Recently, The Women's Room found itself exhausted and needing to buy supper for four hungry men in Mayfair. Too much time spent looking in shops and not enough planning a trip to the supermarket meant we were faced with shopping for chicken in one of the poshest butchers known to man, Allens of Mayfair.
Allens is a proper butchers, half lambs hanging from the ceiling on shiny steel hooks, kidneys still encased in their suety wrapping in the window and the biggest bit of beef I have ever seen suspended above a covetable butchers block table in the centre of the shop. Much to my surprise, the service was not in the least bit stuffy, instead a butcher in an artfully bloodied white coat suggested the perfect chickens to roast for that evening's supper and then (this is SO the best bit) wrapped both of them up in waxed brown paper before popping them in a brown branded carrier bag. They did not cost the earth and I spent my time (while waiting for the chickens to be tucked up) admiring the simply gorgeous shop interior, gleaming white ceramic tiles, fabulous scales, and a set of knives you'd sell your granny for.
When roasted, the chickens were really tasty, it made me rethink my meat purchasing and I went out to search for a local butcher of quality. I found a great one, in East Sheen, which is run by butchers who ask you what you're cooking with whatever it is you've bought and suggest you take a few spare bones for stock from their giant pile. I love their expertise and enthusiam and I covet all the bits of equipment in the shop, is it too early in our relationship to put in an offer for the beautifully worn cutting board?
It's the smell that makes you realise what your missing when you buy meat that's sold in clingwrap. Meat should smell, a rich, gamey metallic aroma that makes you connect with the animal. It's the same with fishmongers, the good ones always smell of the sea but you get none of this from pre-packed salmon slices.
We love supermarkets, obviously, but from now on, we're sticking with our local experts when buying meat.
* With apologies to all our veggie readers….