Meat Liquor – 74 Welbeck Street
Tube Stop: Oxford Circus, Bond Street
Time: 4.30/5pm (early dinner time)
This week the Beard and I celebrated our one year anniversary. We’ve been doing so well at sticking to our super-strict savings plan that we decided we had definitely earned the right to splash out on a decent meal and one that hadn’t come from Aldi. So we hunted for a restaurant.
Not wanting to break the bank too much, we looked for somewhere reasonably priced. I’d seen quite a few friends on Facebook raving about Meat Liquor, a fairly new American Diner north of Oxford Street where the food was apparently super tasty and the bill nice and cheap. The only tricky thing about Meat Liquor is that they don’t take bookings, and after reading a review online, it became apparent that Meat Liquor was one of those places that like’s to make people queue up outside to create a buzz around it. Although both the Beard and I snorted in derision at the concept of queuing up for a diner, we were also intrigued; the food must be good if people are lining up outside, especially in this weather. So we decided why not. Its cheap, its tasty, and if we go for an early bite we can beat the ‘trendy’ queues!
So we rocked up about 4.35pm last Thursday to no queue. Yay. We immediately loved the humour of Meat Liquor when we noticed a sign promoting its meat market in Covent Garden, which read – OUR BASTARD LOVECHILD IS NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS. I even giggled at the toilet doors reading DICKS and CHICKS. Unfortunately the humour was lost on the staff, who had the comedic value of a block of wood and the vocabulary to match. Our waiter had just enough energy to interact with us twice throughout our evening. The first was a not-so pleasant “Hi. Some drinks?” as we sat down at our table, and, as we left the diner he said “Catch you later.” The rest of the time he was silent and even looked pissed off. Even when we ordered our food, and asked questions about the menu, he was on mute, doing nothing but leaning on our table and answering with a nod.
The next problem we encountered was the lighting. Not to sound like an old fart, but we could hardly see anything in there. I realise that this American Diner is also a cocktail bar, so it may not be as brightly lit as a regular diner, but it wasn’t even 5pm on a Thursday and we could barely read the menu it was so dark. I didn’t quite understand the décor, or layout of the restaurant. Lots of small booths and tables-for-two lined around the edge, with one big square bench in the centre, and in the centre of that, a round table that seated about 6 people. It was all very red, with animals painted on the ceiling. As a cocktail bar it worked great in a sort of seedy way, but as a diner, or restaurant (call what you will) it didn’t work for me. I like to be able to see what I’m eating.
The food however, was a different story. Here is what we ordered:
Phili-Cheese Fries: Fries, shaved rump steak, onions, mushrooms, provolone cheese £6
The Dead Hippie: 2 x Beef patties, Dead Hippie sauce, lettuce, cheese pickles, minced white onions £7.50
Cheeseburger: Beef, cheese, onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard, ketchup £6.50
The Phili-cheese fries were amazing, a little pile of greasy, cheesy, meaty heaven. The Beard and I were literally racing to finish it, fighting to munch the last of the scraps.
The first thing the Beard noticed about the burgers was that they were little small. I thought £6.50 was quite cheap for a cheeseburger in London, but if I’m being honest, even I expected something larger. The Beard did say his Dead Hippie burger was super-tasty, and from the way he breathed it in, I believe him. My cheeseburger was nice, plenty of cheese, but far too messy. Again, I’m going to sound old and boring, but we weren’t given any plates. Our fries were in a bowl, but our burgers were brought to us on a tray next to the fries. So when the time came to devour my burger, a lot of it ended up on the kitchen roll – yes, kitchen roll – that I had used to create a make-shift plate. But despite getting messy, I did enjoy it and left feeling more than full.
So Meat Liquor a nutshell – great food let down by miserable service, and definitely not worth queuing for. But the one thing that really got our knickers in a twist was the cost of the drinks. Being on a budget we decided not to opt for a cocktail and ordered a coke each. We were given a glass of ice with lemon and then a can of coke. This didn’t surprise me, it was obviously the style of the diner, but what did surprise me was when we got our bill and realised we had been charged £2.50 for a can of coke. This may seem reasonable to people happy to waste £5.00 on soft drinks, but considering I normally purchase 3 brand name cokes for £1 in Poundland (or 45p each), I was quite sickened by Meat Liquor’s ability to charge up to 5 times it’s worth. Our total bill was £24 – Pretty cheap for a nice dinner for two. But I wished we’d stuck to tap water, as the bill would have been a truly amazing £19! And that is cheap for food as tasty as this.
Subsequently on Saturday night, much to the Beards chagrin, we queued for 10 minutes to dine at an All-You-Can-Eat Chinese for £10.95 each, and frankly that was much more satisfying.