I openly acknowledge that my carnivorous street cred -- if such a thing exists, and I sort of hope it does -- has taken a beating lately. Prior commitments and poor timing have conspired against me, and it was only today that I made it to MEATliquor. Now those who don't fit into the aforementioned category will say, "Umm, what? First of all, wtf kind of name is that, and second, didn't it just open officially last Friday?"
To which I will reply, "Yes, it did, although there was a private opening, plus it unofficially opened the middle of last week, and, well, I like the name so consider us no longer friends."
However, there are those people, most probably the 3 of you reading this now, who are thinking, "Sucker, I've been 5x already....you're slow and pathetic." No argument there. But I made it, I did!
And man was it worth the wait. It was slightly disconcerting upon entering, as there was sunlight (!) streaming through the windows, and the volume of the music was probably not even halfway to eleven. As Yianni said to me when I ambled up to the bar, "You need to come back at night for the full experience." And come back I shall.
The space strikes a clever balance between chaos and order: vivid, exciting and insane imagery paper the walls and ceiling (including the domed centrepiece); even the delicate arches have been splashed with black, red and white paint. But the layout is very comfortable, with big booths lining 3 walls, and the rest of the seating is comprised of small round tables and high rectangular wooden blocks with stools scattered on their edges.
Anyhow, on to the business end: I had a quick chat with Yianni about the liquor menu, and seeing as I'd read multiple accounts of the English Breakfast Martini, I decided on that. He informed me that they make their own vermouth, and when I enquired about the coating on the quail's egg, he said it was a sort of "bacon dust." The martini itself was splendid; I'm not sure what recipe they used for the vermouth, as I've seen them contain anywhere from 2 to 25 herbs/berries....but this one definitely had some fruity/earthy aromatics, and it was lovely. I was much less impressed with the quail's egg, as the coating tasted much more of dust than bacon sadly.
Now, the main event: based (again) on the many write-ups I've already drooled over, my menu was decided well before I stepped through the door: fried pickles, buffalo chicken burger, and a cheeseburger. The pickles came first, and they were no disappointment: impossibly light and crisp batter gave way to a lovely thin slice of pickle, the taste of which reminded me very much indeed of the American brand Claussen -- not that it's a bad thing. I grew up on those pickles, among many others. But that batter: such a light coating - much more tempura than fish & chips - and perfectly seasoned. Once dipped in the blue cheese sauce, it was the perfect combination of salt, vinegar, batter, cheese and involuntary low groans.
They were served on a bed of insipid, slightly browning chopped iceberg lettuce, which was a shame, as I would've used it to shuttle even more of the blue cheese sauce into my mouth.
With that palate teaser out of the way, the burgers arrived shortly after, perched on a plastic tray covered in red/white patterned wax paper. As the burgerer (what's the male equivalent of burgerette?) slid it onto my table, he said, "You made a very good decision." Soon after, I couldn't agree more. I've had the cheeseburger many times before, and I knew what to expect, but even so, that first bite was heavenly. I love all sorts of burgers (as long as there's no egg, breadcrumbs, etc. involved), but these are my ideal. I haven't yet made it up to Lucky Chip, so I can't make the side-by-side comparison that most do, but damn this was delicious - perfectly cooked with a glistening pink centre, and the salty crust on the top and bottom complementing the fatty meat well. And this was a lovely coarse grind with a fantastic beefy flavour. Atop the patty oozed a slather of melted American cheese goodness whilst below it lay some pickles, lettuce and red onion. Yellow mustard and ketchup completed the innards, all delicately placed inside the signature bun - soft and yielding while somehow refusing to completely yield to the collective juices conspiring to tear it apart.
And then there's our friend the buffalo chicken burger - if that sounds even the least bit appealing to you, then I implore you, GO. Actually, scratch that, the queues are growing exponentially day by day as it is. But this is truly une révélation de poulet. The chicken breast is the antithesis of the ubiquitous cottage/shack varieties that sponge up liquor at 2a.m. Oh no, this is a plump, juicy number coated in a lovely breading, slightly thicker than that on the pickles, and then covered in a tangy buffalo sauce. A slather of mayo and a bed of lettuce top the chicken, all of which are stuck inside that same perfect bun. The vinegar in the sauce gives it acidity, there's a peppery element (sadly not spicy) to it as well, and then the mayo balances it out. And what a poor description that is of such a spectacular sandwich. To sum up: I sort of loved it.
So there we go: tons of food, all delicious, a good stiff drink, and I find myself £24.50 lighter -- that's without tip, and I most definitely added a deserved gratuity for the quick, friendly service. I will be returning shortly, and often, and in the process I hope to (re)gain some of that precious meat cred that I so cravenly covet.
Apologies for the rubbish pics; my camera battery was flashing "I'm dying!," and I snapped these clearly in haste and darkness.
Henrietta & Welbeck
W1G 0BA (map)
Tues - Sat, 12.00pm - 2.00am