It was a bright, cold day in November and the clocks would have been striking fifteen (had they been using the 24 hour system) when I headed along Upper Street looking for the new Islington outpost of Meat Liquor. It’s hard to find; I had the address and walked straight past. It’s set back from the street and when you do spot it it doesn’t look welcoming. Spray painted red arrows point to the doorway which seems to lead directly into the kitchen. But turn right and you’re in a large natural light-deprived, red-tinged space that used to be a garage. Now it feels like a bar that 1984’s Miniluv could have set up to trap dissidents into thinking they’re safe to plot.
It’s a grungy set up with flickering CRT TVs above the kitchen, CCTV cameras and quotations in Orwell’s Newspeak sprayed on the walls, along with graffiti stencils and artworks inspired by 1984 and Animal Farm. The decor includes a McDonalds Golden M sign, inverted in disrespect and being used as the W in a sign for the WCs. Serviettes are for wimps, just rip a sheet off a roll of kitchen roll. The menu mentions an under the counter double patty burger, but you have to ask a burgerette for details. (That’s not a small burger, but a waitress). There’s a triple chilli challenge – if you can eat a Green Chilli Cheeseburger, a Chilli dog and Chili Cheese Fries in under ten minutes you get them for free. Probably along with a soupçon of indigestion, but if you’re hungry it might be worth having a go. Tell us how you get on in the comments below.
This Islington branch of Meat Liquor is home to only the 2nd UK example of Budweiser Budvar’s Tankové Pivo beer. Look above the bar and you’ll see four metal tanks. These are filled with unpasteurized beer (brewed and conditioned for 102 days) that is delivered directly from the Czech brewery – a neon countdown tells you when the next shipment is expected. As the beer is never exposed to air and only travels a couple of metres from the tanks to your glass it is as fresh and flavoursome as drinking in the Moravian brewhouse itself. At least so I’m told. I have never drunk beer in a Moravian brewhouse so I cannot vouch for the veracity of that statement. It’s pleasantly bitter with little body and a gentle fizz. If you want to sample the best Budvar in Britain, get yourself along and give it a try.
How much beer is left in each tank? There’s a readout for that.
MeatLiquor are lucky I’m not grieving for a friend who used to be a flower-power child of the Seventies or I might consider suing for the distress caused just by looking at the menu. Assured it was a speciality I went for the protein-style Dead Hippie burger. Two good sized patties of meat, pink in middle, one coated with an off-puttingly bright yellow cheese. Served in lettuce leaves for health freaks to pretend they’re being healthy. Unfortunately the Dead Hippie sauce was undistinguished. I’m not sure what you expect when ordering a dead hippy, but I was expecting something with more oomph. Without certain unlawful practices it’s impossible to prove that it doesn’t taste like dead hippy, but it was brown and slightly sweet and verged towards the tastelessness of the name. It doesn’t have a lot going for it, I’d try another flavour next time.( If you have a recommendation leave it in the comments below).
If you’re looking for a new twist on decor for your burgers, or appreciate the best of Czech beer head over to 133 Upper Street. Then walk past it, check the map on your phone and go back in amazement that you walked straight past. Turn off the street, past the stickered up rally car and follow the red arrows to the door. Will Big Brother be watching you eat?