Meatopia 2014 – London, UK

Meatopia returned to London for the second time this weekend, this time spread over 2 days, allowing double the dishes and calming down the obscene queues from last year. For those who aren’t aware of what Meatopia is, here’s a quick spiel – it was founded by one of my food heroes, Josh Ozersky, a writer, author, editor and general meat fiend based in New York, approximately a decade ago. Having followed his work through magazines like Vice and Esquire, as well as his own channel, I am delighted that his events have now become a fixture in London.

The Price

This is definitely the biggest stumbling block for most of the people I’ve talked to about Meatopia – when I contacted 3 of my friends this week who, months back, had agreed to come, they all said they hadn’t booked the ticket in the end because they deemed it a rip off.

And to be honest, I do see their point.

£31.80 just to literally enter the premises does make me wince – after paying that much just to get in, you then feel compelled to spend a lot on the (£5 a dish) food options in order to gain some kind of money’s worth gratification. I also felt thoroughly ripped off after ordering a rum and ginger ale and being charged £7 – bit of a slap in the face when the FAQ page promised “reasonably priced” drinks. If, like me, you are obsessed with meat and barbecues (I have two grills and two smokers in my cramped backyard), then it most definitely is worth going each year. If not, then I think one visit is definitely worth it, just to experience the atmosphere and the great food – reason being, I don’t think you can make the assumption of how value-for-money it is until you experience it first hand.

The Venue

I remember when I was at school not too far away, the planned redevelopment of Tobacco Dock in Wapping was just about reaching it’s crescendo of failure. There was only one shop left, Frank & Stein’s sandwich shop, which is eerily still there, albeit chained up with the eviction notice still in the window. More on the history of the place here.

There is no doubting, though, that the place has come into its own in recent years, being used as a venue for various festivals and conventions such as the London Tattoo Convection, Taste Christmas Festival, and even the Erotica Show.

As you can see from these pictures, it’s a beautiful space, the open roof perfect for this event.

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The Food

On to the main event. I went with three people, and by pooling our resources, we managed to sample 11 dishes; this is how I justify the aforementioned cost – in my head I tried to think of it as an 11 course tasting menu…

The queue we joined was (once again) the longest there, Almost Famous’s burger offering, however one of us joined another queue and the first dish we tried was the smoked brisket with a glass-like crunchy coffee quinoa garnish, which was succulent and perfectly smoked – a huge improvement on the dry brisket from Aaron Franklin last year. I think this one was from The Granary, Texas – correct me if I’m wrong, a lot of the menus displayed didn’t quite match up to what was on offer. No pic of this I’m afraid, we wolfed it down.

Because the first queue was taking so long, we split and met back up with 3 dishes. the Almost Famous Breakfast Club burger was ridiculous but great – pepperjack cheese, shredded pork collar, beer glazed Cheerios and a spicy bloody Mary sauce. The best thing about this was the quality and the flavour of the beef.

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When queueing for this, the great man himself Josh Ozersky came over to chat and effusively recommended the taco by Jonathan Sawyer from The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, Ohio. A corn taco, covered in a spicy mix of pork and beef offals and shaved radish. A bit of a grease bomb, but delicious nonetheless.

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The Meatopia menu promised a marshmallow bourbon BBQ sauce from the Dirty Bones offering, which sounded disgustingly intriguing, but was sadly not present. The ‘Coke Smoked chicken’ tasted of neither Coke or Smoke, but was alright – I would have preferred a crispier skin – and the rubbery textured bourbon corn was just plain weird. Bit of a let down. We also had the bacon wrapped hot dog from Shake Shack – not as exciting as their confit pork belly from last year, but did exactly what it said on the tin.

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Next, we stood in awe looking at the whole ox spit roast being prepared for the Sunday by Flatiron – incredible.

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Neil Rankin from Smokehouse stuck with the tried and trusted taco’s from last year, this time using goat smoked in a DIY pit and they were great – moist and smoky, with a spicy salsa. The ribs from Smokestak were great, textbook ribs, a little bit too soft for my liking but great flavour.

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Without doubt, my favourite dish of the day was the smoked pigs cheek and foie gras butter slider from Q Grill. A whole, melt-in-the-mouth smoked cheek covered in foie butter – I don’t really need to elaborate, perfect. It didn’t last long enough for a pic, but check out Instagram if you want a peek. One of us also had the Comté burger from Tommi’s which came with Baconnaise, which I was assured was excellent. I decided to use my last token at Barbecoa (by this point I was ready for a nap), using a massive stainless steel axe, 3 lemony lamb ribs were dispatched – interesting and nicely cooked, although a bit too much gristle in my portion,these didn’t set my world alight.

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Finally, a bit of live music before we left to roll back to the car…

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