I OCCASIONALLY write about restaurants “still running in”, but the first article I published about The Butcher’s Kitchen which only began trading on February 8, referred to delivery mileage, so new was it then.
That was for a sister paper. I went recently to carry out a “first major service” on behalf of Zimbabwe Independent readers, after a bit more than six months’ trading, but really because of a poster I saw there the weekend previously.
It quite clearly read (I paraphrase): “Wednesday specials with Sea Harvest: 10 different fish courses available, starting THIS Wednesday.”
So, being a fish lover and not over-fond (these days) of the tremendous looking steaks TBK specialises in, I returned on Wednesday (having been unable to find a seat on Sunday for a quick coffee) but no one knew a damned thing about the fish deal! And the poster had gone!
I can’t have been all that hungry as I said “no” to soup-of-the-day, which was mushroom (and I’d enjoyed a superb example of it a few days previously at Greek Sizzler restaurant on the other side of the busy Borrowdale Road, at Pomona.)
One of TBK’s daily special main courses was — allegedly — fish, chips and mushy peas. On this occasion, I think, understandably, I read “mushy” to mean the common culinary definition: dried marrowfat peas, steeped (or is it seeped?) overnight. Cooked with bicarb and salt, with often a leaf or four of chopped mint added to deepen flavour and colour, this is a true and unforgettably delicious North of England staple with fish ‘n’chips.
But “mushy” in Africa also means simply “very nice” and the vegetable accompaniment to TBK’s fish (hake, I think) and chips were certainly quite nice, but featured frozen petite pois (baby peas), cooked with diced caramelised onion and (again, I think) chopped capers?
Certainly quite nice, but I really look forward to wolfing the pukkah article at probably Bryant’s Fish Restaurant, near Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s headquarters, Headingley, Leeds, well before you read this article.
Whatever the TBK fish was, and I’m sure it was marine rather than a fresh-water specimen; it was a large slab of pure white protein, which sliced cleanly in moist pearlescent thick flakes. Proper beer-batter was crisp, golden and delicious, screaming to be eaten to the last crunchy scrap. Chips were those slim willowy, bought in ones, rather than the big, square hand-cut jobs I prefer, but were cooked superbly. So management’s forgiven for corner cutting!
I took a butcher’s (hook, look in Cockney rhyming slang) at TBK again. It’s amazing how many folk use rhyming slang, not realising it. “Use your loaf” is the truncated form of “use your loaf of bread” (head) meaning common sense. “Get down to brass tacks” means “Discuss the facts”. I heard what a true Cockney would probably call a toffee-nosed twit describing someone as “A prize berk”.
I’m sure he didn’t know that was very course.
I still didn’t know really whether to be amazed, filled with admiration or disappointed at TBK.
It’s mainly (floor area-wise) a gourmet delicatessen, butchery, fishmonger, etc, selling a luscious range of epicurean goods from across the culinary world. That seems to work well, although I’ve never seen queues for wine, crusty French bread, whole wheels of Brie, smoked salmon, charcuteries, crustaceans etc.
Adjoining the butchery is a display of meat and shellfish to be chosen and charcoal-grilled. You pay for steaks (all hung 21 days), chops etc by weight and that’s what your sit-down meal costs, with chosen starch: German mash, “home-fries” (hmm!), baked potatoes or rice.
On my initial visit I chose two grand pork chops which (eventually) were served at an outside table with a generous dollop of mash, no more Teutonic than me, and stir-fried veg, at US$2 extra. (You can have veg instead of starch…or opt for a side-salad.)
There are now starters, such as the soup; lovely sounding breakfasts are served until 11:30am, including smoked kippers or haddock with coddled eggs at US$7. Full English with bottomless coffee looks a bargain at US$8; American pancakes with fresh fruit, syrup, honey and cream or French toast with strawberries are US$4.
Make-your-own wraps with a grand selection of fillings are US$7 and sandwiches US$5; nicest sounding was Black Forest ham with cheese.
Ordering area was cramped, but now a waitress comes to the table to take instructions. There never seems to be enough seats for all wannabe punters! (That’s why I left, coffee-less the previous weekend.)
My mouth-watered at the thought of bread-and-butter pudding…BUT it wasn’t the old British recipe using often stale left-over crust-less bread baked with sultanas, raisins or currants, slathered with rich, dense, buttercup yellow custard.
TBK serve a much less rich purpose-baked confection, with cream or ice-cream. If I’d never tasted the real McCoy, I’d have been perfectly satisfied with what I ate. Having said that, in the absence of the real thing, I’d order this pudding again tomorrow! (Well, not tomorrow, I’ll be in England, Scotland, Turkey or Morocco tomorrow!)
TBK isn’t the place to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary or your son’s PhD. I would have said it WAS the ideal spot for a quick substantial meal, but speed wasn’t really its hallmark, judging by my double experience and that of tables around me.
But then, on the second visit, I wasn’t really in a hurry. Dipping into a paperback thriller, I sipped fairly dear (US$3) chilled lager and people-watched some of the prettiest girls on this planet parade past, while trying to fathom three skanky-looking Russians, muttering monosyllables at the next table.
Spies? Money-launderers? IDB guys? After our platinum, gold, coal or chrome? Moscow Mafia hit squad? Or just new cultural staff at the former Soviet Embassy?
Butcher’s Kitchen, Borrowdale Village (ex-Keg and Sable); fully licensed, open daily.
Phone 884445 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dusty Miller rating Three Stars Plus, July 2012.