Disclaimer: Vegetarians (and most especially vegans) should probably stop reading here, as this is likely not your kind of reading. Sorry guys…
Despite the somewhat pricy tickets, what true blue carnivore could resist the seared and bloody siren song of a festival that is pretty much entirely dedicated to MEAT? (capitals: emphasis, fyi). So, off I went with camera in hand to see if someone had managed to build a utopia out of dead animals.
Had they? I wouldn’t go that far, but it was an experience that my mouth will not forget for a long, long time…
I won’t forget the experience of actually getting to Meatopia, which is somewhat hilarious in itself. Getting off at Shadwell overground, as you make the short walk down onto The Highway to the venue, you could actually see a plume of smoke which grows thicker as you got closer to the event…
Did I mention the smoke smelt like meat? ‘Cos it did. It smelt like someone set fire to a warehouse full of meat, and miraculously only the meat managed to catch fire. Which is actually and exactly what Meatopia was. I was already excited and mentally prepared to eat my bodyweight in weight (not literally, since unfortunately I’m not a T Rex 🙁 )
Tobacco Dock is essentially a converted warehouse, with a drydock out back where an old sailing ship sits. I’ve never been but apparently it’s played host to events such as the London Tattoo Convention. I’d imagine, considering it’s name, that there used to be a lot of tobacco leaf in there.
Blah blah blah boring, back to the meat already…
So, anyway, I’m experimenting with more picture lead articles, so instead of talking you into some kind of sweaty meaty word stupor (lol), I’ll bombard you with some images of Meatopia instead. But for posterity I will let you know about the meats I got to try and my verdict (no complaints)
Ceviche – Tender Ox Heart With Yucca Chips
If you’ve ever listened to any Spanish derived music, Corazon is one of the words you’ll have probably spotted. In Spanish, it means heart, and usually refers to delicate emotions and dramatically complex love scenarios. In this case, it refers to eviscerated ox hearts, served up with Yucca fries/chips. I’m pretty meaty, but am not all that fond of most offal (a run in with campylobacter after some undercooked lamb’s liver will do that to you).
This experience, however has converted me at least to doing more things with heart. It tasted like a fattier, richer cut of beef – all the way down to a similar texture – hella satisfying. The yucca chips were OK, a novelty with a sorta rewarding starchy mouth feel – but not really too great, comparing to some of my favourite root veggies, like sweet potato, or parsnips. I’d definitely order again, and when I get the freezer space again, will be experimenting with a few ‘hearty dinners’ (had to be said…)
Seamus Mullen – Tamworth Pig Paella
Continuing with the unplanned Spanish theme, I don’t think I’ve met a Hispanic man called Seamus before. But whoever this possibly Irish, Spanish fella is, he sure knows about how to make a mean (and predictably/excessively meaty) paella. It’s probably the only paella I’ve ever had in which the meat outweighed the bomba rice. Think a slab of pork, some amazing garlicky kinda sauce and maybe some chicken in there?
They were also very generous, the ladyfriend pointed to a huge piece of pork in the pan and asked for that to be served with her portion (she was joking) and the guy cheerfully obliged, leaving her with a hugely imbalanced slab of pork with her paella. Nice one – possibly Irish Spanish man. Mum lived in Spain, so I’ve tried many varieties of paella. But this is one of the best *thumbs up in-between mouthfuls*
BBQ Whisky Beer – Squid Ink Kimchee
Squid Ink Kimchee and Beef Shortrib. I suppose that this might be Korean food, it had kimchee in it, afterall, but it’s unlike any Korean I’ve ever tried. The squid ink was so black that it was actually kind hard to photo properly (so please forgive me for the crappy picture, i didn’t have flashgun to hand…). It was definitely incredible, I love beef shortrib and this one fell off of the bone (and into my mouth).
The squid ink kimchee was sweet and complimented the beef perfectly. It was like the best ‘sweet and sour’ I’ve ever had (which isn’t hard ‘cos I’ve had a lot of stuff that I think has been deep fried in coca cola) And yes, I dunno what squid ink is supposed to taste like, but if this is the general consensus then as they say, ‘sign me up’ (to some kind of reoccurring scenario that involves the eating of squid ink, or something…)
Hawksmoor – Beef (pretty sure that’s all it was)
The legendary Hawksmoor weren’t going to let anything like vegetables or SIDES get in the way of the gratuitous cow consumption. Their offering was basically rare beef with a small portion of what I think was béarnaise sauce. But of course it was bloody good beef (on multiple levels) – this is Hawksmoor goddamnit. Simple perfection with minimal seasoning (which means not too salty).
They were also ruthlessly fast at serving up, considering how many people wanted a piece of the action (and by action I of course mean more beef). I’m not kidding, my friends went back for seconds, which is understandable – I would have if I didn’t have more to try at that point. And yes, I admire the ballsy simplicity behind it, but they could have provided a paltry side to create the illusion of more to eat. Most of the other restaurants did. For, a thing so tantalising…well, it was not nearly enough for me…
Koya – Venison Sashimi
Koya’s offering was all Japanese elegance and understated simplicity. Venison sashimi? Yup. Their head chef, Junya Yamasaki, a distinctively tall Asian fellow, was meticulously cutting his way through kilograms of hay seared venison – and it was just him mind you – probably cutting to a meticulous convention passed down through hundreds of years of culinary tradition. Nippon style…
This meant a ridiculously, ridiculously long que. It was bloody good though. Unlike a lot of the other meals, this one tasted very virtuous – it tasted healthy. I guess I could be psyching myself on this. Was it worth the 30+ minute que? Yes, but only because I had good company. Probably the kind of thing that health and safety inspectors are terrified by, and casual meat eaters wouldn’t dare touch – it was essentially near to raw venison, served with similar presentation that you’d get with a sushi sashimi. It had a wonderful soft mouth texture…
Meatopia is a vegetarian’s heterocyclic amine infused nightmare and something worth considering for the carnivores amongst us.
No, I’m not going to refer to it as a ‘carnivore’s dream’ because, realistically, the portion sizes aren’t large enough for the Tier 1 Ticket (which is what I bought). Everything I did eat was varying degrees of incredible, and I’m glad I didn’t go into it hungry, else it would have very probably cost me dear.
Oh, I forgot to mention that there was also live music and I think stand up comedy as well, and maybe some other things that didn’t involve eating meat. But I’m pretty sure that nobody was paying attention to any of that at all since we were all busy filling our bodies with various varities of seared animal carcass.
And who can blame us, huh?