Meat-loving brothers Steve and Dave Patten have opened a US-style steak and burger restaurant and bar in Essex. Pictures by Chris Orange
With a passion for beef and a father high up in the meat trade, it was only a matter of time before brothers Steve and Dave Patten opened their own steakhouse. After working and travelling around the globe, they have returned to their home town of Chelmsford in Essex to open Chop Bloc, a US-style steak and burger restaurant with a destination bar specialising in craft beers and cocktails.
Working with leading hospitality specialists DesignLSM, they have converted 18th-century Grade II-listed buildings, home to Grays Brewery until the 1970s, into a three-storey site with a stunning design combining classic and contemporary style. They were inspired by the success of restaurant groups such as Hawksmoor and Burger & Lobster and wanted to bring this kind of higher-end dining and drinking to Chelmsford.
The brothers developed their passions through their father, Colin Patten, a leading figure in the meat industry and a liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Butchers. Steve, now 30, started out in the meat trade in the Netherlands, while Dave, 27, learned about livestock in New Zealand. Both went on to work for leading meat companies Dunbia and Hilton but left their jobs in 2012 to develop what became Chop Bloc.
They travelled with their father to steakhouses and bars in New York and Los Angeles for inspiration, returning with an ambition to open an informal and reasonably priced steak and burger restaurant where the beef would be aged and sliced in-house to ensure best quality in taste and texture. Cuts are sold by the gram and sliced by chefs who have been trained to butcher whole cuts of meat. Guests can see into the walk-in meat room which is on the ground floor by the entrance.
The menu, developed with head chef Antonio Lopez Rocha, also offers burgers, made in-house using 28-day-matured British chuck steak and cooked using the 1940s American “smash” technique to create a crust on the outside while leaving a juicy burger on the inside. A selection of “fuss-free” sides and desserts are also available.
The dining areas cover the ground and first floors of the 6,500 sq ft site, furnished with a mix of banquette and loose seating and elegant glass globe pendant lights contrasting with the rough bare brick walls. The main restaurant on the first floor also features exposed ceiling beams plus abattoir hooks hanging above some of the booths with cage lamps below. “There is a real mix of industrial utilitarianism and beauty,” adds senior designer Sally Williams.
The main staircase, made of steel with industrial mesh balustrades, leads up to the second floor which is home to Bloc Bar, which has its own signage made up of seven boxes piled up on the floor, each with one letter of the name, illuminated. Features include gently glowing ceiling-mounted lighting made from conduit and squirrel cage lamps. Brass-faceted pendants hang above the bar counter, which has a concrete top and metal frontage plus a back-bar bottle step made of back-lit salt blocks.
On the back wall are diamond-shaped black tiles and riveted aluminium panels, while more abattoir hooks hang from above, wrapped in golden flex lamps. The room is furnished with large semi-circular brown leather booths along the back wall plus low comfortable tub chairs and low tables at the front. Dotted throughout the bar and the rest of the building are light boxes printed with phrases in bold black text such as “Burgers: like a high five to the mouth”, with one multi-layered grouping depicting a cow.
With 75 covers, Bloc Bar is a destination in its own right, with cocktails created by leading consultancy Soulshakers and presided over by bar manager Russell Betts. It features classic and original cocktails, made with premium spirits and mostly priced at £8, opening with a selection suitable for pre-dinner drinks such as a Negroni, a Citrus Sherry Cobbler and the Chop Bloc Aperitivo made with Campari, clementine juice, lemon juice and prosecco. At the other end are after-dinner digestives such as a Port Flip, a Manhattan and the Chop Bloc Old-Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, muscovado sugar and bitters.
As well as a range of long and short drinks, they have injected some extra fun with a list headed “Fur Coat, No Knickers” featuring indulgent cocktails such as variations on a Cosmopolitan and Piña Colada and a Penelope Pitstop, made with Finlandia Vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, raspberries and cream.
Beer is another draw for Chop Bloc, with a broad selection of world beers, mostly from the US, in bottles, such as Dogfish Head DNA, Goose Island IPA and Anchor California Lager as well as Estrella Damm and Modelo Especial and Negra. Estrella Damm and Sierra Nevada are also available on draught. The restaurant and bar also offer a good selection of Old and New World wines and champagnes. Bloc Bar has its own snack menu, from crispy pork crackling or truffle and parmesan fries through to cheese burgers and seared beef fillet tartare. It also lists the French-Canadian dish, poutine, which is fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.
The whole project took two years of development, with DesignLSM also working on the branding, signage, menus and website. The intention was to create something unique to Chelmsford, points out Steve Campion, brand director at DesignLSM. “It is high end but, through the branding, we wanted to make it feel accessible.” The Patten brothers now hope to replicate Chop Bloc’s success and expand to three to five sites over the next five years.
Chop Bloc, 8-9 Greys Brewery Yard, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 6QR
Tel: 01245 860070
Behind the scenes
Design, branding: DesignLSM
Main contractor: HCM Group
Furniture: Hill Cross Furniture
Lighting: Into Lighting
Flooring: Havwoods Flooring
Tiling: Grestec Tiles
Metal work: CDC Metal Work
Electrical: Heritage Brass Electrical
Heating & ventilation: FWP
Originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.