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Oct 20, 2009 06:06 AM

Buying great meat in London

I need to get hold of a great leg of lamb and a fillet of beef for a reasonable price. Any recommendations for where best to go? I cant go to smithfield as I've a job that requires me to turn up.

James Elliot in Angel? Borough market?

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  1. Assuming Farmer Sharp is selling at Borough, you'll get great Cumbrian hill lamb (and, I think, mutton). And Galloway beef. It won't be cheap.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Farmer Sharp is no longer at Borough unfortunately. According to the fruit/veg seller to the left of Farmer Sharp's old stand location, he went bust. Major bummer.

      1. re: CTownFeedR

        Great shame. Although I always reckoned he was wrong to concentrate his retail business on Borough rather than looking for local north western customers.

        So, by way of online retailers, may I give one of my periodic plugs for Mansergh Hall - north western, organic, well butchered, bloody marvellous meat.

    2. You're not missing much by being unable to make smithfield, it's mostly pretty grim (sacks of frozen chicken wings etc.) and pretty hard to score anything in small quantity. Good for stock bones though, often can be got for free. And for breakfast at the cock surrounded by butchers in blood splattered overalls, though the food is fairly pedestrian apart from the devilled kidneys. For meat it is easy to get good stuff if you're prepared to spend, everyone's favorite being Jack O Shea, but followed closely by the ginger pig etc. For a good value butcher, I reckon Mckenna Meats/Theobalds on Theobalds Road in Holborn takes some beating. While they aren't particularly lyrical in discussing where the animal might have lived, what it may have eaten etc, they are expert at spotting quality when it's dead. I've never been disappointed by anything I've bought from these guys, and would recommend this as the way to go, though bear in mind that a fillet of beef is a fillet of beef, and will be pricey regardless of provenance.

      1 Reply
      1. re: skut

        Would second that - McKenna is great as is Ginger Pig - there's a few about now so depending on where you live, is pretty accessible (if not pricey!)

      2. I think Jack O'Shea is really good - there's one in Selfridges and one in Knightsbridge.

        4 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          Thanks, I realise you pay top dollar for top cuts.

          I've always assumed the Jack O'Shea's in Selfridges is extra pricey because it's in Selfridges. Is this true? Or is it the same as other top notch butchers?

          1. re: alexdz

            M&R meats in st john st, just south of angel station is worth trying. I don't eat a lot of meat, but I've always had great steaks from there and they are very friendly and knowledgeable...and a old-fashioned local butcher so you won't be charged extortionate ginger pig prices ..I nearly fainted when i went in there!

            1. re: alexdz

              I don't think it's any more pricey than Borough or The Ginger Pig, but it certainly costs more than a local butcher will. Even my South London butcher charges £35 a kg for beef fillet.

              It might be easier for us to recommend places if you tell us where you're based, btw.

              1. re: greedygirl

                Yes, as greedygirl says, if we know where you're based for work or home...William Rose on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich is GREAT and, though expensive, good value. I get whatever I'm roasting for Christmas there, nuff said. Doves on Northcote Road in Clapham is also excellent and their pies are things of beauty.

          2. I'm very fond of stocks farm at the stoke newington farmers market. Their eggs are very good, too.

            2 Replies
            1. re: relizabeth

              i work in westminster and i live on the isle of dogs. neither is really renowned for their local shops unfortunately.

              also thanks for the advice so far!

              1. re: alexdz

                Hardly inside info. as this shop is well known, but it's very good, and accessable from Westminster. Take lots of money.


            2. I'd recommend buying online from the well hung meat company. I've been happier with this than anything I've bought from a shop in London.

              7 Replies
              1. re: juneavrile

                Thanks for all the tips. Much appreciated. I went to Jack O'Shea's in Selfridges and was served by Mr O'Shea himself, he's very nice. I'm curing the beef and rather than get a fillet, I bought some skirt instead as it was an awful lot cheaper and according to Thomasina Miers I could do the recipe with skirt instead of fillet. I also imagine it will have a more interesting flavour.
                My cure only has salt, sugar, peppercorns, rosemary and juniper berries as I thought hers a bit of a muddle. It's been in a day and a half and is firming up nicely.
                So rather than pay £47.50 for a kilo of fillet I paid £20 for about 1.4 kilos. The skirt is a thinner cut than the fillet so I think it will soak up more of the cure, but it should work just as well.
                The extra savings mean I can go down to Farmer Sharp on Saturday and get some top notch lamb. Ace.

                Also, one minor problem with JackOShea's, while I was at Selfridges I picked up half a dozen of his lincolnshire sausages. Whoever put the sausage mix together is an idiot, as there was far, far too much salt in the sausages. They were inedible and ruined my toad in the whole completely. What a pity as well, as they looked lovely. I guess some YTS just got careless when making the recipe, but you'd expect better.

                1. re: alexdz

                  dry or wet cured? never had any luck dry curing beef

                  1. re: skut

                    erm, wet i think. its very briney now.

                  2. re: alexdz

                    Would you ever use a fillet in the first place? Isn't the process designed to "soften" tougher (cheaper) cuts of meat, a fillet is prime meat thus doesn't need a marinade/cure to soften it. In effect the marinade allows you to get a cheap beef carpaccio from lower grrade meats (and there is nothing wrong with that). I suspect if you used fillet you made end up with a nasty mushy meat.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Bresaola is properly made with fillet, and the received wisdom among Italians is that bresaola can only be made with fillet. I however prefer using a cheaper cut like the pope's eye or the scotch fillet, as it has a more beefy flavour and has a more tasty marbling of fat. Alex, although your meat it giving off water and making the cure slushy, this is still a dry cure, and for best results you should poor off the liquid and add fresh cure mix as required. A wet cure would involve total submersion in a bucket of liquid brine, which I find easier, using half water/ half red wine with the salt and sugar dissolved in, along with any other aromatics. Cloves, cinnamon, dried chilies, orange peel and crushed garlic are all excellent. Dry curing is a more aggressive process, but much quicker, ie, what you dry cure in a week would take about a month to wet cure, but the advantage is a much less salty, more subtly flavored end product.

                      1. re: skut

                        Sorry - I saw the "wet" part of the answer and assumed it was a brine based marinade, IMO a no-no for fillet (I should have read the recipe).

                        I see now it is like a bresaola cure, although I thought that wasn't to tenderise the meat, instead the cure in bresaola is to prep it for the air drying by getting rid of bugs.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          thanks a lot skut and phil d for those tips. it worked really well and i was quite pleased with it. I dont think i sliced it as thinly as i would have liked but it was really tasty.

                          i think the problem with the skirt was that it was too thin a cut of beef, so their wasnt as much red middle as I would have liked. i'm definitely doing it again though.

                          btw, i got the lamb in the end from drings in greenwich. it was very good, and their service was incredibly helpful. also, their unsmoked back bacon was the best bacon i've ever tasted. and thats not hyperbole, it simply was the most amazing bacon. i took my first bite and stopped dead in my tracks (actually i was sitting down, but it stopped me from moving). i also got a faggot from there which i'm having for dinner tonight and cant wait.