If you’ve been staying even half up to date with London’s food trends, Meat Liquor (or MEATliquor as they like to spell themselves) doesn’t need much of an introduction. Although I’ve visited a few times before, we headed down to their first flagship restaurant on Marylebone’s Welbeck Street for a late night meal and an official write up.
Meat Liquor is a child of The Meatwagon, the ambulance turned mobile burger van that was launched with great success in 2009 by Yianni Papoutsis. A stones throw from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street (the Bond Street bit), Meat Liquor takes up a large corner plot rather unsuspectingly underneath a large multi-storey car park. If it wasn’t for the near constant queue outside this place, you might never spot it.
Talking of the queue… I was planning to hit Meat Liquor with three old friends after a quick pub trip. On route to the pub we did a walk by of Meat Liquor as I was already aware of the infamously meaty queue – it was long enough at 7.30pm on a Thursday to suggest a pub trip was indeed the best move. An hour and a half and a few pints later (at The Henry Holland on Duke Street), we returned for about 9pm to find the queue even bigger than before.
We joined the back, got a stamp (a clever queue jump avoidance measure) and stood around for about 20 minutes before finally reaching Meat Liquor’s swinging doors. During the wait we were rewarded with free onion rings served with Meat Liquor’s signature blue cheese sauce (which is awesome) by a lovely lady with a large tray of warm, slightly-tipsy-friendly food. Massive brownie points for this – it turned a queue that would normally have been a pain in the bum into one of my favourite queuing experiences ever. But no, the wait wasn’t over. We entered the first set of doors and were told to wait before entering the second set of doors, as if in a safety air lock to allow us to acclimatise to the burger-grease filled atmosphere of Meat Liquor’s interior. Finally we were in. But not quite. We stood by the entrance for another few minutes, then gave a name to a lady with a board and were told to wait by the bar. Another 15 minutes or so passed before eventually we were granted a table. The total queuing experience must have been close to an hour, but for some reason it wasn’t a chore – maybe it was the free onion rings, or the hope they instilled in us each time we thought we were finally there. Or maybe it was the beer we’d been drinking (most likely). Either way, we were in and queuing seemed like a long lost memory. My recommendation – get there at 10am with a fold out chair as if you’re waiting for the latest iPhone, or keep Meat Liquor as that gem of a late night meal spot (i.e get there at 10pm). Or just queue – its worth the wait.
The atmosphere in Meat Liquor is great fun. The loud indie rock style music playing creates a lively and vibrant restaurant (which later at 10.30ish turned to an easier to listen to but equally as lively house music kind of vibe), with groups of people everywhere laughing, joking and enjoying their evening. It has to be one of London’s more relaxed and fun eating environments. The staff are also great – a young and trendy bunch and friendly to deal with. Most remarkable about the staff are their burger recognition skills – as the trays arrive they’re able to point at each one and tell you what it is whilst in near darkness – quite impressive when they all look the same.
The atmosphere is not for everyone though – there was the odd table for two looking a little uncomfortable and to be honest I wouldn’t choose Meat Liquor as a first date location either. There’s nothing attractive about how you have to eat here – there isn’t a knife or fork to be seen – just tray after tray of greasy food for you to get your fingers into, jam jars to drink out of and rolls of kitchen paper to tidy yourself up with. If you think your date might have a thing for looking like an animal whilst you eat then maybe Meat Liquor’s the place. If not, get to know them a bit first.
At last, it was game time. The long wait and our pub trip meant that before we knew it we had a burger and chips each, a mountain of 20 chicken wings, onion rings and 4 beers on the way in no time. Here’s what some of that might look like:
Let’s face it – a big reason that Meat Liquor is so popular is because the food is just so good. There’s nothing healthy about it, but boy does it hit the spot. We had a selection of different burgers between us, from the plain, to the cheese burger, to my choice of the infamous Dead Hippie – the beautiful double-patty Meat Liquor trademark. In fact its not beautiful at all – its plain ugly, but, as with many things in life, on the inside it really is beautiful. Well cooked and explosively flavoursome, the Dead Hippie was a feast. The slightly spicy chicken wings provide a great change of scene as a side order and having tasted the big crunchy onion rings in the queue, another helping along with more blue cheese sauce was a great decision. The fries were pretty standard, but frankly who cares? It’s all about the MEAT.
Altogether our meal came to about £73 for 4 people – for the quality of the food and overall experience this isn’t bad at all considering Meat Liquor is about a 1 minute walk from Bond Street. Plus, in fairness, we ordered quite a lot.
The bottom line is that it’s pretty hard to go wrong at Meat Liquor. Get there early or late to make your experience as great as possible by avoiding the queue. I know I certainly left nearly unable to walk, on the verge of a minor stroke and badly in need of a shower but what’s not to love? I’d go back tomorrow.
74 Welbeck Street
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Phone: 020 7224 4239