We talk beef with the butcher and chef behind Spinningfields' meat-eatery
WANT to know how to cook a juicy, flavoursome, tender steak? Don't ask a chef. Ask a butcher.
James Taylor, one of the three-strong team behind Beastro restaurant, is a third generation slaughterman, so he knows more than most about how to get the best out of a cut of beef or lamb. And although he now works within the slick restaurant scene of Spinningfields, he still gets hands-on with a cleaver when the carcasses arrive each week from Beastro's cutting plant in Swinton.
He bones the meat, trims it, and bags it (but definitely doesn't freeze it) so it's ready for cooking when you place your order. Together with Beastro head chef Richard Brown, and sausage-maker Heather Taylor, this is a team that understands how to cook a really tasty steak – and the process starts way before the meat hits the fire.
We went to Beastro to ask James and Richard which cuts make the cut? And what do they do when a tableful of vegetarians walk through the door?
How 'local' is locally sourced?
Richard: "Our beef is from little farms around Lancashire and down into Cheshire. It goes through one of a few small slaughterhouses, then it goes to our cutting plant [where they also base their sausage business Bobby's Bangers] in Swinton where it's matured in the fridges for 28 days."
Grass-fed or corn-fed?
James: "The majority of the cattle will eat grass but it will also eat corn. Because if it's just grass-fed, the fat on it becomes very, very yellow and very unappealing. But there's nothing that comes from an intensive farm. It's all from little farms with only 20 or 30 head of cattle at a time."
28 days later – what's the difference in the meat?
R: "It's got a fuller flavour. The fresh stuff is bright red, and yes, it looks more appealingly bright. But with matured meat, you can look at it and see it's breaking down. It makes it more tender with more depth of flavour."
J: "After it's matured, we bring it here [to Beastro] in carcass form. So we bone it out, trim it up and pack it into bags in the restaurant, and it's used that week. It's not left around and once it's gone, it's gone. We don't then go and buy some from somewhere else."
So nothing's frozen?
J: "A lot of places buy it frozen because it's a lot cheaper. But a steak that's come out of the freezer: there's no flavour in there. We don't freeze any of our meat."
Does that mean yours is more expensive?
R: "No, because it comes pretty much direct from the source. It doesn't go through a butcher who's got to hang it, then bone it out and pack it. But that does work to our detriment sometimes, because some people think it's too cheap and then don't trust it. A 400g rump steak with beef dripping chips is £17.50. A 300g sirloin is £19.50."
How are you going to cook our steak?
J: "Simply. Just seasoned with a little oregano and sea salt and charred to your specification. It's not trying to be too fancy or anything out of the ordinary. It's the ingredients that do the talking. We just help them on their way."
Tell us about your sausages
R: "Heather makes the sausages at our cutting plant. For the breakfast menu we have a traditional, a sage and onion, and a parsley sausage, on rotation. For the evening special, we do an Italian sausage which is completely gluten-free. We take the meat out of the skin and cook it with a bit of garlic, chilli, fennel – and cook that into a pasta dish."
Ever get any vegetarians wandering in by mistake?
R: "We've had full tables of vegetarians who've enjoyed what we've done. We try a little bit harder with our vegetarian food. Because it doesn't come naturally to us – it's not the easiest thing to do. But we have good veg suppliers."
Best steak cut?
J: "I do like a nice, aged rump steak, cooked so it's just right – charred on the edges and pink in the middle. And a rib-eye has a lot of flavour and can be just as tender as the cuts that are considered premium."
Not a fillet steak, then?
J: "Definitely not. The rest of the world thinks fillet is the premium steak cut but it's a sandwich steak cut. It's a nice, tender cut but it doesn't have the same flavour as a rib-eye or rump."
Three things to eat at Beastro
We could put steak in position one, two and three here. But to mix things up a bit...
#1: The Cheshire lamb rump
We source some really nice Cheshire lamb rumps. It's a lovely cut of lamb that's never been overly used. We just trim them down, char them off, and slow roast them, and serve that with a pea purée with little roast potatoes and some greens. This dish started as a special – but it's stayed on the menu now for eight weeks.
#2 The devilled lamb kidneys
(Evening menu, £5 (brunch menu from 2nd September!))
We like to take some of the more odd pieces of meat and play around. Like the devilled lamb kidneys. They're cooked down with a few shallots, a bit of curry, a bit of sherry, some capers. It's all simply done, and served with toasted brown bread.
#3 Steak sandwich with chimichurri and mixed leaf
(Lunch menu, take away or eat in, £5)
We use flat iron steaks cooked on the char grill. You cook it as a long, flat steak, then slice it across the grain so you get a really tender, juicy steak sandwich. It's very easy to go down the route of thin steak sandwiches, but there's a little bit more flavour to a flat iron. If you overcook it, it's awful. If you undercook it, it's awful. It's quite a used muscle so it needs to be left a little bit medium.