If you love pork, then trot along to London’s Exmouth Market, where new restaurant Blackfoot has launched with a menu devoted to all things piggy. Here’s the lowdown.
Tom Ward and Allegra McEvedy first worked together at Leon: he was operations manager, she the café chain’s co-founder. Now the two have reunited over a new concept: a restaurant squarely devoted to pork. Blackfoot occupies an old pie and mash shop on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell, and its menu will be devoted to well-reared, high-quality British pork. We meet up with Tom, who explains his porky passion.
Where did you get the idea for a restaurant devoted to pork?
I’ve always been fascinated by pork, and love eating it. It has so much character and flavour; it is versatile, not one-dimensional – you can do loads with it. And I always wanted to do a neighbourhood restaurant, a place where you can go two to three times a week for really approachable, wholesome food. Allegra, my business partner and food director, brought her recipes and influence to bear on the food, ie: a lot of character! She has also “girlified” the menu a little bit, so we’ve got some lovely bold salads. It’s not all about the meat.
Can you really get decent variety on a menu that uses just one animal?
To be honest, it was harder to decide what not to put on the menu. We could have written it three times over. Because the influences come from all over, there is plenty of variety, and many different flavours. I really liked the way one review described the restaurant, saying that we have a “pork-provoked menu”. It’s not literally 100 per cent pork: there’s a great nut burger, and we always have fish specials, too.
Tell us about some of the influences on the menu.
Well, you’ll see Spain and Italy in the charcuterie and in some of the hot dishes. The Americas are heavily featured – things like pulled pork tacos, and Southern BBQ ribs. Then there are southeast Asian-style dishes, such as our Vietnamese belly salad, and the lemongrass, ginger and lime aromatic ribs. We didn’t want to focus on one cuisine; we just thought about the kind of food we like to eat.
Are other countries better with pork than Britain?
Countries such as Spain and Italy have real heritage when it comes to pork dishes, particularly their cured meats. The Spanish have been curing pork for hundreds of years, so they’ve lots of experience. But British pork is the best. We breed fantastic pigs, and now we’ve got small producers making charcuterie that’s up there with the best of them. That’s partly down to the quality of the pigs.
Where do you source your meat?
We get 70 per cent of our pork from a farm in Suffolk called Dingley Dell. We use a Landrace/Duroc cross pig. They’re happy pigs, reared and bred outside, and they make spectacular pork dishes. Our cured meats come from elsewhere. We get British charcuterie from Cannon and Cannon, and the gammon is from Sam’s Pigs in Dorset – a breed called Oxford Sandy and Black, which they feed on goat whey and leave to roam freely in the forest.
Why do those pigs suit your menu?
The Landrace/Duroc is great because it has an excellent degree of intramuscular fat, which you might hear referred to as “marbling”. That fat provides loads of flavour. So our rib steak, for example, is streaked with fat that melts as it cooks. The gammon steaks are a bit different. Because the Sandy and Black pigs are fed on goat whey, there’s a lovely milky colour and texture to the meat. Their hams are perfect for curing and turning into gammon.
What do you look for when you set about sourcing meat?
I think it’s important to visit the farm, spend time with the farmers and see the whole process: rearing, slaughter and butchery. All the pigs we use are reared outdoors. Any animal that is given a good life, allowed to roam freely and treated well will be flavourful. When animals have the opportunity to run around, they have more blood moving through the flesh, and the end product tastes better.
What would you say is the must-eat at Blackfoot?
Probably the porchetta. We do it two ways: in a bun, served over the counter at lunchtime, or with lentils. Porchetta is pork belly wrapped around loin and a bit of stuffing. So it’s moist and tender, with classic crackling on the outside. People are saying our whipped lardo is very good, too. It is mixed with sherry vinegar, rosemary and garlic, then spread on toast.
What pork should Flavour readers buy and cook for themselves?
Go for a shoulder steak. It’s not a commonly bought cut in the UK, in comparison to, say, a whole loin or chop. But there’s so much flavour in it, with all that marbling. Ask for a shoulder steak or collar steak. A spare rib steak – from just behind the shoulder – is also superb. You might see it called a pork rib-eye steak.