Ahh, Meatopia; when it comes to my idea of paradise, I didn’t think Tobacco Dock would really feature, if I’m honest. I’ve been to worse places but the square mile or so around it still has a bit of a 28 Days Later post-nuclear catastrophe feel about it.
However, paradise for me does feature the following: meat. Beer. Wine. More meat. And more meat. And more, until I have a little food foetus hanging over my waistline and a meaty BBQ cologne odour circling around me. So I found myself on Saturday afternoon visiting London’s newest foodie extravaganza as it made its debut in London after a successful spell over the pond in New York. Created from the food-obsessed brain of Time Magazine columnist Josh Ozersky, the nose to tail food revolution already has a presence in London with St. John’s Fergus Henderson enjoying continuous popularity as a forefather of the entire movement. Coincidentally, he also set up camp at Meatopia, although his stall’s focus on innards meant that it wasn’t offally popular compared to some others (yes, I did make that joke, sorry not sorry).
Nevertheless, no matter your level of squeamishness, if you’re a meat lover this really was the place to be; chefs from all sorts of renowned meat havens cooked up a storm, including The Wild Game Co., Grillstock, Texas’ SMOKE, Pitt Cue Co., Hawksmoor and many others. At times the queues were excessive (the line for the Run BMC Burger seemed longer than a two hour wait for Nemesis at Alton Towers; regardless of whether the burgers have Monster Munch in them, it was a bit much). And yes, the reliably brilliant Meantime Brewery did run out of some beers pretty quick (including the perfectly balanced Yakima Red), but the focus, obviously, was going to be the food. Customers exchange Meatbucks for dishes of their choice and, with the sheer diversity on offer, purchasing extra tokens is more inevitable than the meat sweats you’ll be getting for the week afterwards.
I’m happy to report that the meat on offer, from all the different proprietors I got round to trying, was utterly superb. Although I entered full on caveman mode and would have been happy to tear into a woolly mammoth hide if it was available, here are the top five outstanding dishes I tasted on the day, in reverse order.
5. Tayyabs: Tandoori Lamb Chops
Tayyabs are legendary purveyors of Punjabi food, having forged a loyal following since 1972 when their restaurant first opened in Whitechapel. I must say, I was a bit dubious about spending my Meatbucks at their stall after what was an indifferent meal at their restaurant over a year ago. Thank God I didn’t swerve it; these lamb chops, a house speciality, were delicately balanced with traditional tandoori flavours. The chilli provided an eye-opening kick but didn’t have me running to the bathroom to submerge my mouth under the cold tap; as for the texture, the chops were truly tender too which, when it comes to lamb, isn’t always the easiest trick to pull off.
Find out more about Tayyabs here.
4. Gizzi Erskine: Grilled Korean Free Range Chicken Wings
The beehived former Punk turned TV personality was quite brave in her choice of dish, I thought. After all, the vast majority of her competitors went for bovine or gamey dishes but perhaps that gave her a successful angle. Korean food is experiencing an immense surge in popularity at the moment, inspired by the popularity of street stalls selling steamed buns and other Korean delicacies. These flame-grilled wings were fantastic, smoky without being cremated, the powerful taste offset by a crushed cucumber side which provided a light touch and a perfect complement to the wings themselves. A brilliant dish that’s left me still licking my fingers now in case I missed a bit.
Check out Gizzi's website here.
3. Wild Game Company: Venison Steak Frites
Part of me wishes I could have placed this dish right at the summit, it was that tasty. Venison, cooked medium-rare and garnished with thick chunks of rock salt, worked excellently with the béarnaise topping and the crispy frites underneath. The venison oozed the occasional drop or two of blood just as it should, though it did send me into a bit of a wild blood lust a la some sort of real life incarnation of a hungry vampire from Twilight. Top marks for a dish that did everything right, asides from the portion size; I could have eaten a hundred of them, but that speaks more for my greed than their generosity I think.
Get more of an ideer (sorry-Ed) here.
2. Martin Morales, Ceviche: Corazon Andino (Ox Heart of the Andes)
I must admit, the main reason I opted for this dish was the fact that it had no queue. More fool everyone else, because this gets the silver medal as second tastiest dish of the day. Don’t be put off by the fact you’re eating heart; I know it’s a little Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but these tender slivers of meat had a strong, though not at all overpowering taste. The Yucca fries were perhaps a little dry but, as an overall dish, the unexpected awesomeness of the ox heart more than made up for it.
More on Martin Montoya here.
1. Richard Turner, Hawksmoor: Charcoal Grilled Steak with Anchovy Butter
What can be said about Hawksmoor that hasn’t already been said? Endlessly glowing platitudes abound of course, from the food to the brilliant cocktail menu and their ‘buy British’ ethics. Their performance at Meatopia didn’t disappoint – I must say, I was looking forward to it more than anything else – and the fact that they even gave me a freebie (they were closing and it should be punishable by death to throw away such delectable meat) didn’t hurt either. As you would expect, the quality of meat was outstanding, as was the cooking time; strips of melt in your mouth meat with a creamy, oozy butter that had a very subtle anchovy twang to it. Nothing was overpowering, or out of place, or anything short of being absolutely perfect. Hawksmoor, I salute you.
More on Hawksmoor, London's best steak.