Thursday, 19 September 2013

Sam's Chop House, Leeds: romance and corned beef

It was the wedding anniversary that we didn't think we'd see. A second wedding anniversary is such a little thing that it only represents paper or cotton, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live.  Such a very little, throwaway thing.  But a big deal for us.

However, with a move forthcoming and a big, Michelin starred dinner coming up at the end of next month. not to mention the fact that we have had a year of supporting two households rather than one, we decided to go cheap and cheerful in terms of a meal out.  And when D pointed me in the direction of the Sam's Chop House menu I was genuinely excited by the decision.  This was the kind of unashamedly British food that I absolutely adore but it seemed a little clever, a little quirky.  Poached chicken breast with chicken liver scampi?  How amazing does that sound? 

So, why an air of disappointment pervading this blog post like an autumn fog?  Perhaps because Sam's, the day before our wedding anniversary, decided to change their USP. They phoned and left an upbeat voicemail message explaining that the restaurant had decided to "go in a different direction" and offering us the chance to cancel our booking.  But we, either lazy or optimistic in the face of PR speak, decided to stick with it.  Only to find a menu that yes, was still unashamedly British but also unashamedly a little bit dull.  I wasn't expecting fireworks for a cotton anniversary, but a bit of a sparkler might have been nice.  Sam's is not a restaurant to go to for flashing lights of any description.

Starters: ham hock scotch egg was competently done - I thought the spicing of the meat was good and the egg yolk retained a moist gleam, even if it wasn't fully runny. 
Scotch egg!
I ordered goats' cheese rarebit with beetroot served on a pikelet.  I've eaten pikelets before - they are small, three bite affairs.  This was not.  The rarebit itself was fine - could have done with being a bit goatier - the pikelet was a doughy behemoth.  I adore cheese on toast, but I was a little concerned as I chomped through that it was going to have an adverse effect on my main course capacity.
Cheese on toast!
I was right to be concerned.  We had both ordered Sam's famous corned beef hash as it was the most vaguely interesting thing on the main course menu. This was a beast of a portion.  We could have shared it and still have had it coming out of our ears.  The flavours itself were good - crispy, salty bacon, soft potatoes and shards of decent beef all topped off with poached egg and brown sauce - nothing to dislike.  But, oh so much food.  And D's egg was overcooked.  Which made him a little bit cross, especially since he was still mourning the lack of chicken liver scampi.
Corned beef hash!
So I wanted to like Sam's, I really did.  It was the restaurant to which we went to celebrate the anniversary that we never thought we'd see.  But it was just a bit of a yawn.  A change in direction down one of those very neat, anodyne little cul-de-sacs, where every lawn is manicured within an inch of its life.  And if you're going to do such simple, classic cuisine then for God's sake make sure that the poached eggs are still runny in the middle. 

Still, happy anniversary D.  I love you very much and am very proud and happy that we got here.

Sam's Chop House
8 South Parade

0113 2042490


  1. I bet I would have loved it apart from the cooked thru poached egg....that is heinous!!

    Congratulations to you both. L xx

  2. I loathe a runny yolk, I'm afraid! Heathen? Possibly - but an unrepentent one!

    Happy anniversary.


  3. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary. Very disappointing about the change of menu!

    I'm off to Purnells in November so I am very much looking forward to hearing about it :)