally published in shortened form for a review of Chop Bloc on TripAdvisor. It also features a response from Dave P, the restaurant manager, who apologised and promises to look into things.
You can visit the official Chop Bloc website.
Edit: Since this review. I have been contacted by the management at Chop Bloc who seemed aghast at our experience. They invited us back for another visit with the promise that it would be far better. You can read the updated review of Chop Bloc here.