MEATMarket’s Greasy Grub not for the Groundlings



 
As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes a ban on large-sized sugary drinks Yianni Papoutsis pushes bottomless Coke, Sprite and Fanta at MEATmarket, the latest spinoff of his trailblazing Meatwagon food truck. The free-flowing fizz reflects the earnestness of the London’s great burger pioneer, not so much in his backslapping of adoring supporters, but in his passion for junk food from the American frontier. Papoutsis approaches the food he loves without poshing it up, without irony. He wants only to do it justice.

With MEATLiquor, a burger joint atypically unfriendly to kids and teens (see: Father’s Office), Papoutsis, partner Scott Collins and their backers defied the laws of location ruling the restaurant and cocktail biz, transforming a cursed corner space under a bleak car park on the back side of Debenhams Oxford Street into the hottest spot in town. Its red-neon sign, spelling MEAT as if viewed through shutter shades, has drawn the hip and hungry like flies to a fluorescent tube.

But it might very well be MEATMarket and not MEATLiquor that endures as a case study marvelled at by future generations of students in property development. Its burger balcony is perched over a sea of I♥LONDON tat at Jubilee Market. Whereas MEATLiquor flourishes as fairground dark ride MEATMarket attempts the same in Covent Garden’s house of horrors – London’s trinket hell.

You can safely enter Jubilee Market from its Tavistock Street entrance and climb a flight to MEATMarket without rubbing shoulders with spotty adolescents from Milwaukee. There’s little risk of their following you up the stairs either: The kid-unfriendly message is delivered to parents by off-colour personal ads displayed in illuminated decorative panels and, less subtly, with the word “DICKS” on the men’s toilet door. (In three visits I did not see even one of the hundreds of teenagers below climb up for a double burger and fries.) Likewise, with protective netting stretching out from the gallery edge you can guzzle all the boozy shakes you want without worry of toppling down onto the flea-market floor. Otherwise, could you imagine the tabloid headlines?

MAN FALLS FROM JUBILEE MARKET MEZZANINE, IMPALED BY CRYSTAL REPLICA BIG BEN

Rising above the riffraff and eating not caviar but sloppy burgers may have its charms. You sit as as an upper cruster in a privileged position, devouring the groundlings’ greasy grub. But is this why Papoutsis and company chose Jubilee Market as the location for what may be the prototype for a chain of MEATMarkets? I doubt  it. Irony is not his thing. It’s more likely low rent had something to do with the decision. Or Frank Sinatra: “If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere!”

MeatmarketIn the burger department, my area of focus, the MEATMarket menu features only doubles, all £7.50 (not cheap): The Double Bubble (a standard double cheeseburger), the Dead Hippie (a sensational riff on the McDonald’s Big Mac) and the Black Palace (piled with grilled onions – nice!). My guess is that the “Black” in Black Palace stands for ground black pepper, so indiscriminate is its use. The beef patties in the three doubles I tried ranged from wet pink to dry brown, tender to slightly rubbery. At their best the MEATMarket burgers are not just over-the-top drippy. They’re over-the-balcony drippy, with enough onion soup spilling from the Black Palace to fill a teacup.

If, in conclusion, I’m finding MEATMarket difficult to love it has less to do with absence of consistency than loss of irony –  mine  – in this, the Great British Age of Great American Junk Food.

MEATMarket’s vanilla milkshake requires the assistance of a Dyson DC25 to suck through a fat straw. That’s amusing, even at £3 for a 10-ounce (.3 litre) serving. The thick truth is it makes you feel like a kid. But my question for food snobs who praise the structure of this or that artisan gelato while debating the merits of Tahitian and Madagascan vanilla pods is this: how can you dig up words of affection for a small cup of sugared brain freeze that tastes of nothing?

MEATMarket, Jubilee Market, Tavistock Street, London WC2E 8BE

 

 

About Daniel

Food critic and events leader Daniel Young is the "Young" behind young&foodish

Comments

  1. Rotter says:

    Isn’t Black Palace a play on White Castle?

  2. Gastro1 says:

    Is the mock “joint burger” the new opium of the people ? or at least a certain demographic ?

  3. Daniel Young says:

    Dino – In the burger world there sure is a lot of genre bending going on, usually with salt overkill.

  4. Daniel Young says:

    Rotter – You mean it’s not black pepper?

  5. Rotter says:

    Just seems to me that they’re saying it’s White Castle’s bigger, badder brother.

  6. Ian says:

    I’ve yet to have a really good MeatLiquor burger. The consistency at the various London joints drives me insane. Fine if you’re eating burgers every week, you get the rough AND the smooth. So far I’ve just got rough. I mean they’re good – but I don’t want good, I want what that towering sloppy messy feast that I saw people blogging, tweeting and instagramming.

  7. Rotter says:

    I’ve had my share & perhaps controversially concluded that in the mid-weight sub-£10 burger bracket, it’s hard to top a medium-rare double Byron.

  8. Daniel Young says:

    Rotter – A double without cheese at Byron is £10.70.

  9. Daniel Young says:

    Ian – The thing about the really good burger joints is they’re consistence. Oddly, it’s true of many of the really not-so-good burger joints, too. Is there a more consistent eating establishment than Burger King?

  10. Oddly what annoys me most about Meat Liquor and Market is the decor, I find both places seem to have been designed with a sniggering 15 year old in mind. Contrasted to #meateasy which for me hit the nail right on the head in terms of edgy cool. I also thought that meat liquor was a bit inconsistent early on, but recent visits to both have been spot on with burger quality.

  11. Daniel Young says:

    Donald – Well said about MEATLiquor and MEATMarket having been designed with the sensibility of sniggering 15-year-old in mind. Even so, you might be setting the age a year or two or three too high: I could imagine Ben, the young terror from Outnumbered, getting a rise from seeing DICKS on a men’s toilet door but not Jake, his teenaged older brother.

  12. Ronan says:

    Lucky Chip holds the crown in my view, though it’s a close run thing with them and MeatLiquor.

    Is MeatMarket very busy? Still not been along…

  13. So is this up where the “food court” used to be? There was a horrible Chinese and quite an OK Caribbean takeaway?

  14. Daniel Young says:

    Ronan – No queues, or crowds, at my three midday visits. Have no idea what it’s like in the evening.

  15. Andrew says:

    Agree with You completely Ronan as Lucky chip’s burgers are consistently tasty and
    good value for money and the truffle chips are to die for :-D

  16. Becki says:

    No question that Lucky Chip’s burgers are some of the best around at the moment, they’ve certainly done their homework.

    And Ian, agree with you that the consistency at MEATLiquor and MEATMarket isn’t great, but almost for the opposite reason – dare I say that you can have way too much of a “towering sloppy messy feast” and I know I’m in dangerous territory here, but this sums it up perfectly – http://thewheatandthechaff.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/are-meatmarkets-burgers-the-wrong-side-of-filth/

  17. AH says:

    I had a Black Palace a few days ago – with high anticipation after a very tasty burger at MeatLiquor. What a massive disappointment. The overt sloppiness has been well documented by others above and we also had an issue with inconsistency, some burgers rare, some well done. My burger was bizzerly hot in temperature – at least the meat was, i dont know how they got it that hot. That made the pickles and onions really steam up and along with the general sloppiness this made the bun (which they steam anyway) fall apart almost instantly. If you’re wrapping a burger in paper as they do here i dont think you need to steam the bun as well. I also found the meat a bit gristly – perhaps some of the fat in it had not redered properly? And only double burgers on offer?

    I’m not sure how this place manages to be so different from MeatLiquor? The tasty element on offer was the fries, and the girls on the front counter (is that appropriate?). But I won’t be rushing back for a burger.

  18. Mark says:

    I am sooo late the MEAT party, but what struck me most about my Dead Hippie experience last night was that I had simply just become another mug who had bought the hype and paid GBP13.50 for a Big Mac Meal.

    MEAT is great proof that you really can fool some people all of the time.

    When will we all learn? Just because some people will line-up to get in somewhere, it doesn’t mean that what’s inside must be good.

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