Welcome to the House of Poutine, St Albans' newest city centre eatery
- Credit: Matt Adams
Who would have thought chips, cheese and gravy could be elevated to an art form?
Poutine, perhaps Canada's best-kept secret, has arrived not only on the shores of the UK, but more importantly in St Albans.
House of Poutine is a welcome new eatery in Chequer Street, where you can indulge in enough calories during one lunchtime to keep you going all week.
My colleague Laura and I were invited along by HOP chief executive Tracey Matthews, one of the founders of Prime Steak and Grill Restaurants, to sample a selection of dishes originating in the province of Québec, and find out why the Canucks are such big fans of this concept.
The key to any poutine is the love and care put into frying the chips, which undergo a multi-stage process that leaves them crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and deep fried to golden perfection.
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Chef director Jamie Robertson, who was formerly group executive chef of Gaucho and the Gordon Ramsay Group, has now turned his attention to the Great White North, and devised a wide selection of gourmet toppings which somehow manage to ease your conscience when you're shovelling mouthfuls of chips and gravy into your gob.
After sampling a standard poutine by way of introduction to the dish, we demolished two favourite combinations recommended by Tracey.
The Philly Cheese Steak features sliced feather blade steak, caramelised onions and peppers, American cheese, jalapenos and crispy onions.
Melt in your mouth meat mixed with a warm blanket of toppings leaves you immensely satisfied, but not feeling as though your arteries are thickening with every bite you take.
Alternatively, a much more healthy dish which doesn't scrimp on flavour is the Chargrilled Halloumi, which also includes cheddar curds, miso gravy, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion, sweet drop peppers, cucumber, spiced hummus and mint yoghurt. Even though these toppings rest on a bed of double cooked house fries, it tastes refreshing and healthy, and seems like less of a sin than the more decadent steak dish.
I would argue that the sizes of these dishes means they were all big enough to share, as we struggled to finish either, but there are other options which may prove less of a challenge for the solo diner.
I'm particularly looking forward to sampling the El Paso Street Fries, which include smashed avocado and salsa, and Hog Roast, featuring slow roast barbecued pulled pork, mini pork sausages, maple cured bacon and crispy pork scratchings - a meat lover's dream!
We were encouraged to follow our poutine with a dessert of churros, which are filled with dulce de leche and served with Nutella sauce, mini marshmallows and toasted pecans. "Orgasmic," said Laura, and you know what, she was right.
If you're looking for lunch or a late-night snack which is something different from the city's usual fare, then House of Poutine might just become your new favourite. It's certainly going to be ours!