After a long day exploring Stonehenge and Salisbury, we still had a little time to kill before heading back to London. At the recommendation of a co-worker who hails from the area, after finishing our short walking tour of Salisbury, we walked over to The Chapter House, a traditional English pub set in the Medieval city. It had been 15 years since I’d eaten an actual restaurant meal in England (every other trip since was little more than a layover at Heathrow on the way somewhere else), and the last experience was such horribly bland Indian food that it’s still burned in my mind. It was therefore up to the Chapter House to redeem English cuisine in my book.
As a reminder, here’s my double secret restaruant star rating system, with a minor change from the old version:
5 – I Would Walk 500 Miles (And I Would Walk 500 More) to visit this place
4 – Worth a visit when in town
3 – Meh; I won’t object if a friend suggests it, but I wouldn’t recommend it on my own
2 – The Professor Snape “D” for “Dreadful”
1 – Run, Sriram, Run!
The change? 2 stars now carries a Harry Potter reference. It is complete coincidence that this change coincides with a review of a restaurant in England, in case you were wondering.
The Chapter House
- 9-13 St. Johns Street, Salisbury SP1 2SB, UK
- Hours: Monday 7:30 A.M.-8 P.M.; Tues-Thurs 7:30 A.M.-10 P.M.; Fri 7:30 A.M.-Midnight; Sat 8:30 A.M-Midnight; Sun 8:30 A.M.-10 P.M. Limited bar menu from 3-6.
- Price: £10, 2-course prix fixe available for lunch daily (except Sunday), and from 6-7 Monday-Thursday. Otherwise, £15-25 per person.
Directions (from the restaurant website): Follow the ring road around Salisbury on Churchill Way. At the Exeter Street Roundabout then follow Exeter Street into Salisbury along the Cathedral Close wall. The Chapter House is on the corner of the second road (St Anne’s) where Exeter Street becomes St Johns Street. Closest parking is the public parking garage under the Old George Mall on New Street. WARNING: this garage shuts down at 8 P.M. promptly; check with the restaurant for alternatives if you aren’t planning to leave before then.
Note: The Chapter House also operates an inn upstairs. We didn’t have time to investigate the hotel, so this review addresses only the restaurant.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the building that houses the Chapter House dates back to 1215. Just goes to show you, when someone in Europe describes a building as “historic”, they REALLY mean historic. Our waiter also claimed that King Charles II hid in one of the Chapter House’s rooms during his escape from England in 1651. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it is an interesting historical tidbit. As you can see, the interior certainly isn’t lacking in traditional pub charm.
So what’s on the menu here? English pub fare, through and through. The menu in general reminded me somewhat of the Frog and Onion Pub in Bermuda. Surprisingly, despite walking out in the sun all day, we weren’t all that hungry (must have been the jetlag), and I didn’t want to stuff myself silly and risk falling asleep on the way back to London, so my wife and I both ordered off the “2 for £10” prix fixe menu. We both started off with the cream of potato and leek soup, served with garlic bread.
The soup was nicely rich and creamy, though potato and leek doesn’t have much natural flavor, so add in a good helping of pepper to compensate. The bread, though it had a nice, crunchy crust, was a bit mushy inside, thanks to a bit too much garlic butter. Overall, an average start.
For the main course, I chose the sausage & mash, and Prita went with the fish cakes.
(If you followed the “Where’s UPGRD?” series, you’ll recognize the first photo of the hat getting ready to chow down.) First off, I was relieved to see a manageable portion. The sausage was very good, with a nice snap and rich, meaty, grilled flavor. The mash and gravy was likewise very good, with a hearty, homemade feel to the mash, and a good, thick gravy with a strong beefy flavor. I’m normally not a fan of peas, but here, the sweet peas complemented the rest of the dish well, providing a lighter contrast to what is otherwise a pretty heavy meal. I tried one of my wife’s fries, and though humongous, they were nicely crisped on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Her only complaint was that the tartar sauce lacked flavor. Overall, a very good main course.
Though the Belgian waffle and ice cream looked awfully tempting, I thought better of it and skipped desert. We had been chatting with the manager/server on and off throughout the meal (he seemed genuinely excited that two people had come all the way from Texas to eat in his restaurant), and as we were preparing to leave, my wife asked if he’d had guests from Texas previously. He said he didn’t recall any previously, at which point the couple diagonally across from us said “Hey, we’re from Texas!”. That of course led to a side conversation, where we discovered that not only were they also from the Dallas area, they were also following in our footsteps and visiting Stonehenge before catching a Princess cruise the next day (though they were leaving from Southampton, not Istanbul). What a small world – only to be outdone at our hotel in London a couple of hours later, when a lady riding up on the elevator with us was also from the Dallas area. I should have gone online and bought a bunch of Irish lottery tickets.
Rating: 4 stars. Decent food, but remarkable atmosphere and service is what made our visit special. And the 2 courses for 10 quid special is a really good deal, if you can make it in time to take advantage.