Butchery Class at Allens of Mayfair

Food classes are all the rage; I’ve been a dedicated student of  ham school, pig school, steak school and currently,  wine school. I never miss a chance to learn a skill from an expert and I was nothing short of ecstatic to be invited to a butchery class at one of London’s most renowned: Allens of Mayfair.

As our cosy group of six gathered around the famous octagonal butcher’s block to absorb information about safety and don some rather fetching protective gloves (secured around my dainty laydee hand with a couple of laccy bands), I found I became strangely nervous. The kind of nerves you get when you really want to make someone proud; it seemed that David (one of two owners) had already become like a favourite teacher – I didn’t want to let him down.

I needn’t have worried – this is about as friendly as it gets and yet utterly professional. We stood, mouths hanging agape watching David butcher a whole lamb, instructing us to ‘”let the knife do the work” and to “move the meat around – it’s already dead.” He shimmied it back and forth across the block with the ease of an entirely automatic action; the knife like a natural extension of his arm. To watch the pros at work is really something; I can see why many top London restaurants choose Allens, London’s oldest butcher’s shop, as a supplier.

We giggled as David mused on the difference between the male and female approach to the classes. Apparently men tend to barge in with testosterone fuelled caveman hackery while women, in general, adopt a more careful, considered style. A stereotype of course but also a valuable message: butchery is an art, a skill – not a lesson in who can make one lump of meat into many in the shortest time possible.

We began the class with the humble chook. Now I’ve hacked away at many a bird in my time and despite owning a copy of ‘Knife Skills Illustrated’ and having free and easy access to Google, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never looked up the proper method for jointing. That leg joint has flummoxed me on too many occasions; on Saturday I learned that all one needs to do to release that joint is put a hand underneath and push upwards.

The extra trick with the legs is also to preserve the ‘oyster’ – regarded by some (including, famously, Marco Pierre White) as the most delicious morsel of meat on the entire bird. I failed miserably on my first attempt but nailed it on the second (above, the one on the left has the oyster, at the top).

Next was oxtail; the trick here to locate each joint and then slice just next to it – your knife should glide through easily. If it doesn’t you know you’re off track. Most of us needed help – some joints are more elusive than others. Everyone took pride in lining up their pieces in size order as suggested.

After the simplicity of the oxtail it was on to a French-trimmed rack of lamb. This was daunting due to the need for sawing of bones but careful supervision left us all with a  rack to be proud of. No sniggering at the back please…

The grand finale was just that;  jitters set in – what if we made a wrong cut? A spectacular 3 bone piece of sirloin demanded all our attention and respect. The challenge was to remove the bone, the unwanted fat and gristle and roll, securing the joint with some surprisingly tricksy butcher’s knots. Our teachers really excelled themselves in terms of patience and attentiveness; we were all terrified of making a wrong slice on a clearly expensive piece of meat.

 At the end of approximately 1 1/2 hours, a quick squiz around the room revealed a bunch of people with silly, cheesy grins. The team at Allens are charming, patient, funny and extremely good at what they do. That’s not a gushing, biased blurb but a heartfelt recommendation that you try this class for yourself. It costs £100 and you will take home valuable experience, knowledge and a shed load of high quality meat that you have butchered with your very own hands. It is extremely good value. Schoolin’ just doesn’t get better than this.

See Allens website for details. Type of meat and cuts change according to availability and season.

Allens of Mayfair
117 Mount Street,
London W1K 3LA
Tel: 020 7499 5831

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12 thoughts on “Butchery Class at Allens of Mayfair

  1. I think you did a great job. I wish I had such gloves too. This class looks useful – I have difficulties when it comes to cutting meat. I know it’s a matter of practise but I can never be sure am I doing the things right.

  2. That looks like an excellent class- I LOVE going to cookery classes and attended quite a few at Billingsgate Seafood Cookery School @ the market which I highly recommend. I also learnt a lot of Japanese dishes from Reiko Hashimoto of Hashi Cooking.

  3. Brilliant stuff. Looks like you had a great time. I can completely believe what you say about the different approach boys and girls have. I’d probably steam in like Daniel Day Lewis from Gangs of New York wielding nothing but a machete. Well done Allens.

  4. You know my father has this skill and we always goes to a farm, select our lamb adn then he processes it in his “butcher shop” that he set up in the garage. I can also watch him for hours. Nice read, keep it comin’!!!

  5. Niamh – It will indeed but I agree, totally worth promoting. A fabulous class that deserves to be written about.

    Martin – DO it!! You must. You won’t regret it, I promise.

    gastrogeek – It’s so much fun and so relaxed. I was daunted at first but we had such a laugh and I think it’s amazing value for the money considering all the meat you get to take home and all the skills gained. Best thing I’ve done in ages.

  6. Done and done, I’ve been looking for one of these courses, £100 sounds like a bargain, and I’m sure I’ll concentrate harder than I did in real school, this being, y’know, interesting.

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