This is a guest post by Jessica Elvidge
Despite only being just into its seventh week of opening, word of the #meateasy has got around. Everywhere. In fact, it had barely seen through two weeks before it became the hottest place in town. Down in New Cross, each night, a queue of eager meat-eaters and cocktail drinkers forms as much as a half hour before opening. Five minutes after the doors swing back the darkened room is alive, buzzing with energy, standing room only.
The #meateasy is the venue conjured up following the theft of Yianni Papoutsis’ notorious and adored burger van – the Meatwagon – at the end of last year. With no wagon to feed the meat-ravenous hoards of London, Yianni and partner-in-crime Scott collaborated to recreate the experience indoors. Of course, the original Meatwagon did not offer drinks, so the team enlisted the help of the incredibly talented Soulshakers. This, of course, is where the cocktails come in.
“It might sound like a bit of an odd way of doing things – having burgers, hot dogs and then… high end cocktails. But, it seems to work” says Yianni of the juxtaposition of his own top quality food and the Soulshakers’ drinks. He is right of course, although this feeling evaporates as soon as you’re inside. The bartenders hold their own in a room so full of energy – and meat – putting together cocktails from a “formidable back bar” based on the whim of the customers across the bar.
“There is no menu here” they shout. “So what do you like? We’ll make you the cocktail you want, but don’t know you want yet”. A task and a half it seems, but by god if they can’t do it each and every time. Question by question the bar staff drag a cocktail out of you… Which spirit? Would you like more than one? Sour or sweet? African or European?… and set about cramming it into a jam jar along with chunks of ice chiselled from a block. Of course, alongside all of this there is still room for traditional cocktails – with an obligatory Soulshakers twist. The fun, however, is in seeing what cocktail will be created just for you.
Something you can’t miss however is the New Cross Negroni – made with aperol; my personal advice is to start here and work your way around the bar. See what happens. Last time I ended up with Soulshakers’ Giles perfect dry daiquiri – a deliriously good mix of Havana, Campari, passionfruit and lime – dangerously good as it turned out I couldn’t help but drink it down. Quickly.
Any misgivings about the pairing of cocktails and burgers dissipate quickly here. The food was the initial draw for the #meateasy – it is after all how Yianni and the Meatwagon were known until early January this year – however it is the cocktails which are rightly also basking in the glow of the praise from across London’s food and drink community. The #meateasy – brought together in ten days – shows the difference a little imagination can bring to such a crowded marketplace – it is no wonder the capital has reached out to grab its jars and burgers with both hands.
Above the Goldsmiths Tavern. 316 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AF.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm – 11pm for food, later for drinks.
NO BOOKINGS (except for #MEATEASY volunteers).
The #meateasy is only open for a limited time while the team gather funds to get the Meatwagon back on the road. Maybe until mid-March, maybe later. Better go while you can, eh.