Meat is having a moment and boy are we glad about it. While the steak offering quite often forms its own section on a menu, now the steak-house concept is riding high as we rave about rump, faint over fillet or swoon at a sirloin.
The new Porterhouse Butcher & Grill within Fenwick, Newcastle is going flat out to satisfy meat-lovers baying for blood.
With Terry Laybourne at the helm, diners are not only guaranteed tasty plates, but a dynamic dining experience too. The hybrid retail/restaurant concept means eating here is engaging and exciting. Diners can eat what they see. The ‘cook what we sell, sell what we cook’ approach means everything is fresh – and a definite talking point as you slice in to your meat.
An open kitchen is always a nice, sociable space. Made even better when customers can interact with the chefs behind the counter. Porterhouse (itself a two-in-one steak) is embracing that concept by popping a dozen or so stools at the bar, meaning you can chat to the chefs as they cook your chosen steak before your very eyes.
It’s a cool, casual spot for steak-lovers or hungry shoppers – and if you’d prefer to sit down for dinner, you can book a table in the sleek restaurant area for a sit-down, slap-up feast. If eating out isn’t on the agenda and you fancy charring away at home, you can pop your head over the counter and order directly from the butcher.
This brand new butchery bar is as swish as it gets. Plush cream bar stools, shining marble tops, mahogany woodwork and mosaic-style floor tiles set the scene. We’re in for opening week to catch up with Terry.
“The concept is pretty straightforward really,” he says.
“A busy counter, a few stools and cooking in front of the customer. I always felt that it was a good concept.
“I’ve seen this sort of thing work incredibly well in food markets overseas, although not in such a polished environment as this. But we took a punt and shook hands on a deal for Saltwater Fish Company when the new Food Hall opened. The upshot was it was a huge success. Everybody loved it, everybody still loves it. I think it’s that dynamic of just being able to sit up on the stool and engage with the chef.
“We had a space that we were trading as Ko Sai, the Asian restaurant and it just made sense to roll Saltwater this way and embrace the butcher. The idea is to do the same thing that we do with the fish, but with a meat offering.”
Taking inspiration from buzzy European food markets where the local butcher will sizzle up a streak in front of you, Terry wanted to create a similar vibe in Newcastle.
“Those European markets are just the best,” says Terry.
“I think the best of all is the San Miguel in Madrid – it just buzzes from nine in the morning until twelve at night. I’ve always thought, if we can create even half of that anywhere in Newcastle it would be a dream. And here we are now.”
It’s an of-the-moment foodie experience we’ve all been waiting for. We love the idea that you can pop in for a porterhouse (or whatever your preferred cut – picanha is a South American favourite for example – a juicy top rump), and also take them away.
The steaks are cooked using a charcoal-fired Josper grill and one of the key suppliers is world-renowned meat supplier Peter Hannan, who runs Hannan Meats. The award-winning beef is dry-aged for up to 45 days in Himalayan salt chambers giving a unique flavour and tenderness.
Other specialities include Northumberland Wagyu beef from Steve Ramshaw and pork from Ravensworth Grange Farm.
“Our house beef comes from a friend of mine in Northern Ireland – someone I’ve worked with for five or six years. We buy pork from a lady just over the river – in Ravensworth.
“We’re buying whole breed ducks and chickens from another old friend in Lancashire, we’re buying herb-fed chickens from North Yorkshire and we’re buying black pudding from the south west of France.
“It’s a chew trying to get it all to us, but I think the product is good enough and unique enough.”
When it comes to the menu, you’re looking at a selection of raw and cured plates and small plates (both work as starters), steaks (all native breeds, traditionally reared), Himalayan salt-chamber stand-outs, plus big cuts for sharing and a selection of other main courses such as grilled lamb chops with mint jelly, venison burger, spiced Italian sausages and ox cheek and brown ale pie, with or without oysters from next door neighbour Saltwater Fish Company.
“The big talking point for us is the porterhouse, because it’s in the name. It’s two steaks in one and this is two businesses in one – so there’s a bit of symmetry there.
“The porterhouse is unique in that there’s only one on any side of beef. It’s a sharer and even with the bone taken out, there’s a lot of meat there. The porterhouse is a cut off the T-bone that has the biggest proportion of fillet, so that’s the real talking point here.
“For me, I’d have the prime rib on the bone. I prefer it, it’s got a bit more flavour – there’s a bit more to chew. If I’m on my own, I’d have the ribeye, which isn’t a sharer. They’re the prime cuts for me.”
With a bit of direction from the brains behind the butchery, it’s time to tuck in for a fillet-filled afternoon at the meat counter.
Starting with the small plates, I opt for the fried duck egg and Basque black pudding (£7.10), while my dinner dates choose the chicken liver pate and hot toast (£5.80) and the Saltwater sashimi (£9.20) from our friends at Saltwater Fish Company.
Next up is the steak course. Two chateau steak (250g, £28.20), a thick cut from the tenderloin fillet, and the fillet steak (200g, £26.40). All cooked rare and bursting with juicy flavours with a charred fringe providing a bit of bite. The steaks come with fries, a side garnish, mustards and béarnaise sauce. Try the hipster chips (£3.20) with truffle oil and parmesan for something a little on-trend and punchy!
Desserts don’t disappoint, spicing things up with the grilled pineapple with chilli caramel and coconut ice cream (£5) and crème caramel (£4.80).
It takes a twist on the traditional marrying our love of steak with inspiration from the lively food markets of Europe. Chew on it.
Fenwick Food Hall