Disclaimer – This post is not for my vegetarian/vegan fans, I’m very sorry, but if easily offended, you may wish to move onto my next blog post.
This September saw my third visit to Meatopia, a meat lovers’ paradise, right in the heart of our capital.
Meatopia just celebrated its fifth year at London’s Tobacco Dock in Wapping and for the third year I have visited, it truly didn’t disappoint.
I had been raving about it for well over a year now to my food-loving colleagues, so my lovely boss joined myself and “the bearded one” for a day of meat-eating, beer-drinking, sun-soaking fun in the big smoke… literally!
This is the smokiest place on earth (well, other than perhaps beside a volcano!), floor to ceiling – two floors plastered with barbecues and fire pits where the best chefs and food producers from around the world get together to create some of the best barbecue you will EVER enjoy. It’s a place for the big names in BBQ to show off, it’s the rock ’n’ roll world of meat and fire.
This event has become legendary, having been founded in the US by the late Josh Ozersky and brought to the UK by chef Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, this festival offers high quality and ethically sourced meat, all cooked over ethically sourced wood and charcoal.
Combined with an eclectic mix of live music and entertainment, there is something for everybody over the course of this 3 day event.
What we did find slightly baffling this year, was they went a little against what they stand for at Meatopia.
They have always maintained the same answers to questions such as:
Is this event suitable for people with disabilities? (a) As long as they are vegetarian, yes.
Will there be any vegetarian dishes? (a) Um… no.
However, this year they had chef Yotam Ottolenghi serving up a delicious looking vegetarian dish (celeriac with grilled cabbage)…
Now, as lovely as this popular celebrity chef is, always happy to smile, chat and pose with fans as he serves up his dishes, on this particular day he was serving purely vegetarian food, of which I’m sure pleased some people at this event. But, it did make us question their own meat-rules here… Even he served a beautifully marinated goat dish in 2016 and was preparing a meat dish for this years’ Sunday event!
We were curious as to why he wasn’t adding meat to his dish on festival day.
Saying that, this year was the first time they were also serving fish, notably with the ever so friendly and approachable Nathan Outlaw (as seen on BBC’s Great British Menu) and his team cooking up smoked mackerel (and truly delicious it was too) so times are a changing… ever so slightly.
Meatopia is an expensive exercise, costing around £30 per person for an entry ticket into the event. You then will need to pay for each dish as you order it, each portion being “starter” size allows you to sample lots of different offerings – perfect.
To pay for your dishes you need to have a handful of “Meatbucks” – Meatopia have sellers with buckets walking around and each Meatbuck is equal to £5.50 (it used to be £5, but went up this year) and you drop it into a bucket in exchange for your chosen meat dish.
As a general rule we buy 10 Meatbucks between us and we share the dishes… that way we get to try much more than if you tried to fit in a full dish per person – it gets quite filling after a while!
You can also book yourself into butchery demos, food workshops, live talks (hosted by DJ BBQ himself) and private dining sessions with various suppliers throughout the festival, it’s much more than any old food festival.
Not only do they have a superb selection of meat dishes, there are plenty of bars dotted around the venue with everything from wine and spirits through to the “Craftopia” hall with local ales to sample and enjoy alongside your food.
My top tip if you are a Meatopia novice is that although their website says that the coals will be burning bright until late, if a dish runs out then the stall will close for the day. So if there’s something you are desperate to try, get in there and don’t leave it until later on – I’ve learnt the hard way here!
You can book yourself an “Early Bird” ticket which gives you access to the festival an hour earlier than everybody else. We did this on our second visit and it didn’t make a huge difference to our day, as most chefs were still setting up and getting ready… You don’t have to wait too long to be let in on a normal ticket, so I wouldn’t panic if you don’t get an early bird special, you will still get to experience the best of this festival for sure.
The Meatopia Team promise nothing but the best, and that’s what you get.
Chatting to the chefs around the fires, they are passionate about where their dishes were created, where their meat comes from and they are there to educate you as you go.
I’m a firm believer in chatting to each of the teams behind your favourite dishes means you will get much much more out of it as a result… it’s so true.
Take a gamble on dishes and try new flavours and combinations, it’s the perfect place to do so.
Meatopia, you are special and we hold a place for you in our hearts.
We love this festival and this blog post is my ode to the last few years of visiting one of my favourite annual events in my hectic diary.
Each year has been so different, last year being very heavily interactive with the use of my favourite social media platform (Snapchat) but barely any social media coverage or interaction to Tweets this year at all, it varies dramatically which is a shame – fans get excited about Meatopia, so to not have that interaction is a bit of a shame and very noticeable.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve enjoyed taking friends and showing family members our saliva-inducing photos, we can’t rave about it enough, no matter about the little niggles, we ADORE Meatopia.
This is the best place to sample top quality dishes from chefs you might not usually get to enjoy. In the past three years, I’ve enjoyed food cooked by John Torode, Nathan Outlaw, Richard H Turner of Hawksmoor, Tom Adams of Pitt Cue, Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle, André Lima De Luca, Angie Mar, José Pizarro, Francis Mallmann, Michelin-Star chef Niklas Ekstedt, Luke Findlay of Patty & Bun, David Carter of Smokestak and many more!
And my boss? He is a convert, well and truly. He will be by our side, most likely with some more of my work family next time!
One word of warning. You WILL smell of smoke for the next few days, no matter how much you wash your hair or clothes, that barbecue smoke lingers – so expect looks as you get onto the tube afterwards, you will smell like you’ve bathed in meat smoke for the last week.
Have YOU been to Meatopia?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below in a comment.
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