Zelman Meats — catchphrase ‘great meat’ — is sustenance for a hard Brexit — a harder Brexit, if you will. It is a snorting meat shack in north Soho; it is also, comfortingly for the reader, mid-market. It is from the owners of Beast, who display their meat in cases, as trophies — and Burger and Lobster, where you get burgers and lobsters for £20 a head. It is thrillingly monomaniacal and simplistic: what do you get at Zelman Meats? Meat, that’s all, comrade. It could theoretically be a butcher’s shop; no, it could be a cow sitting on a bonfire wondering what went wrong. Don’t come here if you don’t like meat because they have nothing for you. Go somewhere else.
I did intend to review one of the fashionable ‘clean eating’ or ‘glamorexia’ restaurants which serve air pollution foam (or demi-soufflé) and the nail clippings of Victoria Beckham in muffins made of air. They are popular now, as anorexics get more mobile. But I knew I didn’t want to. I went to Zelman Meats instead.
There are many meat shacks in London. Hawksmoor is the best of them, but it has a fragile baroque vibe, and this is not the time for it. Zelman Meats — I wish they would capitalise MEAT, so it is Zelman MEATS, like an article in the Soaraway Sun — is more brutal than baroque. It is a place specifically to get high on flesh. It is a restaurant for men, or very drunk women, and in north Soho there are plenty of both. They get drunk on tequila and try to make love to benches in Soho Square. Then they fall over, or come to Zelman MEATS.
It is red and livid, the kind of steak house which wants you to imagine that you are actually inside the steak you are eating, in a kind of crazy full-immersion steak-eating experience. The rest is post-industrial chic, so you can be both inside a steak inside an industrial kitchen and hear the screams of your fellow Brexit warriors bouncing off the ceiling. It is not subtle — but why should it be? What is, these days?
It is a lunchtime on a weekday, though, and Zelman MEATS is almost empty. Without its normal clientele, who I imagine are Nigel Farage and his gaggle of acolytes fretting that women don’t clean behind the fridge — and all to spite them — I like it. It is pleasingly spectral.
They bring, swiftly, a pile of excellent cow flesh. It is as loved as dead flesh can be. It is soft and charred and bloody and, thanks to the dull sociopathy of the day, precisely measured: 400 grams ‘dirty steak’; 200 grams chateaubriand, and something called ‘holyfuck mayo’. I do not know why it is called that, and I am not impressed.
At meat restaurants it is a source of pride that everything but the meat be inedible and that is true of Zelman MEATS. (At Beast they do not even attempt anything that is not meat. They have an embargo on chips. They might possibly have a picket line on chips.) We let the chips grow cold — when did all the chips get fat and rectangular, like the feminists, eh? — but we devour the flesh with all the fervour of resurgent nationalism. Then we share a gloopy chocolate brownie, because, despite everything, there is still good in this world.
So, Zelman MEATS is a fine place to suck on bones. It is certainly better than any Angus Steak House although I still lay my hat at Hawksmoor Guildhall. (They serve bacon chops, and the menu is done in a delicate calligraphy which makes me weep.) But I am here now, eating meat. Brexit me, baby, I think, throwing a cow bone at a radiator. Brexit me harder.