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This might seem a little bit strange: a pescetarian reviewing a book about meat. But, being part of a family of meat-eaters, with a steak-loving partner, and friends due to be visiting with high expectations of British Roast cuisine, Meat London: An Insider’s Guide couldn’t have proven to be a more needed and useful book.
I was originally intending on finding somebody else to cover this story for obvious reasons. Why would a pescetarian’s views on a book for meat-lovers matter? I’d even bought a padded envelope, stamps and written the address of another writer on a sticky-label ready to forward it on. However, the book happened to arrive on a day when I had been given the task of finding a decent, not-too-overpriced restaurant to make a reservation at for my extended family visiting from Japan. The specifications given to me by my mother were:
1. British cuisine – roast dinner, but fancy,
2. Nice view/building (the Japanese always love a good photo-opportunity),
3. Something special but not extortionately priced,
4. Central London with easy transport links.
After about half an hour of flicking through Meat London, I had three main options to pick from: tongue-to-tail dining at St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields, the quintessentially-British Rules, (which I learnt was established in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London) and Roast, in the converted floral hall above Borough Market with, notably, ‘views of the market itself and further afield,’ (specification 2: filled). After showing my mother the options in Meat London and reading each one’s respective write-ups, she decided on Roast. It’s all in the name. Specification 1: filled. A week later, and we were all enjoying a market-sourced feast of black-pudding and pork belly sausages, tender beef and beautifully light variations of typically British deserts as well as London-brewed beers and Olympic-themed cocktails. I opted for Hake with baby asparagus as a main, instead of the restaurant’s famous meat options, which was equally well-considered and perfectly cooked.
When we got home, Meat London went straight up onto a reachable shelf for future use. Its bold layouts, informative, yet enjoyable write-ups, its post-coded contents system and inclusion of all necessary directory information made it an easy and interesting book to use. In fact, in no time, I was pulling it back down from the shelf to find a place to take a couple of friends visiting from New York. We went for the more ambitious tongue-to-tail experience this time and the book most certainly didn’t fail to provide me with a handful of East London options to suggest to them. Whether it’s marinated brains, pickled tongue, hand-made black pudding or a simple American-style hotdog you’re looking for, Meat London will be able to tell you the place to go.
As someone who’s fairly fussy about restaurant interiors (plus the atmosphere, the seating arrangements, even the lighting), one of the most useful elements of the book was the photographs of establishment interiors. From clean, slick French-wood, white walls and steel lamp-shades to extravagantly patriotic, British-flag strewn, chandeliered dining rooms, Meat London shows the entire pallet of what London has to offer. However, with the internet and iphone apps as its competitors (google-searches, food directories and search-your-immediate-area apps), one thing missing from this otherwise perfect book is a map. Although the inclusion of post-codes does ease searching, a visual aid to locations would have been incredibly useful. With pins perhaps representing featured restaurants labeled with relevant page-numbers. Other than the lack of map, there is little to complain about here. The hansom book also features an extensive selection of butchers in the city as well as some options for good meaty street-food. Almost everything is considered: a perfect pocket-sized companion for the London meat-lover, the meat-lover tourist, or the pescetarian with carnivorous mouths to feed and treat.
Meat London: An Insider’s Guide – For more on Meat London restaurant go to www.blackdogonline.com
Words Claire Hazelton