Review: The Chopping Block, delicious food & Great Value


Henry Howard (He/Him) reviews York’s Highly regarded Anglo-French restaurant, and he’s really quite impressed

Article Image

Image by

By Henry Howard

Although my mum didn’t actually say “What a knob, I mean seriously, what a knob”, it was definitely what she was thinking. There’s a look, you see. One that’s both depressingly familiar and immensely pleasing. It was while reading my last restaurant review for this paper when Mum shot me the look. Armed only with an instant coffee, she sat about tearing the article to shreds like a mafia boss draped in Laura Ashley. Defenceless, and at this point effectively motherless, I sat across the table, with a forced smile. The dogs left the room, sensing the mood.

To be fair though, she had a point. My review of the Blue Barbakan was an interesting one. Poorly written? Certainly. Rushed? Naturally. Conceited? Overwhelmingly. Let’s be honest, I hardly have the credentials for reviewing restaurants. I’m just a 21-year-old muddling through a history degree whose sole personality traits are a plummy voice and an incessant use of irony. However, despite this adversity, I must persevere. Someone’s got to do it, conceited or not.

Styled as Anglo-French, Chopping Block sits above an Ale House which serves a number of beers from Yorkshire Breweries. Though perhaps not natural bedfellows, the cross-channel collaboration works surprisingly well. The rudimentary and decidedly British stylings of both the pub and restaurant are comfortable and understated, perhaps intended as a tonic to the more challenging and decidedly French menu.

Ever smiling, with the mandatory hipster combination of a kept beard and a flannel shirt, the waiter showed us upstairs to an empty dining room. Clearly wet Wednesday evenings aren’t peak times for Chopping Block, though with it being York Restaurant Week at the time (cheaper meal deals, offering good value for money) it was somewhat surprising. With six of us though, the lack of other diners was no real issue.

We all opted for the Sea Trout Rillette to start. Delicate and intensely buttery, with the subtlest of smoky finishes, it proved an inspired choice. Silence had befallen the table, indicating this to be the general consensus. Cured salmon with a generous heap of roe completed the dish adding an haute edge. There isn’t much in the culinary world that rivals salmon roe. In fact, there isn’t much in the real world either. Undisputedly beautifully with a hint of bourgeois and a whiff of immorality, it paired with the conventional Rillette effortlessly.

If you imagine opening Spotify on your phone, ignoring all the albums you’ve saved and playlists you’ve spent hours curating and instead searched “Easy listening restaurant pop music 1975-2010”, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what was being played. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but at the same time, that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. Why go to the effort of creating interesting and original food, only to serve them alongside uninteresting and unoriginal music? There’s only so much James Blunt a man can take. Anyway, this was topic of conversation for a good 75 percent of the meal and probably reflects far more on us than on the restaurant.

On a more relevant front, despite not being included in the Restaurant Week set menu, I found it impossible to look past the Sea Bream for my main course. Though the elaborate confit duck was a tempting option, the more reserved side of my brain, long dormant, took over. On the peripheries of fine dining, food can often be over-worked and overcomplicated in order to justify the price. Here, this wasn’t the case. The Bream was left to speak for itself, flirting casually with the lemon and samphire, careful not to give too much away. Refined and classy, but lacking pretention, it suited the restaurant perfectly.

Without wanting to kill mood, I think it’s important to discuss an affliction that I’ve been suffering with for some time. I do plan in the future to seek help but for moment it’s an issue I which have to live with. Whenever Crème Brule is on a menu, I have to order it. Forbidden fruit could be served alongside manna from heaven, and still, I would opt for the burnt cream. In Chopping Block, though I admit the other puddings on the menu weren’t as biblical as the examples above, it proved to be an inspired choice. Rather than a set custard often found in supermarkets and regional gastropubs, it was runny and smooth, speckled with vanilla. Clearly homemade, it possessed both a ruggedness and a vulnerability. The best desert I’ve had in a long time.

Chopping Block is a delightful restaurant. Though not particularly adventurous and little too fond on acoustic pop, these criticisms pale into insignificance once you consider the upside. The food as both challenging but accessible and wonderfully tasty; the service was quick, yet not concerningly so; and all considered the value for money is great.