I am a fully fledged, paid-up member of the meat-eating brigade. From dirty burgers slathered in cheese, bacon and pulled pork, to buttermilk chicken in syrup, London’s carnivorous offerings are increasingly bigger and brasher. While there’s nothing I love more than some fried chicken, it seems that a simple steak or pork chop has been lost under a mountain of gluttony to create the ‘dirtiest’ meal available; but one restaurant bucking the trend is Meat People in Angel.
Hard chairs, shiny surfaces and damn tasty breakfasts have been sustaining Eastenders for decades. And fortunately the lads down at Historical England have seen the light, given the spiralling, intricate structures built by ambitious Victorians a break, and slapped a Grade-II listing on 4-6 Essex Road - a former greasy spoon - instead.
Meat People is a bashful beauty, with understated, quirky features more than making up for a lack of grandeur. Formerly Alfredo’s, a local’s cafe run by an Italian, the restaurant has retained that sense of familiarity and charm. The interiors haven’t changed since 1949; the same cubed, art-deco tiling decorates the walls, yellow booths sit opposite hard back chairs and bare-bulb lights hang from the white panelled ceiling.
In the corner of the first room, a rickety wooden bar with three mismatched bar stools serves bottles of wine and looks more like a scene of a Parisian bistro than a builder’s cafe, though that is perhaps because it is the only new structure in the restaurant.
Food & Drink
My mother once told me that a meal isn’t a meal unless it has meat in it, and Mama Strickland would most certainly have approved of Meat People’s menu. From starters of fresh fish and winter-perfect meats, through to steaks and rare cuts on the mains, the menu was full of organic and ethically sourced ingredients.
The pork belly starter (£6.50) came with creamy, carrot mash and a tart apple puree which was a like a big wintery hug. The beef carpaccio (£7) was thinly sliced wisps of meat paired with crumbly piles of provolone cheese, saved from being too salty with a squeeze of lemon juice.
For mains, we split a rib-eye steak and kangaroo. Despite a long history of meat eating adventures, I’d never tried kangaroo (£16) which was a thick slab of gamey meat cooked until pink in the middle and served with raspberry vinaigrette and a hint of chilli which undercut any overwhelming richness. Steak comes in three choices, rib-eye, fillet and bavette; we chose to drizzle blue-cheese sauce all over our bloodily pink rib-eye (£8.50 per 100g) which was the stuff I dream of.
Pudding is just as rich and gorge-worthy as the rest of the menu. Chocolate Fondant (£7) oozed a velvety melting sauce when sliced open and the Passion Fruit Madeleines (£6) were fluffy and tropically sweet. For drinks, stick to what goes best with red meat; one of their organic red wines.
Admittedly the East London greasy spoon vibe isn’t for everyone, so Meat People have twisted the atmosphere dial all the way up to ten. The bare-bulb lamps emit a low glow, candles flicker on every surface and gentle jazz tunes softly play in the background. Everyone from the stylish Angel set to couples on cosy-looking dates were crowded round the little tables.
Date perfection has been found and its name is Meat People. With candles flickering against art-deco tiles and quirky '40s features such as the block writing outside, the restaurant has nailed that familiar, local vibe. Don't worry about missing your mac n' cheese burger, cuts such as kangaroo and ox cheeks are interesting enough not to need any indulgent extras.