MEATliquor, Marylebone

MEATliquor, Marylebone

This post was first published in December 2011.
If Roti Chai has enjoyed its fair share of blogospheric activity in recent weeks, it’s nothing compared to that provoked by the burgers of a certain Yianni Papoutsis over the last couple of years. Now, I must admit that I’m a bit biased when it comes to Papoutsis’s enterprises and, more specifically, to the food they revolve around. I was expanding my gut to the tune of his carnivorous revolution yonks before pretentious hipsters gave #Meateasy their blessing and have always found him to be an affable character – I’m still grateful for the interview he gave me for an Eastlondonlines article.
But more importantly, it’s the sort of food that takes me back to my misspent youth in Massachusetts. One bite of a jaw busting Dead Hippie burger or a gob-full of buffalo wings heavily doused with blue cheese sauce and I’m thirteen again, it’s Friday night in West Concord, and the waitress at Pub 99 is casting disapproving glances at my table as we empty whisky-filled water bottles into refillable soda cups under the table.
It was extremely unlikely, therefore, that I was ever at risk of disliking his latest venture and first genuine bricks and mortar operation, MEATliquor. The only pertinent critical question was: how much would I like it? Al and I decided to tip up after our dinner in Marble Arch for some nightcaps – always plural in my book – and sample the vibe of the place on a Saturday night.  I’m happy to report that the new joint is as gloriously seedy as ever, though the sleaze factor is perhaps partially mitigated by the fact we were in Marylebone, not New Cross.

Still, he is clearly a man who sticks to his principles, and when those principles revolve around burger-fueled debauchery, it’s fairly certain to garner approval from the Scavenger Gourmet.

You’d think that the huge demand for Papoutsis’s burgers, the infamy of nights at the #Meateasy, and the melee of favourable press coverage that accompanied MEATliquor’s unveiling would mean that the place would be rocking at midnight on a Saturday. Pretty much the only food blog I read that hasn’t featured it is based abroad, while it has also been lauded by Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard and even popped up in the Eurostar’s lifestyle magazine.

Certainly, all the formalities for a raucous atmosphere appeared to be in place: the food confirmed as being as deliciously dirty as ever, a 2 am license at weekends and, like its ‘chop-up’ predecessor, imaginative and lethal cocktails courtesy of the Soul Shakers team.

So I have to admit to being slightly confused at not finding a leery two-hour long queue outside the place when we rocked up.

In fact, there was no queue. In fact, it was practically empty, the rockabilly DJ playing his shit-stomping tunes to an almost empty house. This was great in that both our drinks and the snacks we sampled with them came almost instantly. Al quaffed one of their famous cocktails: we both forget what it contained but remember it was damn good. So good she actually had two. Said cocktails were, I am happy to report, still being served in jam jars: not only is it eco-friendly, it’s also just really damn cool.

I drank ‘Old Skratch’ Amber Lager from Colorado’s Flying Dog Brewery, a brilliant malty example of lagers that actually taste of something. The buffalo wings were on better form than ever, but it was the deep fried pickles – a new addition to the menu – that were the revelation of the night.

Though I often arrogantly look down on the Southern masses for their habit of deep frying everything from butter to turkey to Coke, it turns out that warm, crispy batter is the perfect foil for tangy, sweet and sour gherkins. Both came with the best blue cheese sauce I’ve had this side of the pond. It was so good it would probably even make Tofurky tasty.

To summarise, my first visit to MEATliquor was pretty faultless. Both the munch and the punter treatment were better than ever, and I found the aesethetics of the new venue spot on as well – like a larger, crack den version of Spuntino.

But the experience also worried me. I enjoy snappy service as much as the next oligarch, but it’s never been a part of the whole Meatwagon/#Meateasy vibe.  Now, that’s not to say to Yianni and his crew: “Next time I walk through the door, please ensure I wait at least an hour for a plate of chicken wings.” Just that I sincerely hope the place doesn’t just survive, but thrives without the knobby art student crowd that came with the New Cross days.

In other words, I hope I’m not the only one planning on getting drunk and stuffing my face with burgers there many a night in the future. Good meat and liquor were both there in abundance: where the hell were you?

Thanks to Treesiepopsicles for the great image.

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