Meet the owners
Home to exceptional cuts of meat, handcrafted real ale, fine French
wines and an iconic view of King’s College Chapel, The Cambridge
Chop House is a must-visit, as co-founder Oliver Thain explains
You have various restaurants within your Cambscuisine portfolio. What inspired you to open The Cambridge Chop House in 2007?
We walked past one day and saw it empty and thought that was a bit strange. Naturally it’s in a cracking spot right opposite King’s and has an amazing vista, so I put a bid in. As there were quite a few other bids, we went to see the acting bursar who was a lovely lady, and she asked what we were proposing. I said we wanted to do a British restaurant with real ale, and it turned out she was a huge real ale fan, who’d been a member of CAMRA for 30 years, so we had a lovely chat about beer! We ended up winning the bid, so they took a punt on us, and we’ve been here for 17 years, done four refurbs, and it’s been absolutely fantastic.
What are some of your Chop House specialities?
We started off as a really traditional East End chop house doing classic dishes like suet puddings, and over time, we’ve become more steak focused. The meat is really important; we source 80 per cent of our beef from farms within East Anglia. The providence of our meat is very strong – we are all about buying local – and we do a lot of butchery ourselves.
Tell us about your more unique meat dishes?
We have a 6oz A5 Japanese Wagyu which is top quality and fantastic, plus a 46oz Dedham Vale Tomahawk, which is selected for its amazing marbling. It’s cooked on the bone so you get the most incredible flavours, and as it’s a dish to share, there’s that element of theatre. If you love meat, it’s an outstanding option, as is our Barnsley chop.
Didn’t you have squirrel on the menu at one point?
Yes, we served up squirrel and hazelnut suet pudding, and ended up on Radio 5 Live talking about it because it was so rare back then. It was so popular, that we essentially ate our way through a whole wood full of squirrels in Radwinter! We’ve also served rook, so I don’t think I’m wrong in saying we have been a little trailblazing in terms of our style of food in Cambridge.
Which are your bestsellers?
Probably our sirloin or rib eye steaks, plus our Sunday roasts are very popular. What I love about our menu is that we still retain some of the original chop house feel, so we’ve got starters such as smoked
kipper pate, Welsh rarebit bubble and squeak with a poached egg, and our ale braised beef and caper croquette. One of our biggest sellers throughout all our restaurants, which started here, is our haggis fritters with beetroot and whiskey mayo. It’s a totally original dish and diners just love them!
We’d love to hear more about your real ale offering. . .
We’ve got our own real ale called Badger’s Nadgers which we brew with Papworth Brewery. It’s a 3.8% really lovely, perfectly balanced real ale. It was named by my three boys who were 18, 16 and 12 at the time we had the discussion. It took about 22 seconds for us to come up with the name, and we giggled a lot about it! We also do a brew in conjunction with Brewboard called OTT, which is a nod to our trip each year called Over The Top or Oliver Thain Tours, where we take 10 staff up a mountain.
What about your wines?
We’re very proud of our wines which come from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. We take our team over there to meet producers twice a year. The wine list in terms of value, quality and variety, is really strong.
What makes The Cambridge Chop House unique?
It’s our interesting food, our top-quality steak, the real ale straight from the firkin, the fantastic wine list, plus our fascinating old building with its unrivalled views. Also, our friendly, cheery and incredibly professional customer service – and the fact we’ve raised more than £100,000 for local charities through our Cambscuisine Community Fund, which is worthy of a mention!
Cambridge Chop House is at 1 King’s Parade, Cambridge. Find out more at cambridgechophouse.co.uk
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