As Christmas is nearly upon us and everyone is thinking about turkey, sprouts, pigs-in-blankets, and a whole host of other assorted festive requirements, allow me to distract you with some fire, smoke, and meat.
You know you want me to….
Temper is the brainchild of meat and BBQ maestro Neil Rankin and occupies a wonderfully smokey basement in London’s Soho (there is also now a branch in the city). Neil has worked for Barbecoa, Pitt Cue Co, and also opened the excellent Smokehouse in Islington – he is a man who knows his meat and, most importantly of all, knows how to cook it.
As you descend into the dining room from street level, your nostrils begin to tingle with the earthy smells of smoke and charcoal, a background hum of the outdoors that is hovering in the air and undercut with the soothing aroma of meat being cooked over coals. Once at the bottom of the stairs, a huge indoor fire pit is revealed, a clay oven at one end, various racks and grills at the other, and a counter that runs all the way round for diners to revel in the sight of meats (and fish) being lovingly, simply prepared and cooked before their eyes. It’s quite a statement and one which is sure to melt the heart of any BBQ fiend. For those who prefer a more traditional dining experience, tables away from the fire and smoke are also available, although I’m not sure why you’d want one!
The emphasis here is, obviously, on meat but don’t come expecting St Louis ribs or chicken wings – this is a different BBQ game. Starters come in the form of soft tacos – baked to order – and with a range of toppings like crab and pickled onion pork skin, prawns, or the wonderful Aged Cheeseburger; Small patties of beef, charred and juicy, with a slab of melted cheese served on piping hot, soft tacos are truly a thing of beauty and wonder and could, if ordered generously, satisfy as a main in their own right. A simple but delicious beef fat taco is worth a go as was, on one visit, the wonderful tuna and salsa offering which was clean, punchy, and utterly delicious.
Mains are, for the most part, ordered by 100g portions and they suggest two or three to share for two people plus some sides. I’d normally skip sides to focus on more meat but do not, under any circumstances, skip these sides – beef fat roast potatoes covered in grilled, tangy Ogleshield cheese are truly sensational and a wonderful gluttonous treat. Likewise, the grilled corn with lamb fat bearnaise is a fabulous dish – some of the corn is popped to add an extra and exciting texture, the creamy, unctuous sauce cut perfectly with a dusting of mint. And of course, both of these sensational sides go perfectly with the hunk of smoked meats that come served on freshly griddled flat bread.
Goat is rich, deeply flavoured and utterly moreish, demonstrating here why it is a meat we need to eat more of – totally delicious and increasingly available. If you think you don’t like goat or are too scared to try it, go to Temper and have some and all your worries will be over. Likewise if you’ve ever been slightly disappointed by dry, soulless BBQ beef then the charred, moist, and wonderful offering here will sooth any previous beef trauma. Also worth diving in to is the beef and marrow chilli which comes with fresh, spicy jalapeño and sings with delicate, fresh flavours of lime and coriander – a perfect example of what many restaurants only vaguely achieve.
To follow this fresh-faced feast, the warm baked cookie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is an absolute must and comes served in the pan it was baked in. Gooey, sweet, sticky, indulgence of the highest order and well worth saving some room for (although on both visits we ended up sharing one between us).
Wine is available by the glass or bottle with a very decent selection of grapes and prices – house wines start from about £26 – and there are various tempting cocktails and craft beers. It is worth noting that if you do sit by the counter, white wine will get warm quickly as the heat from the pit radiates towards you – be warned!
Service is professional, relaxed, and of the highest standard and it is a marvellous place to spend a couple of hours, especially on a cold winter’s day. Dinner for two including drinks and service is about £100 but if you skip starters it’ll come in at nearer to £80 – but with food of this quality this is fantastic value. There are few places where you can enjoy such fantastic food in such an exciting and unique environment and Temper ticks the boxes for being one of the finest meateries around. And is more than worth returning to for feasts of meat and fire.
You will come out smelling like you’ve been slowly smoked over coals but this is a very good thing…