Sunday, 10 February 2013

Meat Mission - London

There’s been something of a ‘junk food trend’ backlash of late with one of the more respected national restaurant critics bemoaning the fact ‘gourmet junk food’ was so prevalent in 2012. I can see her point, but now that I call Bristol home and have the perspective that 100 miles or so of M4 motorway gives, from where I’m sitting I’d say, it’s very much centred in London. Personally, I’m not quite tired of it yet.

Although there are more places than I can count on my fingers and toes churning out gourmet junk to stuff your gob with in the capital, there are not many who are actually doing anything that’s really original or interesting.

With these very thoughts framed in my tiny mind, I recently found myself in Hoxton heading to the latest incantation of Yianni Papoutsis’ rapidly expanding empire, Meat Mission.

I’d already eaten at the older siblings in the group, Meat Liquor and Meat Market. With regards to ML, I wasn’t quite convinced. Don’t get me wrong, the food itself was great (I’m a big fan of the Dead Hippie Burger) but I’d eaten there during the daytime and it was the general environment that I found a bit much; gloomy lighting, pounding music, wall to wall customers, indifferent service, artfully exposed wiring and graffiti. It almost felt like it was trying just a bit too hard, a kind of TGI Friday’s for Hipsters. To be honest, I couldn’t eat up and clear out fast enough.

Strangely enough, I liked Meat Market a lot more. Despite having much in common, menu wise, with ML it has a very different vibe; less Hollister’esque, and more New York-Japanese neon and chrome, industrial cool. Having eaten there a couple of times now, I’ve come to appreciate the concept a lot more and was really looking forward to trying Meat Mission.
Housed in a former Christian Mission, (hence the name) Meat Mission is pretty damn big, dark, loud and absolutely rammed. The pulpit and carved stone memorials remain in place, now bizarrely co-existing with a stained glass effect graffiti ceiling. Almost all the things I previously disliked about ML were present and correct, but weirdly I didn’t mind that much. I figure it’s because it was the evening, and that kind of atmosphere just feels right after dark. During the day, it’s just disorientating, a bit like when you’ve spent hours ensconced in the cinema and walk out, somehow expecting night and instead squinting in the late afternoon sun.
It was so heaving I ended up squeezing myself in at the end of the bar and studying the menu masquerading as a hymn sheet, nice touch. As well as the ML and MM classics, there’s a load of entirely new stuff. The sheer inventiveness of the menu is definitely one of the restaurant’s strengths. Yeah, it’s the usual filthy US inspired trash food ingredients but in most cases re-worked into something entirely new, combined with a cheeky wink and huge grin. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Briefly consulting the (mostly) ever-reliable oracle, Twitter, I’d been offered a pretty much unanimous consensus, on what I should be trying; Monkey fingers and Peckham Dip.
Monkey fingers; strips of chicken fillet encased in a strangely flabby batter, which is itself coated in a sticky chilli sauce were an absolute mess to eat, I got frigging covered in it, all over my hands, my face and up my arms. But there’s no denying they were bloody good. The portion is fairly hefty, which is no bad thing. The seemingly all-pervasive chilli coating had a nice kick and combined with a monkey finger dipped in the accompanying pot of blue cheese dip was total bliss.
Unfortunately for me and my dry cleaning bill, the Peckham dip was just as messy to eat. A roast beef and fried onion roll with a bowl of bone marrow gravy and some horseradish sauce. The idea here is you dunk the beef roll in the bowl of gravy as you eat, in the US this is known as a French dip, originating in Los Angeles. Lovely. But gravy dip aside, the beef roll itself was strangely reminiscent to me of a much loved fast food item from my youth, growing up in Basildon, Essex. It was suddenly 1am. I’m in a car park behind ‘The Lakes’ near Ashlyns roundabout, joining a raucous queue of taxi drivers, lairy drunks, furtive track suited teenagers billowing clouds of skunk and saucer eyed clubbers all shuffling slowly towards a glowing, steaming hatch and the most amazing steak rolls. Unbelievably the Peckham Dip tastes exactly like the ones I used to eat in Basildon, the same kind of seasoning, even the roll itself looks similar. Don’t get me wrong. This is no bad thing. I took many a wide, stumbling drunken, detour just to procure one of these so I was well happy. I doubt Meat Mission will be much flattered by the comparison though.

After that, I was stuffed silly; I pretty much rolled out of there on my stomach.

I liked Meat Mission a lot. Yep, it’s loud, busy and in your face, the closest comparison would be eating in a nightclub. But the menu is clever, inventive, fun and most importantly, the food is bloody good and pretty cheap. As a temple to Gourmet junk food, it’s one altar worth worshipping at.

Meat Mission
14-15 Hoxton Market
N1 6HG

Telephone: 020 7739 8212


Mallika said...

Sounds great. Do they take bookings? I can just about tolerate trumped up junk food in a restaurant. But queuing to get to it is a disgrace, frankly.

Dan said...

Mallika - I don't know if they take bookings. I suspect not, but give em a ring and ask. I didn't queue to get in and probably wouldn't have bothered if there was a wait. Saying that, if it's that popular people have to queue up, good luck to them

London Chow said...

Hey, I think they do take bookings. In fact, this is the only MEAT to take bookings.

I found the thumping music too much as well. Perhaps I'm getting too old for that kind of thing. Prefer to enjoy my burger in peace instead.

On a seperate note, the photo booth tucked in a corner near the entrance seems to be quite a hit with groups though.

Dan said...

London Chow - Awesome, that'll please some people then. The thumping music, I have to be in the mood. It's definitely more a night time place. I didn't see the photo booth, I'll have to check it out next time.

Gary Fenn said...

The Lakes! Quality Essex reference Dan.

Dan said...

Gary - Ha! I misspent a whole chunk of my youth over 'The Lakes'.