Saturday, 23 May 2009

London chop houses in 1855

Here's another random quote. This is from a mid-19th century American tourist in London. He proves Zythophile's assertion that no-one can spell Allsopp correctly.

One of the features of London is the "chop house," restaurant, or eating house. On the windows are painted these words : "Hot joints from twelve to eight," "chops and steaks" — "Alsops pale ale," — "XXX brown-stout," &c. When Nature cries out that she "abhors a vacuum," you can step into one of these houses and order a "chop" or a "steak" — you need not mention mutton chop, for the English know no other, and the chances are that you will get for about twenty-five cents a good and substantial dinner, with a pot of ale into the bargain; not forgetting a mouthful or two of Stilton or Cheshire cheese. These chop-houses are convenient to the stranger when engaged in sight seeing. They are all over town, but chiefly in the "city," as the business part of London is called.
"A Wall-Street Bear in Europe", by Samuel Young, 1855, page 176.


Chap said...

Ron: try The Quality Chop House on your next trip to London (near the junction of Farringdon Road and Rosebery Avenue) but expect to pay more than 25 cents! The refurb in the 1980s kept the lettering that I used to see from the top of the 38 bus to Dalston: "London's Noted Cup of Tea - Progressive Working Class Caterers".

"Eddie Rowles" said...

Seconded. We pop in here about twice a year and extremely nice it is too - they have bottled Suffolk County (at room temperature) - it's also very handy for Jeff's (nee Stonch) pub too.

The only disappointment are the pies - simply stew with lids on - just wrong!

Gary Gillman said...

Here from the 1800's is a less flattering impression of the London chophouse and its old ale. The disappointed patron was an American, whom one might term a New Muttonian and neophyte beer drinker, characteristics surely propitious to induce the deflating experience that indeed occurred.

As Michael Jackson wrote, to appreciate English beer, experience is needed. He said the same of oysters and marron glace and might have added old English mutton. (Still, to be fair, some observers feel mutton was never the same after World War II - I refer interested readers to Jane Grigson's 1970's-era book on English cooking).

The author's taste note on the beer is rather modern-sounding, the soft drink he uses as an analogy sounds like a type of root beer, a nostrum of that kind anyway. One really gets a sense of what this beer was like. Even old hands might pause before lifting the tankard twice.

Today at any rate, it is the other way around: the English travelling to America find its extreme beers hard to suss and don't cotton much to traditional American cuisine. Full circle.

(See in the link below pages 69-72).,M1


Gary Gillman said...

Small correction: the above account was written in the early 1900's, not the 1800's.