If it isn't former Page Three models opening Americana-inspired restaurants, then it's Uncle Sam's culinary cavalry themselves coming over to establish a foothold in the London food market. We're being perved on, Londoners, and they keep on coming over to cop a feel.
Next in line of invading slicks chancing their arm in the land of stingy tippers is a New York based restaurant chain, the Altamarea group.
Chop Shop arrived with far less fanfare than that accompanying other recent London AmeriSteak openings. But in keeping with its position on touristy no-mans-land Haymarket it brazenly offers itself to multilingual passing trade with a theatreland style sign.
No doubt the interior designers got the memo regarding The Smoke's predilection with everything reclaimed, distressed and exposed: low hanging metallic light fittings dimly pulse over oddly-decorative milk urns, partially decayed wall hangings and bare bricks.
Intended as a cool feature, but quite fucking disconcerting in practice, knives and cleavers stick out of a whitewashed wall as if Leatherface has been using it for a spot of target practice.
The italian influenced menu peppered with USDA steaks is presumably a compilation of Altamarea's NYC venues - the steak and chop options mimicking Costada and the patty melt we tried being a anglo-bastard version of The Butterfly's. But menu sections offering 'Jars', 'Crocks' and 'Planks' smacked of Branding Agency Thoughtwank, and almost detracted from the decent sounding plates offered within them.
A crock of anything doesn't spring a pleasant image to our minds, you planks.
Like an ostentatious cocktail crossed with afternoon tea, this diminutive patty melt's accoutrements and cut-off crusts make you feel almost obliged to eat it with a knife and fork.
If they were aiming for a dude-food sandwich with an air of pomposity, they totally nailed it.
The beef itself was delightfully cooked, seared nicely with a pink and soft middle. But the sandwich must have bypassed the salt shaker as it was massively under-seasoned. The cheese was well melted and merged with the moist squishy onions, but neither had the pronounceable savoury flavour you would hope.
Despite it's debilitating dearth of crust, the toasted caraway provided a good crunchy outer. An excellent mustard mayo accompanied it, almost bearnaise-like, which lifted the taste distinctly.
The spicy wings as a side were very solid. Crunchy-coated with a thick tomato-based sauce covering them. Their hotness defeated a large portion of the table, and a dousing of the mild Cashel blue cheese dip was both good as an accompaniment and to douse the flames.
And we had a steak. It was fine.
With the rapid spread of very similar places opening up, whether Chop Shop will see itself perched at the top of everyone's 'Go To List' is doubtful. But it's a plausible enough choice if you've just exited the Theatre Royal or Her Majesty's and the wait for a table at nearby Byron is a frankly frightful 50 minutes.
- Rob & Simon.