‘Top 7′ might seem like a random number. But I can assure you that there’s no randomness in this list. In an ongoing quest to find London butchers as brilliant as Joseph Morris in south Leicestershire, I am forever trying out new places thinking ‘maybe this will be the one.’
Every butcher on this list has earned its place for one reason or another. There are lots which didn’t make the cut though. Firstly, the Lidgate’s and Allen’s of Mayfairs, which make it onto most ‘Top London Butcher’s’ line-ups. They are traditional, and they are exquisite… but you practically have to remortgage your house to afford Sunday roast ingredients there.
Then, of course, there are the Bixton Markets and Ridley Roads – the latter of which certainly sells too much bush meat to make it onto my list. And finally, there are the old-school London butchers, like the one on Bethnal Green Road, where the meat, sadly, just isn’t that great. I do still shop there sometimes out of convenience, but the hams have a tendency to shrink, and the bacon is … utilitarian, rather than delicious.
Note that lots of the butchers on the list below are still very young: Moxon Street Ginger Pig established 2005, The Butchery established 2011, Turner & George established 2011(ish), Hill & Szrock established 2014. They’re born from the big London food revival, and a demand for better ingredients. Let’s hope more and more continue to pop up, because a good butchers is so exciting, and because variety is a wonderful thing.
This is the closest you’ll find to a village butchers, and it’s right on the fringe of The City. The service is fun and friendly, the range is enormous and best of all, it’s cheap. More than just a butchers, McKanna meats also sells luxuriant (and reasonably-priced) cheeses and other deli treats like duck confit. Buy pre-marinated meat, pre-assembled kebabs as a ton of ‘cheap cuts’ which actually are cheap: beef cheeks, ox tail, and enormous gammon knuckles for just £2.40.
21 Theobalds Rd, London, WC1X 8SL
020 7242 7740
8000-1930, Mon-Fri; 0800-1430 Sat
2. Smithfield [Wholesale Butchers] Ltd.
Best for: Esoteric cuts, game and ox bung
Smithfield Ltd. is a middle-ground between a genuine 4am Smithfield experience, and something which fits in with normal waking hours. The guys there are up with the market, but push on through until early afternoon (except on weekends). The butchers at Smithfield been so helpful in the past sourcing…unusual cuts. And they’re also quite active on social media, so it’s easy to drop them a Tweet to find out that they have pigeon or ox bungs in stock before you head over to Farringdon.
23 Smithfield Street, London, EC1A 9LF
www.smithfieldbutchers.co.uk; 020 7236 2425
0400-1500, Mon-Thurs; 0300-1600 Fri; 0700-1200 Sat
3. Hill & Szrock
Best for: Smoky bacon, sound advice and a glass of red
‘Master butcher’ by day, and ‘cookshop’ by night, Hill & Szrock invite punters to enjoy the meat cooked in-house in the evenings, very cunningly squeezing every penny out of their Broadway Market location. There’s a touch of the hipster vibe, with wine served from tumblers, bench seating and whole carcasses hanging in the window. But they guys here really know their stuff. Several times, now I’ve gone to the day-time butchers with one cut in mind, and left with another cheaper, and more interesting cut instead. A down-sell is a rare, and very honest thing. The meat is all free-range, and Hill & Szrock specialise in rare breeds. They take bacon and sausage-making pretty seriously, and the results are really very spectacular.
60 Broadway Market E8 4QJ
Butcher: 0800-1800, Tue-Sat.
Cookshop: 1900-2300, Wed-Fri; 1200-1700 Sunday (25 seats, no bookings).
The last time I visited, The Butchery was at the arches in Bermondsey, alongside other weekend pop-ups selling cheese and beer. A memorable shopping trip. Now nomadic Australian butcher, Nathan Mills, also splits his time between Brockley and Wapping markets at the weekend, and has a permanent base in Forest Hill. Mills sources his meat from small farmers who specialise in native breeds: ‘free to fly’ quail from Flakenham, traditional Hereford cows, Belties and Dexters. Proper job. I bought the most beautiful piece of pork shoulder for £20 (see above) – which easily fed eight, with lots of leftovers. It’s a fun and good-value butchers. What’s more, you leave with a clear conscious knowing that you’re supporting a good guy who, in turn, supports other good guys.
Mills also runspopular classes from Dockley Road in Bermondsey where you can admire his artistry and have a go yourself.
For information on The Butchery’s locations, click here, for Nath’s rather brilliant blog, click here.
Saturday: Brockley Market, 1000-1400
Sunday: Wapping Market, 1000-14000
www.thebutcheryltd.com; 0208 291 4219
5. Casa de Carnes
Best for: Spicy sausages, tubs of chicken liver, cheap salt fish and custard tarts
This incongruous Brazilian butcher in the dead patch between Hackney and Bethnal Green doesn’t make much effort when it comes to presentation. It’s entirely forgivable though when you see their range of spicy sausages. And even more forgivable when the guys there put them on the scales and tell you the price. The shelves are stacked with imported South American condiments and dried beans. Even when I’ve gone specifically for some chorizo, I’ve left laden with salt cod, chicken livers and a box of custard tarts – the prices make it hard not to.
223 Mare Street, London, E8 3QE
020 8986 6215
After writing in my introduction that I hadn’t included Lidgates or Allen’s of Mayfair due to their phenomenal expense, I feel a bit sheepish adding The Ginger Pig. It ain’t cheap. But The Ginger Pig’s empire, which now stretches all across London (see below for the seven stores), speaks volumes for the quality of the meat. It’s also the main supplier of cult steak joint Hawksmoor.
I’d never go to The Ginger Pig for a fillet of beef (Tom once turned pale after enquiring about the price of a rack of lamb there). But I’ve often been for quality cheap cuts, like a lovely beef shin, and it’s hard to pass a shop without popping in for one of their legendary sausage rolls.
Branches in: Barnes, Clapham, Hackney, London Bridge, Marylebone, Shepherd’s Bush, Waterloo.
www.thegingerpig.co.uk; General enquiries: 01751 460091
A deceptively young butchers, Turner & George started life as online delivery company, ‘The East London Steak Company’. Earlier this year though, it graduated to bricks and mortar in a beautiful tile-fronted shop at the top of St John Street, a prestigious spot.
In the past, I’ve taken much joy in ordering onglet, bone marrow and pigs trotters at 8pm via their (very informative) website, for them to arrive at 8am the following morning – beautifully wrapped with a meat-based joke included. Delivery is still free for orders over £40 within the M25. An easy price-point to reach, as Turner & George have an ever-expanding range of in-house condiments, and an amazing gift section with boxes ranging from ‘Gentleman’s Steak Night’ to ‘The Bone-In Feast’.
399, St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V4LD
www.turnerandgeorge.co.uk; 020 7837 1781
10am – 7pm (4pm Mon, 5pm Sat)
While I have visited lots of London butchers, I’ve barely scratched the surface, and this is by no means a definitive list. I’ve not yet been to Dove & Sons in Clapham, which I hear is very good, nor Chadwicks in Balham or Godfreys in Highbury Park. So please do share your London butcher experiences below, and help bolster the usefulness of this as a resource.