I thought I knew a few things about meat. That is until I met Philip and Ian Warren. And I realised I actually knew nothing. Particularly about the fragile moorland ecosystem that without Warrens, may not exist at all. But also about ageing meat properly, suckled beef and the skill of real butchery. As I enter, Paul Ainsworth leaves and I know I have come to a good place.
Ian admits that he will actually turn down customers if they are looking for a cheap deal: “We are not all things to all people,” he explains. They are striving to be the best and that, in the current economic climate, is not easy.
Walk into the Launceston butchery and you are met with the trappings of a high end restaurant coupled with the lay-out of a high street shop: whole carcasses hang from the back wall like designer clothing and a window into the butchery area hides nothing. “We are totally transparent, “states Ian, “what we say is what we do.” And I don’t doubt it.
I hear so much chef spiel about how food is local, seasonal, blah blah, sorry can’t hear you my fingers are in my ears, that I have become shall we say, a little cynical the more I review and the more I probe. Occasionally however, genuine passion for the truly seasonal and the actual local warms my cold reviewing heart and Warrens are in the business of warming hearts (as well as removing them).
Have you ever considered the (mainly) men standing round in blue-striped overalls in the ‘butchery’ area of a supermarket and thought, ‘what are they actually doing?’ A butcher’s counter in a supermarket is negative space. The drive for high yield and profit margins mean that their only interest is to pack up meat so that it looks as far removed from the animal as possible and keep selling it to you. Fine, I hear you say, that’s how I take my meat. But that is because you know nothing of dry-aging.
Walk into the Warrens’ futuristic aging refrigerators and smell the meat: to say that it’s a cross between the musty promises of a wine cellar and the secrets of a salumerie will give you some idea. Aged meat is a deep scarlet red shot through with veins of creamy fat, not the blushing teenage pink of artificially enhanced supermarket meat; nor is it slimy from the wet aging of plastic. It looks beautiful and you will want to take photos of it.
Ian is proud to throw the curtains back and reveal the theatre of what he does. Yes there is blood on the floor, boxes of liver, tongues, tails and what the supermarkets have succeeded in hiding from us – the understanding that you are buying the flesh of a dead animal – which is celebrated here. And what a relief.
‘But it’ll be so much more expensive than buying from the supermarket!’ Utter nonsense. Go there, talk to the hugely knowledgeable staff, try something new and be proved wrong. I don’t hate supermarkets but sometimes some things are just better done elsewhere.
Philip Warren has two outlets in Launceston, one in Liskeard and you can buy meat online at philipwarrenbutchers.co.uk or phone 01566 772089.