Steve and Dave Patten, and father Colin, launched Chop Bloc four years ago with a focus on high-quality cuts of meat butchered and dry-aged on site - an approach praised by Marina O'Loughlin in The Guardian.
Colin has since retired and the brothers have hired Daniel Watkins, previously of The Anchor, in Hullbridge, as head chef.
Dave says: “We thought it a good time to relaunch as Grays Yard and bring his more modern, elegant cooking in, retain the steaks we served at Chop Bloc but use the space in a better way.
“Now we have a lighter lunch and brunch option throughout the week and a more rounded and refined menu.” It also has a separate plant-based menu.
Dave argues the food on offer is better value for money, with dinner main courses priced at £15-£18 and steaks priced at £25.
The front of the restaurant has been transformed into “a hidden garden”, and the top floor cocktail bar has been taken out and expanded to seat more covers.
The restaurant has 170 covers as well as 50 on the ground floor and another 30 outside. A “holding bar” has been moved to the ground floor to make it more accessible and suitable for coffee, brunch and lunch.
“We wanted to move away from an American-inspired destination steak house with nine cuts of steak and typical steakhouse style starters and make a venue that was suitable all week long – where people drop in for a coffee, come for the freshly baked bread and freshly made desserts and for a light lunch bite,” says Dave.
Scaling back expansion plans
The brothers had been looking at a second location for Chop Bloc early last year “but after much consideration and back and forth between various landlords, we decided we want to focus on our site in Chelmsford”.
Moving away from the multiple site ambition was part of the process of evolving to the Grays Yard concept, Dave says.
“We wanted to focus on being known as a quality independent restaurant in Chelmsford rather than preparing the business to scale. This is part of the reason behind the name change, alongside broadening the appeal to our guests with varied menus and increased offers across different meal times.”
Dave says there were no financial reasons for the transformation. Chop Bloc had been doing “really well” but they wanted to evolve the concept. “We met Daniel and it organically came about.”