Meatopia festival arrives in London | Festival review
Meatopia, New York’s annual meat and barbecue festival, finally arrived in London this weekend, attracting hundreds of excited carnivores from across the UK. The landscape unfolded through a thick mist of smoke, perfumed with the heady scent of charring meat. Each step forward revealed a new temptation: hamburgers, paella, meatballs, ox heart, beef ribs, venison, poultry and pork.
The event was held over two indoor floors within East London’s Tobacco Dock, with brass bands and Brazilian samba players entertaining a lower deck while a sound stage above showcased an eclectic mix of performers. A children’s area included face-painting and a disco, and a dockside outdoor space featured quirky food carts and a demonstration theatre. The mood at the all-day event was buoyant, despite long queues, as British and American chefs joked with crowds and posed for photographs.
Home-grown offerings included Gizzi Erskine’s Korean Spiced Chicken Wings, the Pitt Cue Co’s Pigs Head Sausage with Apple Ketchup and The Run BMC Burger from Almost Famous. The Wild Game Co’s Venison Steak Frites saw buttery chips and tender red deer venison, fragranced by rosemary-topped coals, paired with chilli mayonnaise. Not to be outdone, Moro’s Sam Clark dished up a cacophony of flavour and texture via Quail with Cumin and Paprika. Served over a chopped salad and crowned with spiced labneh (yogurt), it was the perfect summer dish.
From across the pond, the award-winning Seamus Mullen cleared 13 gigantic trays of Paella de Cerdo, while burger chain Shake Shack – which has dual nationality since opening in the UK – veered away from its signature patties with a succulent Confit of Hog’s Belly and a hotdog overpowered by pickled peppers. Chris Hastings, from Alabama-based restaurant The Hot and Hot Fish Club, delivered the event’s standout dish: Smoked Chicken and Crimson Grits. Each bite of the lightly-flavoured meat in a fruity sauce, brimming with peach slices and whole blackberries, was a complex yet subtle triumph.
Provenance was paramount to the festival and all meat was supplied by London merchants, Turner & George. Beverages also had a local slant, with an emphasis on craft ales, including Hivers’ Honey Beer – not too sweet and with a floral note to compliment the smoky meats. Alternatives of bourbon-laced cocktails stayed true to the festival’s American roots.
Frustratingly, several food stands had sold out by 6pm, and numerous cocktails and ale varieties ran dry. Fortunately, we managed to bag a trio of squidgy treats from The Marshmallowists for dessert – Passion Fruit & Ginger, Blueberry & Portobello Road Gin and Pear & Elderflower – others weren’t so lucky.
Launched by award-winning food writer Josh Ozersky in 2003, Meatopia is arguably far more than a pig-out session for meat lovers. The event bore all the hallmarks of a ritualistic ancient sacrifice, albeit in a modern context: intense reverence for the animal, respectful butchery, celebration and a perpetuation of long-standing traditions. In addition to full bellies, we left Tobacco Dock with a cult-like appreciation for charred and seared meat – a divine experience in every sense!
Photos: Andrei Grosu
For further information about Meatopia London, Tobacco Dock, Wapping, London, E1W 2SF visit here.