My love for Meat Liquor was documented here, and I have often been known to sing their praises from the rooftops. So when I heard word of a new sister restaurant, Meat Market, opening in Covent Garden, my heart and my stomach leapt with joy… only to have my hopes brutally crushed.
Let’s start with the location - Meat Market is on a mezzanine level overlooking Jubilee Market Hall, the tackier of Covent Garden’s two indoor markets. Think all the worst bits of Camden, with a few thousand more I ♥ London sweatshirts. If you’re lucky enough to make it through the jungle of magnets, keyrings and Thai massages, you’ll be treated to a bird’s eye view of the whole thing while you eat your burger.
The ordering system is akin to a McDonald’s and Starbuck’s lovechild. Place your order and pay at the till, tell them your name, then go and collect your tray when they bellow your name out on a microphone.
I was disappointed to find very little on the menu that isn’t already available at Meat Liquor, and on close inspection, the three burgers on offer (Dead Hippie, Double Bubble and Black Palace, all double patties) appeared to be almost EXACTLY IDENTICAL. The only difference being whether the onions were “minced” or “grilled”, or if the sauce was ketchup and mustard or “Dead Hippie sauce”.
I went for the Dead Hippie - it’s treated me good at Meat Liquor so why mess with success? So I thought.
The bread was SO SOGGY. There was Dead Hippie sauce (which granted, was quite nice) EVERYWHERE. The whole thing was a dripping, greasy, wet mess. It didn’t taste terrible. But it didn’t reach the bar set by Meat Liquor. It didn’t make me want to cry with happiness. I wasn’t upset that it was over when I finished.
It cost £7.50 for the burger alone, and it was far from worth it.
As for sides, we gave into temptation and ordered the cute-sounding corn puppies (mini corn dogs), which came with a honey mustard dip.
See that innocent-looking pot of dip there? You can’t tell from the photo but it was horrible. And about 90% honey. Coupled with the batter around the sausage, it was all too sickly sweet to bear. I know this is fast food, but it wasn’t fast food prices, and for me and my fellow sauce fiends, it was insulting to see so little love or effort put into the dip.
This thing was one of four chilli cheese “poppaz” they generously give you for £4, served with Ranch sauce. It was pretty good, oozy, cheesy and garlicky. Not too hot. I’m a sucker for things like this, so I wish there had been a couple more.
The whole experience was a confusing one - I’ve heard tales of long queues, but when we went on a Friday lunchtime it was near enough deserted. The atmosphere was weird, with a pervading sense of tackiness drifting up from the market below.
I’m not one who’s desperate for glowing service, but to charge the same prices as Meat Liquor for food that is not quite as good in a fast-food self-service environment, is too cheeky. And where were the chicken wings??!