You’d think people would be eating less red meat, given our increased awareness of the environment, health and sustainability, instead, there’s been a big upsurge. There’s now a huge annual festival in London, Meatopia, where chefs come from all over the world to cook, and an increasing number of restaurants that specialise in meat.
It’s partly down to the fact that a hunk of meat is simple to understand, appreciate and to cook. There’s foodie appeal because you can be nerdy about the meat’s provenance, the type of rare breed cattle it’s come from and how they’ve been farmed, which all correspond to those issues of environment and sustainability. Coal-fired ovens and barbecue have also become very popular as ways of cooking meat in restaurants over the last five years. Also, meat is easier to store than fish, it will keep for longer which makes it easier for restaurants and street carts to serve. In the Nineties, I worked in restaurants in London, and chefs would moan that the only thing they were selling was steak. So, they’ve thought, why fight it?
“There’s foodie appeal to meat because you can be nerdy about the provenance, the type of rare breed cattle it’s come from and how they’ve been farmed.”
I don’t often eat at steakhouses because steak is something I can cook relatively easily at home, and there’s a massive premium to eat it in restaurants. But if I was going to eat steak in London, I’d go to Goodman, which originated in Mayfair, but they now also have restaurants in the City and Canary Wharf. There’s lamb, burger and fish-of-the-day on the menu but the main attraction is the imported American USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Prime Angus steak which is aged in-house. It has great flavour and is incredibly tender. What I particularly like about Goodman is that everything is great, not just the steak but the starters, desserts and service too. The city-biz locations mean they’re very male-oriented environments, but I’ve taken the family, and they really looked after the kids.
Pitt Cue near Liverpool Street is a meat mecca. The provenance of the meat is impeccable as they have their own farm in Cornwall where they breed Mangalitsa pigs, a rare, hairy Hungarian breed with a lot of fat marbled through the meat. It’s sort of the pork equivalent of Kobi beef, whereas modern pigs are bred to have as little fat as possible. The chef Tom Adams helped kick-start the trend for American-style barbecue in London and you can also see some of Fergus Henderson of St John’s nose-to-tail ethos on his menus, as he serves quite a bit of offal including lamb hearts and ox tongue. Henderson has had incredible influence around the world but few chefs serve the sort of extreme cuts like spleen and chitterlings [the lower intestines of a pig] that he has on the menu at his Farringdon restaurant.
There’s a current trend for highly flavoured beef from Basque dairy cows that are at least six years old (and often older) that’s known as Txuleton and the recently opened London restaurant Sagardi specialises in it. People talk about the ‘length’ of the flavour, like it was a fine wine, so expect to pay a premium for it.
If I was to go for a great roast, the Harwood Arms in Fulham is brilliant, and the Camberwell Arms in Camberwell has won an Observer Food Monthly award for Best Sunday Lunch. It’s a proper boozer but the food’s great. It’s got dishes like spit-roast chicken and slow-roast salt marsh lamb to share, but also more left-field stuff like ox cheek bourguignon and half a barbequed rabbit and – showing Fergus Henderson’s influence again – fried pig’s head with chilli sauce. If you love meat, the place is a delight.
Temper restaurant was recently opened in Soho by chef is Neil Rankin who’s seen as one of the UK authorities on barbecuing. The meat is all rare-breed and carefully sourced and Neil takes things to another level by his masterful use of Asian and Caribbean influences. He’s even got goat on his menu.
And if we’re talking street food that’s turned into restaurants, The Rib Man has opened a takeaway shop in Euston station which I understand is planned to be the first of many. He’s famous for his baby back ribs and Holy Fuck sauce. Chef Mark Hix is a fan and serves the sauce in his restaurants.