London butcher makes it into Michelin Guide

London butcher Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop has won a listing in the Michelin Guide, published earlier this month, for its evening restaurant offer. 

The entry reads: “Butcher’s shop by day, restaurant by night, with a central marble-topped table, counters around the edge and a friendly, lively feel. Daily blackboard menu of top-quality meats, including steaks aged for a minimum of 60 days. No bookings.”

The retail butcher, which specialises in organic and free-range meat, cures its own bacon and makes its own sausages, opened in March 2014 in Broadway Market, Hackney. The business puts staff through apprenticeships with Meat Ipswich.

From the beginning, it had always operated as an independent butcher by day and a restaurant by night, explained co-founder Luca Mathiszig-Lee. He has worked in the restaurant trade for the past 11 years and founded the business with Tom Richardson Hill, a previous head butcher at Godfreys Butchers in Highbury Park, London.

“The restaurant side of it has definitely grown,” said Mathiszig-Lee. “We used to do Wednesday to Saturday nights. Now we do every night and Sunday all day.”

The restaurant area is in “exactly the same space” as the retail area, he said. “You walk through the door and it’s a large room, with a big marble table in the middle and marble ledges around the edge. Our window is our fridge and that’s where all the meat goes.

“The boys during the day work on the big table. There’s no counter, so you walk in and you’re next to the butchers. On the ledges we have all our sauces and wines and retail stuff. That runs from 8am until 6pm. Then at 6pm we wash the whole place down and at 7pm, 12 people can sit around that big table and around the ledges we can sit another 13 people, so it turns into a small 25-seater restaurant.”

The menu varies every day. Recent fare has included a chef-made pâté, an anchovy platter, cured meats, rib eye, pork chops, chicken supreme and lamb leg, all cooked under the watchful eye of head chef Jamie Allen. Sides include vegetables, potatoes and salad. The shop posts the daily menu on Instagram. The business is currently looking at developing its charcuterie offer, among other things.

Sometimes menu choices are intended to inspire shoppers to buy a particular product in the shop, to encourage sale of the whole carcase. “People eat out for dinner, but wouldn’t go into a butcher’s shop to buy their meat. The idea was to encourage people to come in, eat the meat and then they would use the shop during the day to buy the meat.

“It works pretty well," said Mathiszig-Lee. "People feel safe once they have tried something. We get a lot of people who would go out to eat, but wouldn’t go to their local butcher’s shop. Because of the relationship of trust they have built up with us, they will go to our shop… It encourages young people to start using an old school shop.”

He said the approach made sense, because it helped to cover London’s expensive business rents. “If you have a restaurant, lunches are what kill you. With the rents and rates going up, people are going to have to start thinking of ways to use their shops all the time.”

He said retail butchers considering a similar concept would have to get to grips with additional health and safety rules. Hill & Szrok’s model was simplified by the fact that the site was originally designed to run as a shop and a restaurant, rather than being converted to serve as a restaurant at a later point.

Other restaurants name-checked in the Michelin Guide are run from old butcher’s shops and draw on that pedigree. But as far as Mathiszig-Lee is aware, Hill & Szrok is the only restaurant mentioned that is also a retail butcher.

“I always wanted a restaurant of my own. I had always found the design of butcher’s shops so beautiful – the white, square tiles, carrara marble everywhere, so it has designed itself.

“It’s nice to get some recognition for what we have done,” he said.

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