You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties...rifling through my host's fridge
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Weekend of Meat Part III: MEATmarket
coo coo...the pigeon's-eye view
Being that Saturday's meat adventure was a bit of a cheat (albeit delicious, a bit of sausage on a pizza didn't really have that full-on artery-busting effect we were going for) for Sunday's sustenance we headed to MEATmarket in Covent Garden. A sister restaurant of Meat Liquor, which is shut on Sundays, we decided to try it out as it only opened a few days before. The restaurant is upstairs in the old-fashioned Jubilee Market in Covent Garden, and the roosting-pigeon's-eye view is good for people watching, and I gather a lot less dark and noisy than Meat Liquor's trendy nu-grunge interior. Meat
Liquor has been the subject of a lot of hype, and I read really great
things about their 'Dead Hippie' burger from the excellent Burgerac,
so I was excited to try this place out. They pose themselves as a
fast-food version of Meat Liquor, with a more limited menu, a wide
counter a la your local kebab shop or McS**t, with stools and high
tables which overlook the market. As I said, you do get a great view
over the market, but be warned that view comes at a price - the market
has customary wide open entrances all day long, so things get a little
chilly in the dining area.
The atmosphere was low key but funky, with
illuminated signs over head and giant shelves filled with rows and rows of vividly coloured bottles of French's mustard and tomato ketchup. On ordering, the first
thing that occured to me, apart from the limited menu - I was
disappointed they didn't have the renowned chili-cheese fries of Meat
Liquor - was the cost. The 'fast food' atmosphere (complete with chill)
and minimalist menu - one milkshake flavour simply named 'white' and
cocktails from a Slush Puppy style machine - is evidently ironic, and
this 'no nonsense' style clearly doesn't apply to the prices. The Dead
Hippie on its own cost £7.50 but, feeling intrepid and swallowing my
inner cheapskate, I went ahead and ordered, adding a fries and coke on
Service was friendly, and fast. We sucked our bottomless cokes (free refills - a nice authentic American touch) through straws, and a few minutes later our trays of food arrived in funky drive-thru style wrapping. Still, even before I unwrapped it it looked disappointingly small.
The Dead Hippie is essentially a cheeseburger, featuring two beef burgers, cheese, lettuce, diced onion and 'dead hippie special sauce'. When I unwrapped mine it sadly hadn't got any bigger, and as I pulled my scarf around me against the brisk air I again had that nagging feeling that £7.50 was quite a lot for a burger. Taking a bite I would agree with Burgerac that there is a pleasant beefy taste to the burger, and a LOT of juice that spills out and runs off your chin when you sink your teeth in, very enjoyable. But it's not really outstanding. I wanted this burger to make me fall off my stool with flavours but it just didn't. I commented to Jane it sort of tastes how I imagine a McS**t Big Mac SHOULD taste - if it looked like the pictures above the counter - but I'm not sure if this is really a compliment. I really liked the fries, which were perfectly salted and stayed crisp (though not warm - again, the chill...) for the entire meal. Jane ordered the MEATmarket exclusive (all the other burgers are all available at Meat Liquor), the Black Palace burger: double burger with cheese, pickles, grilled onions, ketchup and mustard. I eyed hers with some envy, it seemed a bit bigger, but I'm not sure if this was due to the fact that it was overflowing with oodles of delicious looking grilled onions - so much so that it kind of disintegrated when she tried to eat it.
Dead Hippie...tasty, juicy and sadly over in about 2 minutes
I'm glad I tried MEATmarket but I can't help but feel that it's a little over-rated. I don't think I would have felt this if it was better value for money. Its position in Jubilee Market is unique, but draughty and I felt like I was paying restaurant prices for a cafe experience and one which is (dare I say it) trading on its quirky hipster following. In Brighton, I know from the brilliant Grubbs burgers that fast food can be good AND cheap. I know from the rather lovely Coal Shed (a bit of a Hawksmoor imitator) that burgers can be lovingly presented, and a little more expensive. Still, my Coal Shed burger the other week cost £9.50, included dripping-cooked chips, its one 250g steak mince beef burger equalling the combined thickness of the two burger Dead Hippie. In the end I spent £13 at MEATmarket on what was really fast food, very nice fast food, but fast food nonetheless, dressed up with a little dash of irony and punky styling. The cult of burger doesn't seem to be loosening its grip on London anytime soon, but as a Brighton-to-London interloper I'd say that we've got a few examples down on the South coast that could knock MEATmarket into a cocked (and if necessary, very hip) hat.