The carnivores are coming...


London’s street food festival scene is currently going through a purple patch. There’s Street Feast night market in Dalston, KERB in Kings’ Cross, and all manner of pop-ups around south and east London. But there’s always room for a new arrival, especially when it’s a hot New York import, it involves some of the world’s top chefs and a lot, an awful lot, of meat. Meatopia is the brainchild of US food writer Josh Ozersky. He started the festival in NYC back in 2003, when New Yorkers unsurprisingly fell for its mix of ‘meat, drink, fire, music’. Ozersky decided the London scene, currently fixated with all things steak, ribs and burgers, was ready for his carnivore’s Coachella and so Meatopia UK was born.


East London long ago swapped Dickensian fog for flat whites and fixies. But it felt like Victorian London all over again in Wapping on 7 September 2013. The air around Tobbaco Dock, a Grade I-listed warehouse built in 1812, was thick with white smoke. But this was something different – a delicious-smelling smog of BBQ smoke and spices. Leading BBQ chefs from Austin and Dallas were grilling up on the cobblestones outside, while inside some of the UK’s best meat-loving chefs (Fergus Henderson of St John, Richard Turner of Hawksmoor) were prepping dishes like ox heart buns and charcoal-grilled steak with anchovy butter.


The crowd was heavy on top knots and checked-shirts, and everyone was in good spirits despite the long queues that slinked around the building. Some of the longest queues were for Gizzi Erskine’s grilled Korean chicken wings and the Run BMC burger from Manchester’s Almost Famous – crammed with a beef patty, ribs, mustard mayo and even crumbled Beef Monster Munch. One of the standout dishes was a lemony, deeply-savoury paella topped with juicy Tamworth pork from Seamus Mullen of Tertulia, a Spanish restaurant in New York’s West Village. Creamy crimson grits topped with tender smoked chicken, slices of nectarine and plump blackberries from Chris Hastings of The Hot and Hot Fish Club in Alabama was another triumph – and represented a rare-sighting of fruit in this meat-heavy zone. Vegetarian friends would either have had to stay home, smuggle in snack bars, or eat marshmallows, ice cream or cake from the dessert trucks. This was an unapologetic celebration of all things meat.

Craft beers and Spanish wines, expert demos and three stages of live music (everything from bluegrass to ska) kept everyone entertained while they waited in line, as did endless Instagram opportunities of the more photogenic dishes. As the sun set, Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay took to the Beast and Bird stage to DJ – the final set of the day. By then, many of the stands had sold out of food, leaving the chefs to join the crowd for a dance, craft beers in hand. If it’s true that the devil has all the best tunes, then so carnivores have the best food festivals.

For meaty treats see our round up of best burgers:

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