I have popped into to a few of Jamie’s restaurants over the years and whilst I’ve found some of his concepts to be fab, others are hit and miss (there are only so many times starters appearing on giant cricket bats is a fun novelty). However, an evening at a meat and BBQ joint in the city is not to be sniffed at, and sounded right up my street.
Barbecoa is opposite St Paul’s, and depending on where you’re sitting offers great views of the cathedral, all glowing and imposing. It’s an impressive space and excellent for taking clients and the like, which is what I imagine many of the punters are doing.
What intrigued me most was the prospect of getting involved in one of their butchery sessions, where you go into a whiskey bottle-lined side room with your group and get taken through the butchery of an almost-whole carcass mere inches in front of you. It was something I’ve certainly never seen before, and going by the cringes and the occasional muffled gasp of my fellow visitors as bones and tendons cracked and snapped, neither had anyone else.
On arrival at Barbecoa, we were swept into a little side area sectioned off from the main restaurant, and swiftly given Champagne Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a good start in my book. It was accompanied by mini lamb pasties, with tender meat and beautiful buttery, flaky pastry Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a delight but you eat them very conscious that there’s a whole lamb carcass lying right next the plate of lamb pasties. I’m not too squeamish about where food comes from and I think it’s important not to be hypocritical about it, but I was veryÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ aware.
One of Barbecoa’s chefs, a very friendly chap called Jeff, went through the taking apart of the lamb, limb by limb, highlighting what each piece was, exactly where it came from and suggesting the best ways of cooking it. He was very knowledgeable, and incredibly deft and skilled.
At first I thought the masterclass element meant we’d be hacking up the thing ourselves, but two minutes in it was clear why that wasn’t the case. It really is an art, and as the seemingly huge carcass became a pile of recognisable cuts it was obvious that butchery is a) not for the faint-hearted, and b) certainly not something you pick up overnight.
It was a great experience, thought-provoking to see an entire animal on a table like that and watch it become what we see in the shops. As part of the wave of food mindfulness that’s sweeping consumer consciousness, I’d go so far as to say it’s something all meat-eaters should do at some point.
More info about their meat chopping sessions on the Barbecoa site.