My day trip to Londinium had already been fantastic from lunch at Min Jiang and afters at Gelupo. Becky and Dan had to go back home earlier but Rich and I were staying behind and getting the last train home at 9.30pm (Getting a coach back to Birmingham was out of the question). Rich had previously said that he wasn’t too bothered about getting dinner anywhere, but he’d like to have a few drinks somewhere before we went back to Brum. I then had the bright idea to go to #MEATEASY. From all the blogs and reviews about it so far (its only been open a few weeks), they had warned of a possible 2 hour wait and that even if you get there for 6.30pm (they open at 6pm) all the tables will have been taken. Oh, and there’s no reservations (unless you’ve helped out there).
With that in mind, I figured that we would have enough time to get there for as close to 6pm as possible and would have to leave by 8.30pm to give us enough time to get the last train home. I also figured that even if we didn’t get to try the food, the cocktails (served by Soul Shakers) should be good enough to keep Rich happy. So, we set off to New Cross..
Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t that great and eventually got there at… 6.30pm UH OH! We walked round to the back of the Goldsmiths Tavern, past the MOUNTAIN of rubbish bags and headed up the stairs (to be honest, we just followed 2 girls in front of us). We headed inside and immediately got a delicious waft of burgers being grilled and once the door opened, some fantastically funky music being played (very loudly). We’re immediately greeted by a girl with a big smile and given a raffle ticket who then explains to us that there’s approximately an hour’s wait before you can order food, but once you order your food (whatever combination to make a maximum of 3 items), it takes 10-15mins. Rich and I quickly glance around and as we feared/expected, the place is absolutely packed. We mention that we need to leave by 8.30pm and the lovely Sofia reckons we should be OK. We take our tickets (117 and 118) and hear that they’re only in the 60s.. There’s only one thing to do – get a drink!
At the bar (it’s not a very big room), I notice there’s an impressive collection of spirits behind the bar and a large block of ice. Ah, this must be the block of ice they chip away at rather than use ice from a machine. I also notice there are no measures and well, no glasses. Oh, there’s no menu either. Unsure of what to have, the only drink I could think of was a Mojito. I don’t normally drink mojitos, it’s a drink I only have when I’m on a cruise in the Caribbean and it seems right to have one (along with Pina Coladas), but still Rich fancied one too so we order 2 Mojitos. Out comes 2 empty jam jars and the guy starts free-pouring rum into them, Rich and I look at each other and a broad smile immediately appears on our faces. The guy bruises the mint between his hands, adds some (freshly chipped) ice, squeezes some lime juice then (and how I love this part), he puts the lids onto the jam jars and shakes them both. A top-up of ice and a bit more mint, couple of straws in it and it’s good to go. £6.50 each? BARGAINOUS. Rich and I head back outside to the stairs (it was getting a bit crowded and warm in the room) and take a sip – OH. MY. GOSH! Seriously, this Mojito was BETTER than what I’ve had in the Caribbean. In fact, it’s possibly the best Mojito I’ve ever had. Rich and I know that if the food is as good as these drinks are – We’re in for an awesome night!
We grab a Bramble (which again, were awesome) whilst still waiting and pretty soon, they’re in the 100s and so edging ever closer to the magic numbers of 117 and 118. By now, we start working on a strategy to grab a table. Fortunately, people are vacating their tables once they’ve eaten so there’s a quick turnaround but still, it was getting closer to the time we had to order and still no table. There’s a couple before us who have ordered and they still don’t have a table by the time their food arrives so the helper clears some space so they could at least eat together. This act alone made me feel better because I knew that even if we still didn’t have a table when our food arrived, space would be found for us. By 19:45, Rich and I were on the Lynchburg Lemonades and our numbers were called out. Rich was going to decide when he ordered between the Philly Cheesesteak or the chilli dog. I was going for the bacon cheeseburger and we decided to share sides of triple-cooked fries, onion rings and mac & cheese. Right after we order, a large table vacate and we both sit down (pretty much as they were still putting on their coats to leave). Yes, we were jumping in their graves but we had food arriving!
10mins later and our food arrives. Mindful of the time, we’d already resigned ourselves to having to take the burgers to go and only eat the sides. The food was so quick in arriving that we probably had time to eat the burgers too, but we stuck to our original plan of only eating the sides – And oh my word how glad I am that we did:
First off, the onion rings. I’d seen and read about how good these were but they somehow exceeded all my expectations. The batter light and so crisp, yet there was a deep crunch sound as you bit into them. The onion inside thick and cooked through. These are the kind of onion rings you expect to eat when so often you’re disappointed by ones that have been cooked from frozen where the batter is thick and soggy, tastes claggy and the onion is cut into small rings so they cook quicker.
The triple cooked fries suffered a bit from being eaten after I’d tried an onion ring so whilst they were very crisp and perfectly cooked, you couldn’t help but think “they’re fries”.
But the best was yet to come; I had (again) read that the mac and cheese was great and I’m not really a great mac and cheese eater if I’m completely honest. I have to be in the mood for cheese, generally and I’d made the mistake a few weeks previously of craving mac and cheese and buying one from a supermarket (It was truly horrid). Rich took a bit first and it was like a EUREKA! moment, his eyes widened and he started making noises that indicated that it was delicious. Giggling, I took a bite and it was one of those moments in food when everything just came together and made sense. We’re both giggling because we can’t *quite* believe how gorgeous this dish was – The macaroni was perfectly cooked, the cheese sauce itself not too thick or runny, it wasn’t lumpy, nor was it too rich or bland. The ratio of macaroni to cheese was just right.. The spring onions on top gave it a nice bite – This really was the best mac and cheese I’d ever had. Rich commented that he was almost sad to eat it because he knew that he would never have another one quite as good again as he would never be able to replicate it at home. I think Rich’s best description of that mac and cheese was that it was so delicious that it made him want to carry on eating it – What more could you ask of from food?
To recap, the cocktails were superb, the music was funky and storming, the ambience was perfect – You couldn’t help but enjoy yourself there and the food was nearing a religious experience, yet we hadn’t even tried the burgers yet. Rather than staying until 8.30pm (or beyond), we wrapped our burgers (or in Rich’s case, a Philly Cheesesteak) and headed out slightly before 8.30pm. Outside, Rich takes a bite of his Philly Cheesesteak and as I take a picture of him, he looks as if he’s about to cry. I ask him what’s the matter and he says that it’s so good that a little part of him dies knowing (as with the mac and cheese) that he’ll never be able to replicate or have another quite as good as this again. I take a bite and although the cheese is a bit too strong for me (it’s just right for Rich), the thin strips of steak are still tender and moist, the onions cooked through yet the peppers still have a bit of bite to them, the seasoning is spot on and the bun has soaked the juices so no flavour is lost.
And what about my burger? The wait was completely worth it: The bun (was it sourdough?) still held it’s shape and wasn’t soggy (despite the bottom part absorbing all the juices from the burger patty), the pickle gave a sour crunch to lift the whole thing, the patty itself was seasoned well and there was a crisp char on the outside with a pink centre (that was so tender it almost melted in your mouth) was revealed when you bit into it. In short, it was ruddy marvellous!
A few days have now passed and I’m still giddy when I think about that night. I can’t quite believe/get just *how* good it was – I had high expectations yet it was so much better than I could possible have hoped for. My only sadness is that we don’t have anything like this in Birmingham. Sadly, too many people in Birmingham think that a good night out is to go somewhere hideously overpriced and corporate (just look at Broad St on a weekend night) and anything as independent and free/forward thinking as #MEATEASY wouldn’t last as a result. It’s no exaggeration to say that #MEATEASY provided both Rich and myself one of the best nights out in a very long time – possibly ever. Plus, we had already had some seriously good food earlier in the day but #MEATEASY completely blew them out of the water – It was *that* good. We manage to catch Yianni on our way out and I ask him how long they’re going to be there for as we’re heading down mid-March so would love to go again. I mention that we’ve come down from Brum especially for the food and a big smile shows on his face. Yianni says that they should be there “mid-to-late March” but should definitely be there on the 12th. After hearing how we’ve come from Brum, Yianni instructs me to drop him an email next time we’re down and he’ll “sort something for us” (He’s since messaged me on Fbook saying how he was impressed by our dedication to the cause of meat). Well, as if we needed an excuse to go again?
Seriously, try to go to #MEATEASY whilst you can – You won’t regret it. I’m definitely going back – For the mac and cheese if nothing else.