It’s Meat, but not as you know it – Blackhouse, Smithfield

23 Aug 2017

I’ve got a theory about vegetarians. I think each and every one of them was at some point simply going through a phase. It started off as a New Year’s Resolution, a vow to never eat beef again after watching Cowspiracy after one too many glasses of red wine. What do all veggies have in common, other than the fact they all retweet PETA and share grotesque videos of tortured KFC chickens on Facebook? They’re all extremely stubborn. They all want to prove a point. It’s the only reason I didn’t touch meat for 13 years, after making the decision to stop eating meat at the vulnerable age of 8; everyone said I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I did it. Just to prove them wrong. Just to make a point.

I became a vegetarian on New Year’s Day in 1998 and (quite poetically) turned it all in on New Year’s Day in 2011, after going heavy on the Sambucca and secretly scoffing a bacon sandwich when no one was looking. I’m a happier person now. Fatter, sure, but happier all the same. Maybe I miss pulling dramatic faces as friends dangled their McDonald’s burgers in front of my face, and making a fuss when Grandma would “forget” and accidentally hide small pieces of chicken under my roast potatoes, but honestly, I think vegetarians are nuts. Going by their diets, probably, literally.

That’s why I enjoy so much wondering through Smithfield Market nowadays. I’m making up for lost time, I’ve swallowed my pride and admitted I avoided meat for so long out of spite. It’s like being behind the scenes of some of the best restaurants in London (or on the set of a mafia movie), I just love sneaking a peek into the back of a lorry loaded with carcasses hanging from hooks. Those guys ferrying the good meat back and forth have been doing it for years, and you can tell they love it. They’re not veggies, they hate veggies, veggies could put them out of business. They respect the meat they’re selling or buying or transporting.

Our extraordinary waiter in Blackhouse Grill on The Market is fresh from the market stall himself. These days most restaurants have an in-house sommelier, but nowhere has an in-house butcher who comes to your table explaining the various cuts of meat on offer and suggesting which you ought to choose – other than Blackhouse. No, he’s not actually a butcher, but he knows his stuff, and you’re going to need someone like him serving your table, because there’s a lot of meat to choose from on this menu.

To start, to his delight, we ordered the Cauliflower Cheese Souffle. With its thermador glaze it looked like a bloody great crème brûlée, and tasted deliciously rich, but managed to remain nice and light before what was set to be an incredibly meaty main.

The Smoked Haddock and Poached Egg was accompanied by a lobster sauce you weren’t aware you needed until you drenched your fish in it. Don’t you love it when something like lobster becomes a necessity?

After much deliberation and an excellent sell from our waiter, we ordered the Himalayan Rock Salt Dry Aged Beef, personally selected at market by their butcher (that’s what I’m talking about!). British single breed and dry aged in their very own Himalayan rock salt maturation chamber, you have to know just how good this steak was. Our waiter lobbed it onto our table and let me decide just how large a slab I wanted. It was an Instagrammer’s dream opportunity – don’t forget to ask for a tour of the chamber!

 It needed no sides, no sauce, no seasoning that it didn’t already have; my mouth watered before, during and after I ate it. Salty, juicy, pink, perfect.

We also chose from Premium, the Australian Aberdeen Black Fillet which, as you’d expect, had a different taste entirely. A barbecued taste which left you torn between trying to savour every bite and shoving it down your throat in one go. It was moreish, and faultless.

Listen, we ordered sauces, probably Blue Cheese and Red Wine and Shallot, but we didn’t need them. Sure, we tried them, but the steak absolutely speaks for itself and you needn’t bother overcrowding it. Order sides, by all means, but don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll have room to finish them. What you do need is an excellent bottle of red, which of course is what they have the sommelier for.

The atmosphere in Blackhouse is loud, vibrant and ever so cool – until the food arrives, and tables of groups of cackling women and bellowing men shut up and eat their meat in absolute awe. And we all know, the real sign of a good meal is silence.

Sophie

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