The concept of eat-in/take-away is as old as the hills: café/bakeries being the obvious example. And many ethnic restaurants are as happy for you to take your hot dishes home as they are for you to eat in. Rarely, however, do restaurants make any attempt to – as some might see it – compete with themselves, and offer you their prime raw ingredients uncooked. In fact, until the mega-successful FishWorks chain – combining a fish restaurant and a fishmonger – showed it could be done, we can’t think of a single example.
Dominic Ford (former supremo of Harvey Nics’s extensive restaurant operations, including the Oxo Tower) and Paul Grout (an upmarket butcher of over 20 years’ standing) have now teamed up to launch this new venture, which they might just as well have called ‘MeatWorks’.
Their first outlet – for surely there will be more – is a large former Café Rouge, next to Martin Lam’s long-established Ransome’s Dock, near Albert Bridge. It’s a large, airy and rather clattery space (with the nicest tables being the outside ones at the back, overlooking the small dock).
What – we believe – will make this place a success is that the food lives up to its ‘ingredient-led’ promise. Nothing we had was less than very good. A beefburger particularly shone. Mrs Harden waxed lyrical about her sirloin. Thick-cut chips were excellent too (if not, as some critics would say, ‘historic’). Even non-meat items – such as an intensely flavoured chocolate cheesecake – were well above average standards (and the wine list wasn’t bad either).
But the ultimate trial of a place such as this, surely, is whether you do actively want to buy the ingredients for what you’ve been eating on the way out. Loyal as we are to our excellent local butcher, it passed that test.