Revisiting Chop Bloc
Last month’s Chop Bloc blog post got some attention. Not least of all from the Chop Bloc owners.
Dave, who set up the restaurant with his brother, Steve, saw the TripAdvisor report I had left, and also the blog post which expanded on it.
Dave emailed me apologising for the service we had received. He also said that he had called a meeting with his staff to discuss the points raised and invited me back to see if they fared better.
I didn’t need asking twice, and readily replied to his email. I reiterated my thoughts that the service in the restaurant had been disappointing, but also pointed out that the service we received when we then went upstairs to the Bloc Bar (which is a post still being written) was superb, so there was obviously something being done correctly.
A time and date was agreed and a booking was made. A few days later I trekked back there (I say trekked, it’s a two-minute walk from home!) with Tasha and we were greeted warmly and taken to our seat.
Jill, our waitress, was superb. Not only was she friendly, polite and engaging, but she also took the time to explain various bits from the menu, as well as making recommendations on how each piece of steak is best served.
I chose the Panko Pork Belly starter, whilst Tasha went for the Crab Dip.
Never one to steer too far from my favourites, I chose fillet steak again, and as before it was lovely. Tasha also had fillet, and between us we picked out three or four sides, including the onion rings, green beans, truffle parmesan fries and possibly some others which now escape me.
Jill constantly popped back to see how we were, and each time was warm and engaging.
I asked Tasha for her thoughts a few days later, and she had this to say:
“It was one of the best, if not the best steaks I have ever had and the sauce was divine. I would suggest anybody to try it once as it really is a good sauce. The setting was incredible. Absolutely loved all of the cocktails. Thoroughly enjoyed the night and will definitely be going back again.”
She was talking about the foie gras sauce, by the way.
After we finished eating, Jill said that David was upstairs in the cocktail bar and has asked if we would like to join him and Steve for a drink.
We headed upstairs, Tasha whispering in my ear on the way as to what I’d said to upset them, and were introduced to the two brothers who were working hard testing new cocktails for a change in their cocktail menu. (If that’s hard work, someone sign me up!).
We sat down and Dave asked how our dining experience had been that night. I told him that it was infinitely better than our previous visit and that we were grateful for his response to my article and the interest he had shown.
We sat down and enjoyed our drinks and got chatting to the brothers. I was immediately struck by their sheer depth of knowledge. It’s probably worth mentioning at this stage that I had thought such a vast establishment would be owned and run by two brothers nearing retirement. To learn that both Dave and Steve are years younger than me (and I knock in at a youthful 37, in case you wondered) knocked me sideways.
They have both worked in the meat industry for years and come from a family background that deals with the same.
What this means is that they are knowledgeable not only about the types and cuts of meat but how best to treat them and store them. They have built up an array of contacts in the industry in their years leading up to this venture, and they use their connections to get some fantastic tasting beef.
After initially intending to pop in for a quick meal which I figured would either see me never return again, or would win me round, I left after several hours having had some fantastic food, some brilliant cocktails (hats off to Jamie, the best cocktail guru in Essex) and some genuinely interesting chats, mainly with Dave as Steve had to rush off.
Since that second meal, where there had been a vast improvement, I have been back twice more, and each time the service, the food and the drinks have been exceptional.
Tasha summed up the night best, I think:
“Jill (our waitress) knew her stuff, was very knowledgeable in the cuts of beef and their origins.” She also mentioned the owners, saying: “They are highly impressive entrepreneurs who have a real passion for what they do and are incredibly knowledgeable.”
She’s not kidding, and that experience is brought to life with the quality of the food. Now that quality is matched by the service (each subsequent visit has seen us met with smiles and an easy exchange of pleasantries), this is fast becoming my go-to venue in Chelmsford.
One last thing to note. This past weekend, the restaurant was offering a special: 90-day aged steak. Aged longer than normal, it gives a different texture and taste to the beef. I tried the T-Bone and was blown away by how good it tasted. If you get the chance, try it.
You can visit the official Chop Bloc website at www.chopbloc.com where you can also book a table.