Over the last few years, Blackheath has become a foodie destination and a hub for some excellent dining. Places like Friday Food Club (one of my favourite London underground restaurants), the micro brewery Zero Degrees, Boulangerie Jade, and more recently Chapters All Day Dining are leading the way and showing sceptical North Londoners how expertly it can be done down South.
I am always surprised when I meet Londoners who haven’t heard of Blackheath despite it being only 12 minutes by train from London Bridge and one of the most picturesque spots in London. So when I was recently invited by Douglas Blyde of Intoxicating Prose to a Bloggers Dinner at Chapters in Blackheath with The Wine Sleuth, Greedy Diva, Eat Like a Girl, and London Eater, it didn’t take much persuasion for me to accept the invitation.
Sister to the Michelin starred restaurant Chapter One, Chapters All Day Dining is a more informal, brasserie style eatery, with an understated, casual feel about it – the decor is well thought out with exposed brickwork, wood flooring, large mirrors along its walls, and unobtrusive lighting. I enjoyed the informality of the dining rooms and felt instantly at ease in them.
Chapters All Day Dining is one of the 9 London restaurants, including Chapter One, to use a Josper oven for grilling all its steaks, some of the fish and seafood starters, and also desserts. An impressive piece of machinery invented in Spain over 35 years ago, the Josper (pronounced Hosper) is both an oven and grill, a “closed barbeque” made of insulating materials capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 1,000˚C.
This dual functionality helps the food to be cooked much faster than in traditional barbeques by allowing the unit to maintain high cooking temperatures for extended periods of time. It also greatly enhances the flavour of the foods being cooked by searing them on the outside, keeping the juices locked inside whilst giving an intense barbeque/smoky taste.
On this occasion, we had the pleasure of meeting the head chef Trevor Tobin and the restaurant manager Philip Urasala who accompanied us throughout the meal and introduced the wines being matched to each course.
To kick off proceedings, we were served an assortment of delicious starters from the restaurant’s new summer menu including:
“Josper baked mackerel, spiced puy lentils and aubergine, apple puree” @ £5.25 and “Baked scallops & chorizo, sweet chilli dressing, baby herb salad” @ £9.95 - these were both sensational; the fatty mackerel and scallops had a delicious and very noticeable smoky/barbecue flavour from the Josper
“Serrano ham, salad of rocket and goats cheese, grilled sour dough” @ £6.50 and “Terrine of potted ham hock and black pudding, Piccalilli, grilled sour dough” @ £5.95 – the terrine was deliciously spicy with hints of mace and nutmeg, and having the grilled sour dough served already buttered was also a nice touch.
“Salad of warm Kentish asparagus, poached egg & Hollandaise sauce” @ £6.50 and “Salad of chicory, pear, walnuts and blue cheese” £4.95 – both salads were very good but the combination of asparagus, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce was my favourite.
“Risotto of wild garlic and crème fraiche” @ £5.25 – deliciously creamy, the rice had been perfectly cooked, remaining still slightly al dente. This was one of the best starters, and a real steal at this price.
The starters were sensational, and I suspect that the main courses on the menu, priced between £8.95 and £12.95, would have been equally good. But this restaurant’s raison d’être is its Josper grilled steaks, and to show us what Chapters is all about, Trevor served us a variety of different cuts of beef.
Our first was an 18-day dry aged Cumbrian Black Angus fillet steak, sourced from W. G Butchers in Smithfields. Beef fillet, despite being one of the tenderest cuts, is one I hardly ever cook or order – being the leanest part, it is also one of the least flavoursome. The meat had been cooked medium rare - it was also surprisingly tasty, and with a delicate seared crust on the outside. The Josper grilling had, as expected, given the meat an intense charcoal flavour. This is the most expensive meat item on the menu, priced at £23.95 for a 200g fillet steak.
The Australian, 40-day, dry aged Hereford rib-eye steak was served next. A much fattier cut, good quality rib-eye steaks usually show a good amount of marbling which also helps to make it one of the tastiest. Trevor cooked the rib-eye medium, caramelizing the outside whilst keeping the meat pink and succulent inside. At £19.95 for a 320g rib-eye steak (minimum 30-day wet age), this is the second most expensive cut on the menu.
The next meat being served was the English hanger steak, also known as skirt or onglet. Skirt steak is the animal’s diaphragm, a working muscle and therefore with a tendency for toughness if not properly cooked. Ideal for quick flash frying/grilling or for very slow cooking (braising), this is the cut of choice for many Chinese stir-fries, fajitas and Cornish pasties.
Chapters’ hanger steak had been quickly seared and was served rare. It had a dense texture and a deliciously rich flavour. Priced at £11.50, the 250g hanger steak is Chapters’ best value choice.
I really enjoyed the fillet and rib-eye steaks, and felt that the hanger steak was also excellent. The best however was still to come. We were next presented with a selection of various steaks, served on the bone, including porterhouse, t-bone, sirloin and rib-eye from both USA and UK in a like for like comparison.
Both the t-bone and porterhouse cuts have a fillet on one side and a sirloin on the other, with the main difference being that the porterhouse will have a larger fillet. The meats tasted deliciously sweet, probably due to their proximity to the bone, but also succulent and full of flavour.
The American steaks were USDA Prime Graded beef (United States Department of Agriculture). USDA Prime is the most superior grade, with Choice and Select being the second and third grades respectively. The USDA Prime steak has the highest degree of fat (much higher than its UK cousin), and is derived from younger animals.
I was highly impressed by the intensity of flavour of the USDA Prime cuts, and in my opinion, they tasted far superior to their UK equivalent. All premium steaks on the bone are priced at £4.50 per 100g and cost significantly less than Goodman’s equivalent priced at £6.25 per 100g.
The desserts are also well worth a mention, they were all excellent and well presented and ended the meal very nicely. These included:
“Warm treacle tart with clotted cream” @ £5.25.
“Valrhona chocolate fondant, raisin puree, caramelised walnut ice cream” @ £5.85.
“Coconut parfait, Josper baked banana, passion fruit sauce” @ £5.25.
A big thank you to Douglas, Trevor and Philip for inviting me to this event. For a more detailed description of the different cuts of beef, and a more technical perspective, have a read of the reviews by Kang (London Eater) and Carly (Greedy Diva).
Cost: this was a complimentary meal but I have quoted prices of all the dishes we tried. I estimate that a three course meal would cost in the region of £30 to £35 per person depending on the type of steak ordered (excluding service and drinks).
Likes: top grade meats, beautifully aged and packed with flavour, Josper grilling which greatly enhances flavour, reasonable prices and excellent wine list in a charming location. My recommendation would be a dry-aged, USDA Prime rib-eye steak on the bone cooked medium rare.
Verdict: I cannot wait to return to Chapters All Day Dining and try more of their Josper Grilled steaks. I was very impressed and feel this is one of the best and most reasonably priced steak houses in London at the moment. Very highly recommended.