Andy Robinson may be a chef, but he is also dedicated to the craft of butchery at the new venture by David Higgs and Gary Kyriacou of Marble fame: The Butchery by Marble. In fact, Robinson was the head chef at both Marble, and Higgs’ previous restaurant, Five Hundred at The Saxon, before that. He has also worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Giorgio Locatelli in his native UK. But now, in his new position as butcher, he’s not only committed to preparing the mouth-watering fare on display like jewels in a boutique, but also to the whole process of sourcing the finest ethically farmed meat, and to spending time with customers to come up with bespoke offerings. We chatted to Robinson about the fine art of the butcher’s block.
Tell us a little about the concept behind The Butchery by Marble…
We want to create a jewellery shop for meat. It’s a very expensive commodity, so what we want to do is showcase it in a way that’s less intimidating than your conventional butchery or supermarket. We don’t want to have this huge array of endless plastic trays filled with meat. We want to be able to tell people where the animal is from, how it was reared, when it was slaughtered: every little thing, literally, from farm to table. We want to create a whole information line for the public. I can explain where the meat is from, how it was reared, whether it was organic or antibiotic-free all the way through its life. And then I’ll instruct on how to cook it as well.
Tell us how that works?
Most of our regulars come in with a shopping list. I’ll sit with them for a little while. We’ll have a little chat about what I can do with what. Then they’ll have a cheese board or a meat board, a glass of wine or two, and let me go and get their order ready.
So, you’re primarily a chef and then a butcher?
I’m not a butcher per se, but chefs all have butchery skills. In the chef industry, we buy the product from the butcher, but then we have to make it ready for the plate. So, the extra trimming of the meat, the tenderising, the preparation, we do that anyhow, so it just made sense to do it all ourselves – to prepare the meat the way we would in a restaurant; to look after it the way we would in a restaurant. And to be able to explain to customers [how to prepare it] – that’s our big thing.
Where do you source your meat from?
We try to keep ourselves to the smaller boutique farms. They’ll phone me up and say, for example, I’m going to slaughter two veal this month. Do you want one? I’ll get all the pictures. It’ll say, this is the animal, this is its name, this is its full diet, what it’s been fed throughout its life. Because it’s such a small production, we know absolutely everything we need to know about it.
That’s clearly important to you?
Everyone needs to know where their food is coming from. A few years back the food industry was getting destroyed because of poor practices. We want to get away from that. There is really good quality food out there. It is really well priced. We have got some expensive stuff on the shelves, but everything else is competitive. Only, we know absolutely everything about our products. So, why wouldn’t you come to someone who knows everything about what they’re selling, rather than some guy with a lot of plastic trays? It’s about responsible farming and ethical farming. I think we’ve done it right. We’ve not got a massive number of suppliers. We don’t want them getting too big and having to force-feed the animals.
And tell us about those delicious-looking sausages.
We only buy the whole animal or the primal cuts. So, the whole animals we break down ourselves and any offcuts, I get to be all cheffy and play with the stuff and make what I want with the extras. We’ve gone a bit wild. Yesterday, I made some ham and mushroom pizza sausages. It’s the best of both worlds. It looks like a hot dog but tastes like a pizza! I’ve made Welsh rarebit sausages, marinated in beer with cheddar cheese and mustard, fillet beef. We’ve got duck and pork; we’ve got everything you can imagine. In the butchers in the UK, they might as well just be sausage factories. There are just hundreds of varieties of sausages. They just want to try different things, and that’s what I want to do.
And those whole chickens look like something special…
I inject them with garlic oil and lemon oil, so they stay nice and moist and plump. I literary use a hypodermic needle. The way I cook chicken is different. I cook it for an hour at 60 degrees, and then let it go completely cold. And then put it back in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees. That cooks the protein perfectly. You find that in the knuckles of the wings and the legs, it usually stays a little bit pink. If we inject it with flavoured oils and lemon, it creates a steam around the joints, so it cooks around the joints first, takes away the pinkness, and you get all that flavour coming through.
And you can have something to eat and a glass of wine while you wait for your order to be prepared?
We’ve just introduced speciality sandwiches, and we’ve got all these really lovely charcuteries. We’re going to have a salami section, an Iberian ham section, a Prosciutto section – all cheffy flavoured sandwiches that you won’t get anywhere else. One that I’ve just finished now is a smoked venison salami with a biltong chutney. There’s an Iberian ham one. Iberian ham is the most expensive ham you can buy, and you can get it on a sandwich. These things are incredibly beautiful animals. They’re wild pigs and they only eat acorns off the forest floor, so they get that lovely nutty, almost a salami-type flavour to them, just without any curing at all. It’s just that lovely, almost perfumey flavour.
And you’ll be running butchery courses, too?
Yes, we’ll go through the processes of what to do and how to do it. We want to teach people and get them interested: a bit of adult school time, and just to give people that next level of knowledge. Whatever you work with, you take home, you enjoy it. You have a glass of wine to just relax.
Find The Butchery by Marble at Trumpet on Keyes, 19 Keyes Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, and visit thebutchery.co.za for details.