2009: A meaty feast

To those that listened I said 2009 would be a Meat Club year to remember, I rest my case:

January
The Hope & Sir Loin, Farringdon (Breakfast)

February
Le Bouchon Breton, Spitalfield Market

March
Great Queen Street, Covent Garden

April
Garafa Argentine Grill, Highbury

May
The Cock Tavern, Smithfield (Breakfast)

June
Goodman, Maddox Street

July
Boundary, Shoreditch

August
The Old Bell, Hurley
The Hinds Head, Bray
Fox & Anchor, Smithfield (Breakfast)

September
Cattle Grid, Soho

October
Quality Chop House, Clerkenwell (Flesh Mob)

November
The LUXE, Spitalfield Market (Game Edition)

December
St. JOHN, Smithfield

Christmas Special: St JOHN

st.john logo

As 2009 drew to a close, Meat Club looked back at a full year of fleshness and wondered how best to celebrate the forthcoming new decade. Now Meat Club evenings are normally a Wednesday affair, but by the luck of the calendar meant the most suitable date actually fell on the birthday of an ex-presidents birthday, well the good wife of an ex-president. Now such a formality would normally be completely brushed aside, but considering the wife in question, the Lady Al had been so willing to let her Lord attend an earlier Meat Club only 2 days after the birth of their first child, compassion needed to be shown. So surprisingly this rather strange act of humanity meant Meat Club would happen on a monday evening – that coupled with the fact it was only evening we could get a booking…

st.john-menu

Revisiting the familiar

For the first time in 2010 we had decided to revisit an old haunt. The much lauded and loved St. JOHN of St. John Street, Smithfield. Would this temple of meat deliver, would it produce the goods and welcome back its white jacketed knights to the pantheon of cooking nose to tail? For such a destination their could only be one suitable dish: Roast Suckling pig times two. For as the evenings drew to their darkest, it was time to better represent that most intelligent of beasts, the pig, albeit a dead one.

The response to attend had been supreme, with several new guests having to be uninvited. The usual in/out/shake-it-all-about behaviour on the day did raise stress levels for the President, but the evening came with a full house and expectations were understandably high.

The main attraction

The run up to Christmas is a time of celebration, where many venture out to eat and drink in recognition of the years toil, the renewal of the sun god and impending birth of the baby Jesus and his own introduction to lamb and beef. On the evening in question, 28 white knights strolled boldly into the middle of the austere, concrete lined restaurant. Seated on two long tables, we quickly quaffed our fine wine before the dried pigs liver appeared. Now liver and offal isn’t universally loved by all – for some strange reason that is difficult to comprehend – but I can report that all members of club quickly lunged in discarding the vegetables to plunder the piggy bits.

st.john-starter

Spirits grew, as we could see our impending feast of piglets sat cooling in the kitchen. The excitement was building, as these fine beasts were transferred to our tables. Then as the knife slide into the crisp crackling and the head came off, we erupted into orgasmic carnal pleasure. PIG. The succulent juices cascaded down our chins; the soft, tender and tasty flesh, melting in our mouths. This was tasty, right proper tasty.

st.john little-pigs

Now its reckoned a suckling pig can feed on average 14-15 people, with some suggesting even 17. However we’re a hungry bunch at Meat Club and after eying up the piglet, we reckon 6 of us could easily devour one. In fact the legend that is Gor tried single handedly to proove this point and while reaching an almost tantric state of elation – he ‘like never before’ almost admitted to eaten too much. [ But unlike the Monthy Python wafer thin mint man he could always manage to finish his pud. ]

st.john tucking in

As our final meat celebration of 2009, we had a few announcement to make and as each new member received their jacket and said a few words, we received a pat on the shoulder, from quite frankly a rather effete maitre’d, to perhaps keep it quiet. Now we don’t profess to be saints, or the quietest bunch, but we’re not badly behaved either. The thing is some right bankers were sat close, spending their ill gotten gains from the stock markets miraculous recovery after they had ballsed up the economy. The fact they decided to even show their faces in public is galling enough, but making a suggestion that normal, decent, hard working, carnivores should curtail their enjoyment so they can gloat about their illegal bonuses is despicable. Meat Club will be supporting a Bankers Tax and look forward to gutting a few Bankers at the next butchery course.

So feeling our own pinch due to the lack of self-awareness of a couple of right bankers, our bread pudding with butternut sauce, didn’t taste as it should. In fact the whole experience took a turn for the worst and feeling rather like scalded school boys who had done no wrong, we knew that this Temple to Meat had actually closed. This was no home coming, no resurrection or birth, it was just another restaurant cashing in on the Christmas cheer. We made the best of it, but it wasn’t the fitting end to 2009 we had all looked forward to. Goodbye St. JOHN you are no longer canonised in the Church of Flesh & Guts. From this point it will be simply known as JOHN – the refuge of bankers.

st.john-gor & hats

So 2010 will start with Meat Club looking for a new spiritual home, a place where we will be welcomed, appreciated and regaled. Where the finer aspects of animal husbandry, butchery, preparation and fine cooking worshipped – its members rejoicing in harmony, with offerings of meat, flesh and guts.

We look forward to where this journey will take us, and we ask you London, to step forward to reach out to the brotherhood and show your kindness, passion and welcome to the finest meat appreciation society this side of Spitalfields Market.

UPDATE: Fergus Henderson, the head chef/owner of St. JOHNS met our Australian Victoria Chapter after one their sessions and expressed delight in the activities, stating he was our number one fan. So Fergus show some meaty love and invite us back. The dressing is on your hoof now.

Final farewell – Ode to the Meat

It’s been a popular verse for many a meat club, but as this decade draws to a close, it’s time to reach out and compose a new piece of poetic meat ballad. So farewell you have served us well:

“Man is a carnivorous production,
And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey;
Although his anatomical construction
Bears vegetables, in a grumbling way,
Your laboring people think beyond all question,
Beef, veal, and mutton better for digestion.”

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Meat Club – Possible new tracks

So you know we like a good tune or two (Meat Club – The Album). Seems like the Guardian has been getting some inspiration from the flesh and started asking for meat related songs. This created a bit of excitement over at Meat Club with suggestions for our next album and a few spin off compilations too.

The Soul Meatown Edition

  • Let’s Venison – Marvin Gaye
  • Meat Petite – Jackie Wilson
  • This Old Heart of Swine – Isley Brothers
  • Mercy Mercy Meat – Marvin Gaye
  • The Racks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  • Signed, Sealed, the Liver – Stevie Wonder
  • I Want Ewe Rack – Jackson 5
  • Chop Around – The Miracles

Followed by a teaser for The Sound of Philadelphia (Fillet Soul)

  • Love Brain – The O’Jays
  • Rackstabbers – The O’Jays
  • If Ewe Don’t Know Meat by Now – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

Which led to the 80s Meat Shaker Mix

  • Steak On Me – Aha
  • It’s A Shin – Pet Shop Boys
  • Rack Trap – Boomtown Rates
  • Every Breath You Steak – Police
  • With Or Without Stew – U2
  • I Think We’re A Lamb Now – Tiffany
  • Our Lips Are Seared – Fun Boy Three
  • Pass The Duckie – Musical Youth
  • Take My Beef Away – Berlin
  • Don’t Ewe Fois Gras About Me – Simple Minds
  • Where Ever I Lay My Ham – Paul Young
  • Do You Really Want To Hunt Meat? – Culture Club

Which could ship with a limited edition Adam Ant Meat EP

  • Goody Two Hoofs
  • Prince Chargrilling
  • Spam and Da Liver

Thanks to Massimo and Shane – don’t give up the day jobs…

The LUXE: Game Bird Special

The LUXE

So far in 2010 we’d consumed beef, lamb, pork, liver, brain, pigeon, but we we’re lacking some Game Birds. Now in life in general one probably doesn’t have enough game birds, so it was crucial we addressed this.

Having missed the glorious twelfth by several months, we weren’t too far from start of the pheasant season, so after a bit of covert research, The Luxe got the job. Birds, birds, game birds was our desire.

Despite meeting Mr Thorode (the short bloke, but taller than the really short bloke from the TV) on the first official approach to host the event. He didn’t seem to recognise the majesty and reputation of the venerable Meat Club. Would he provide a banquet worthy of our best meat experiences? Would he take a visitation from London’s most esteemed restaurant appreciation society, seriously and make a personal appearance.

The LUXE: Menu

A fowl evening begins

So the evening came and as we assembled at the infamous Golden Hart on Commercial Road and Hanway Place as they say in NYC, for beer and red wine, expectations were high. Then at our agreed time we paced over to East London’s newest culinary destination, with a look of Vikings out to pillage a North Eastern homestead.

On arrival, we were led to the top floor, to the private dining area where two tables were decked out for the evening. Nestled between the rafters we had our own bar, service and some slightly disturbing background musical noise from the floor below. Surely a bit of four to the floor musak is bad for the digestion.

The LUXE - Quail

First up in our appreciation of game was the tiny Quail, which technically isn’t a British Game Bird, but is a rich tasting piece of bird, especially when stuffed with Foie Grais. Our taste buds were heightened, the flavours triggering exciting synaptic responses, the meaty textures well appreciated. With a lick of the lips and a chew on the leg bone, the starter was a success.

A fuller figure

Originally we’d asked for a mix of pheasant and grouse dishes for our mains, but due to a rush on the recently killed P-bird, or a spot of cute commercial thinking by the Luxe we were to have Grouse all-around. Now I say only, for the Grouse is a bird of majestic supremacy – such flavoursome, rich flesh – so often deliberately denied to small children as if it might upset their delicate constitutions. As we devoured our individual portions – we knew each portion was a full bird in both senses of the word. Full of flavour, full of meat, full of goodness; a steak amongst birds.

The LUXE: Grouse

The LUXE: Grouse 2

As we relaxed back into our seats for more fine wine, a look of contentment spread across everyone’s faces. We’d been able to chew on 4 tasty bits of leg so far and we were happy.

Now Meat Club is many things and among its many beneficial aspects, is that it’s educational. Our Meat Notes had listed out the British Game Birds and as we tested members at random to name a Game Bird and detail its specific characteristics, I’m proud to report we passed with flying colours.

The LUXE Wasserfall-hat

Savoury sweet

As regular readers to these reviews will know, we like a meaty desert. Such as a slow cooked long horn fillet. So when the chef had suggested a special desert for us, we were clearly excited. A Pigeon & Parsnip Tart – when creating the menu was such an appealing thought. However when this culinary masterpiece appeared, one could clearly see a small, muscular thigh peaking out from beneath the Tarts top layer. More bird leg… fantastic.

The LUXE: Pigeon pie

Reclining back into ones chair, it was clear we had sampled a great selection of game bird and as a result, we were full. Full and satisfied and perhaps not wanting to see another small well formed muscular thigh on our plates for a day or two.

The LUXE: The original jacket and the chef takes a bow

The LUXE: The original jacket and the chef takes a bow

As contented smiles appeared on our faces, we wondered if Mr Master Chef would congratulate us on our choice of meaty menu. But yes, he finally appeared to receive his praise having locked himself in the toilet fearing the wrath of 25 carnivores all dressed in chef’s whites holding leg bones above their heads, demanding more. How silly.

Flesh Mob: Quality Chop House

So far 2009 had been a full and meaty year, and such devotion to flesh and guts takes dedication and planning. When it looked like October might be meatless we had to act. Step forward to Flesh Mob.

Send out a call to flesh to the Meat Club, decide a venue to meet and get stuck in flesh and guts.

This charge was met by 8 hungry carnivores descending on a hostelry just south of Roseberry avenue. Having refreshed our tastebuds with simple hops, barley, wheat and water we made across the road to the working man’s quality meeting place, the Quality Chop House. Normally home to our MC Breakfasts, but a change in opening times put pay to that.

Now we normally all eat the same thing but given our select number we decided quite strangely to select a number of different dishes.

Our selection of pork chop, rump steak and calf’s liver & bacon was accompanied with a request to keep the veg stuff to a minimum. After the usual gorging of lightly cooked flesh and wine we indulged in some all important banter with fellow guests and restaurant staff.

Flesh Mob @ Quality Chop House

Now we could have re-enacted a MJ video, sung a love song, performed a scene from a fitting theatre piece, but no. At Meat Club we do things differently, we simple remember the wondrous beauty that is meat and the fine company it attracts.

We came, we saw, we meat, we conquer.

Thank you Quality Chop House.

And a sad goodbye to Dezza and Zolty – you will be missed on these shores.

quality-chop-dezza-zolty

Cattle Grid Soho: Valued Steak

cattle-grid logo

So how do you follow the amazing birthday celebration? A tough question that wasn’t so easy to resolve.

Step forward the Cattle Grid, Soho; a restaurant that prides itself on the highest quality steaks without breaking the bank. They don’t profess to have the rarest cattle, the most aged, or the world’s tastiest, but they’re very proud of what they do.

Having our moments of rather tight-fisted behaviour we decided to put this value to the test with steak-off.

After we’d blessed our newest members with crisp white jackets – they only time they’re allowed to be so. Then heard meat tales from our latest guests, which were quite frankly rather worrying, one even mentioning the v word, we decided to get stuck in to the steak challenge.

First a warm up – the Baby Back ribs. From the official source: These beauties are pre-cooked to avoid charring in a spice, beer rib stock. These are then grilled at temperature whilst being brushed with a sauce to avoid over caramelising. The sauce includes tomato, soy, garlic, wine, sake, and onion to give a sweet, tangy, spicy flavour.

They are without doubt the tastiest ribs we’ve ever tasted – take note other Soho based proprietors. We might not be surrounded by the luxury of the Boundary, we know we were on to something good with these ribs.

So on to the main course. Beef from Balymena, Ireland, purchases at the well regarded Smithfields Market and hung for 28 days. All guest were equipped with a score card, asking for a sauce of 1 to 5 for the following characteristics, leading to a total for each steak and an overall rating:

Colour
Marbling
Texture
Tenderness
Flavour

Our first bout was between rump and sirloin, two popular joints known to most households:

Rump not surprising is from the back of the cow, requiring a longer cook to guarantee tenderness. It can have poor marbling and as a result can be dry if poorly cooked. Sirloin is from the lower ribs and has better marbling. For those of an older generation its the definitive steak.

It was a close call with Rump just edging it.

Then came Rib-eye versus Fillet.

Rib-eye (also known as the cowboy steak) can be cut boned, or bone-in. Cooking on the bone helps trap juice and keep the meat moist. It tends to have good marbling, and despite often being overlooked, is hard to beat if reared and cooked well. Fillet has little fat and a cell structure that make it tender and easy to chew. Despite being the most expensive cut it requires a lot of help in the preparation and cooking to unlock its flavour.

Despite the above write up it wasn’t a slam-dunk victory, but as you might have guessed Rib-Eye came top.

Its also worth saying we also got to sample three fine sauces: Green peppercorns, blue cheese and béarnaise sauce.

Now we’re a demanding bunch and we like our meat cooked just right, a few of the steaks were well not perfectly rare. But consider 26 hungry carnivores turning up to a small kitchen and wanting those 26 steaks all served at the same time. All things considered was a cracking show.

After much spirited debate it was clear that the Rib-eye steak was coming out top, but even with all this meat we were still feeling a bit hungry. Cue another order for ribs – but unfortunately there was none left, then a request for more Rib-eye Steak. Thankfully there was enough and out it came, cooked to perfection – big lick of lips.

As is tradition with Meat Club we invite the chef out to detail his evenings creations. It was a great pleasure to meet our culinary conjurer and hear what he’d done. Receiving a grand round of applause he let it slip…. And let’s say this quietly – that he had to make an mergence call to his butcher, as we (the mightily Meat Club) had eaten them out of meat. Get in.

Then with a flutter, a small piece of paper appeared with the final amount. We’d promised the Club this would be a bargain and as we calculated the individual amount, we were all very pleasantly surprised. We had consumed a lot of quality meat and we certainly hadn’t broken the bank.

That was a fitting end to a great evening. Well done the Cattle Grid.

cattle-grid-montage

The Perfect Steak?

At Meat Club we know a few things about getting the perfect steak. You need excellent raw material – organic, mature beef that’s been lovingly raised, preferably on grass or a careful grain mix. Combined with delicate and careful aging – the longer the better, as the beef structures break down to increase tenderness and flavour.

However the pressures of modern farming and butchery make it increasing hard to produce quality beef at affordable prices. As they say – you get what you pay for – but money only goes so far.

This article from Time Magazine details one man’s search for the perfect steak – and his discovery of what difference age makes to it – in northern Spain. It’s a stimulating and educational read.

beef_1217

Make sure you view the photo story as well for some mouthwatering snaps of aged beef goodness.

The Boundary: 7th Birthday Special

boundary

As a Meat Club virgin, fresh meat so to speak, the proceedings went by with great curiosity.

Alas mine and Sam Ball’s (my virgin partner) debut happened to be on the 7th birthday of Meat Club. Which meant that our naive visions of rare steak with chips took a kick in the (sheeps) bollocks.

The pre feast email banter did nothing to quell the nerves. Mention of the menu sparked up more bravado than Olly Reed after a barrel of Babysham.

Funny thing email, as once people started arriving the bravado had turned to trepidation and some slightly unnerved faces. I was finally in good company.

On to the venue, the last time I was on the street it was a shit hole. But The Boundary had polished it.

The interior looked just like a real restaurant, in fact the people in it looked like normal people, not one looked like a brain muncher.

We finally reached our section at the back behind curtains. Behind beef curtains.

All the regulars got out their chef coats, which made me feel like I was in a fraternity similar to Laurel and Hardy in the ‘Sons of the Desert’, we even gave song. I loved it. I could see Sam’s beaming little face on the other side of the restaurant. We were feeling strong.

The first course came and went Charcuterie, Terrines, Pâtés, Rillettes, which was nearly good enough to make me forget what was next.

gors-calf-brain

When the brain did arrive it actually looked far better than how it looks inside of a calf’s split open head.

I was sat opposite Igor. A delightful chap but not the best person to have your debut in front of. I’m not sure anything would phase this man, a baby served on a bed of Noel Edmonds would get the same enthused thumbs up.

There was no option, I chuffed it down. It had the consistency of philadelphia cheese mixed with tofu, without the taste.

With that course gone, I had an epiphany of what a cock I’d been (and how thankful that wasn’t on the menu) worrying about the brain, I felt I’d breached my Meat Club hymen.

The fine wine flowed and to be honest I can’t remember in what order things happened so I will just go with what fragments remain.

We had Meat poems, an absolutely devastatingly original one written as if by Linda McCartney by some enigmatic ginger fellow. He was subsequently booed off the floor for a crap meat story. Mr Davidson got on a chair and shouted stuff about chickens, Mr Farnhill announced his riding around mongolia on a donkey and before the red wine took over I’d counted around 324 shout-outs for El Presidente.

My last memories are of a fine fine desert which was, what else, Roasted Longhorn 8 week hung fillet.

I know I can speak for myself and Sam when I say thank you President for the invite and thanks to all the esteemed members for allowing us to pull up a seat to your meat table.

7th birthday menu

Words by Bedwood, his meat hymen well and truly popped.

Meat Poetry

It’s normal for Meat Club to recite some meaningful poetry after we have devoured the flesh. It’s often Ode to the Meat by Lord Byron, but at our last get together – the 7th Birthday (review pending) we through a wider cast. Here’s the poem recited by Remy Monster.

Yes I eat, dead meat.
My mind knows this is so,
but my greed closes out the know.
Conscious dictates mood,
but I need this food.

Live meat I am,
dead meat I cram.
Am I what I devour,
a beast to the core?
No I am man,
made Godly with a plan.
My Lord wants me to eat,
in the bible there’s meat,
so I enjoy my food complete.

Forgive me little
cow, pig and chicken,
soon one of you I’ll be picking,
and my lips I’ll be licking.
To you I honor,
as I round the resturant corner.
Before me on my plate,
food you have become,
my delicious mate.

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