Stephen Jardine: Meat on the menu at festival

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It’s going to be a vegetarian’s nightmare. Next month carnivores from all over Britain will descend on Tobacco Dock in London for a food festival with a difference.

At its heart will be a menu of meat and on that menu will probably be heart. Imported from New York, Meatopia is a day-long festival of food built around 25 chefs celebrating the joys of animal protein.

Highlights from the menu include BBQ pig’s head and, proving my point, Ox Heart of the Andes.

It might seem like a big ask to expect people to pay £85 a ticket to stand around and eat meat for a day, but the organisers know their market.

Meat is in at the moment and steak is the big thing. For a few years it loitered in the dark shadows of the Berni Inn and the Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse, but now it is the star of the show.

At the bargain end of the market, Dirty Burgers and sliders are taking beef to the masses, but they are just stand-ins for the main event.

Nothing beats a great steak. In an age of clever presentation, foams and reductions, there is something straightforward about the simple, seared cut of meat on a plate.

Ask most people for their five favourite bowls of soup and they will struggle but meat eaters will remember with pleasure their top steaks of all time.

Part of the renaissance has been the fact that steaks are now being given pride of place centre stage. In London, restaurants like Hawksmoor blazed a trail with a range of cuts and special grills designed to get the most flavour from the meat. A few months ago I visited Mark Hix’s restaurant Tramshed in London’s east end, which serves only chicken or steak. Something that simple has to be done right – and it is, with Aberdeen Angus and Hereford beef aged in a Himalayan salt cellar.

With that meat-obsessive attention to detail, Meatopia in London is sure to be a hit, but surely Scotland is its natural home?

When it comes to meat, great things are happening here.

More unusual beef breeds famed for their flavour, like Dexter cattle, are starting to appear on menus at restaurants including L’Escargot Blanc in Edinburgh.

Japanese Wagyu beef has made the journey to these shores and is also emerging on menus thanks to a growing Scottish herd being developed by Highland Wagyu based at Blackford Farm in Perthshire.

And the Mey Selections brand is now supplying croft-reared beef from the North Highlands to discerning customers throughout Europe after setting up a new online retail arrangement with Linlithgow-based Campbell’s Prime Meats.

When it comes to beef, we’re lucky. We’ve never had it so good. Yet another good reason not to be a vegetarian.

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