Meat London: An Insider’s Guide
Edited by Tom Howells
With an introduction by Thomas Blythe
Black Dog Publishing
Now and then you hear a London-bound traveler mumble something about “such a beautiful city, but the food’s so dull and heavy.” Leave it to a book devoted to meat to negate their argument.
Sure, Meat London makes mention of scotch eggs, meat pies, and blood puddings, but there is also a restrained side to the carnivorous appetite, an emphasis on respectable ideas that upstanding, starched-collared, responsible foodies will get behind.
Thomas Blythe, in his introduction, notes that his former employer Fergus Henderson ran his restaurant St. John in Smithfield around the idea of nose-to-tail cooking, and, over the course of a decade, influenced a generation of chefs. Besides nose-to-tail, Meat London puts an emphasis on buzzy terms like “seasonal” and “locally-sourced” (though this idea is charmingly referred to as “provenance”).
The Duke of Cambridge pub may sound the most familiar to Bay Area ears. It was established back in ’98 “with a remit dedicated to green practises, seasonal and welfare-conscious use of organic ingredients, and a focus on establishing a minimal carbon footprint…” The idea of provenance is taken another step at Dinner, where they’ve made a chronology out of their menu: “Rice and flesh, c. 1390,” “Black Foot pork chop, c. 1860.”
Meat London‘s section on street food will seem a little hotdog-heavy to anyone spoiled by feasts at the Red Hook Ballfields, Off The Grid, or any “pod” in Portland. Still, there are apparent standouts, like the Red Herring Smoke House, where they offer up foggy day food like cassoulets and smoked duck confit sandwich. And then there’s Tongue ‘n Cheek, where they specialize in tongue and cheek.
For the meat-loving traveler to make the best use of this book, rent a space with a kitchen and visit the dozen-or-so butchers that are listed. Then you can try your hand at seasonal British game like pheasant and Christmas geese, Dorset Down sheep, Aberdeen Angus beef, Gloucester Old Spot pork, and Macsween Scottish haggis (vegetarian version available).
With a clean, modern design and lunchbreak-inducing photographs by Leonardo Collina, Meat London is a thorough and informative little volume–and its slim profile makes it suitable for real travel use. So when you find yourself in London wondering, “Where could I find a ‘loin and shoulder of biodynamic hogget‘”? You’ll know: It’s at The Ledbury.