© Michael Franke
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Thu May 10 2012
Remember that experiment at school where you put one hand in a bowl of hot water, the other in a bowl of cold water, and then plunge both into a bowl of tepid water? The ‘hot’ hand feels cold, and the ‘cold’ hand feels hot. Funny, that. So it goes with restaurants. The more eagerly you anticipate that a place is going to be ‘hot’, the more likely it is to leave you a little cool.
Meat Market is the latest fast food joint from Yianni Papoutsis, Burger God to the Twitterati. First he created Meatwagon, a roaming burger van of exceptional standards (which briefly took up residence in New Cross as Meateasy); then came Meat Liquor (in collaboration with Scott Collins), a popular West End grill-and-booze bar, and now there’s this: a burger and hot dog joint overlooking Covent Garden’s tacky Jubilee Market.
At this latest permutation, you order at the till, grab a seat and wait at the high stools (around eight minutes, in our case). There’s no table service: when your name’s called, you collect the cafeteria tray yourself, and hope when you return that no-one’s pinched your jacket (or your seat).
The food comes wrapped in greaseproof paper, there is no cutlery, and there are no serviettes – just kitchen roll on the tables. As if to say: we don’t care about all that frou-frou stuff, it’s the food that counts. And there’s no getting away from it, our sloppy, juicy burger was pretty special. We ordered the ‘dead hippy’, in which two patties of top-notch ground beef do a little dance with pieces of finely chopped onion, thick slices of tangy gherkin, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and plenty of ‘secret sauce’. It’s not huge, so if you’re hungry, you’ll need a side order – our ‘poppaz’ (jalapeño peppers stuffed with cheese, breaded then deep fried) were outstanding, but the string fries were woody and bland.
This wasn’t the only disappointment. What they call a ‘ripper’, a giant hot dog, looked the part, but didn’t quite deliver. Sure, it was a proper ‘brat’ (a fat German pork sausage, served the Yankee way, in a soft finger bun with crisp fried onions and bacon bits) – but our bun was soggy and the kitchen was heavy-handed with the mustard. For less dosh this might be forgivable, but from a £7 hot dog you’d expect better.
Given that the venue charges sit-down prices (burger and fries comes to more than a tenner), you’re made to feel very rushed. Our trays were cleared away by brisk staff within 30 seconds of us finishing, and the growing queue for seats put paid to any thoughts of sticking around. It’s been designed with crowds in mind, with a one-way system and an illuminated sign stating ‘no queue jumping’ in 11 languages on the entry stairwell.
Nonetheless, Meat Market is going to do a rip-roaring trade. It makes a concerted effort to keep the tourists (shuffling about buying tacky souvenirs on the ground floor, blithely unaware of what lies above) at arm’s length – the street entrance is concrete and bare, decorated only with a series of deliberately off-putting pictures of greasy takeaway fare: an in-joke for the cognoscenti.
Once in, it’s just as anti-establishment: frenetic dance music on the speakers,‘Blues Brothers’ stage-netting to stop objects falling on to heads in the market below, ‘soft’ drinks laced with strong spirits, back-lit signs poking fun at the boss and a collection of colourful fridge magnets for staff to make unpublishable mischief with. The cool will come here because it screams: ‘I’m hip, I’m in the know,’ and the diehard groupies won’t mind if the queue snakes down the stairs, as the burgers are so good.
Meat Market The Mezzanine
- Cross Street:
Jubilee Market Hall
- Opening hours:
Meals served noon-11pm daily
Tube: Covent Garden tube
Main courses £6-£30. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30
- The Mezzanine
- The Mezzanine
- Meat Market
Restaurant and bar facilities. Take away. Bookings not accepted. General facilities. Available for hire
Drinks. Cocktails. Hip factor
- Type of event: