So, a brief summary of the past week; I’ve moved back home, I’ve received my degree level, it’s hot. Maybe too hot. It’s 6am and I’m currently spread on my bed unable to leave the stream of lukewarm air being provided by my fan, lamenting the 3 hours sleep I got last night thanks to the whir of said fan. So I thought I’d get my laptop out and distract myself by writing about our recent trip to the hottest restaurant in London right now – no literally, the hottest restaurant I’ve ever entered. If you want respite from the unrelenting heat outside, I’d advise against making the trip down to Neil Rankin’s newish Soho basement restaurant, Temper. If, however, you want to experience one of the tastiest, meatiest, most fantastically testosterone-filled – and yes, sweatiest – eating experiences, Temper might be up your street.
After reading Jay Rayner’s review naming Temper one of ‘the most exciting restaurants to open in London this year’, I put it on my bucket list (now growing to over 40 restaurants, goodbye future wages), but its proximity to theatre land where we had tickets for The Curious Incident last week meant Temper shot to the top of the list. We arrived at 6 (after walking straight past it and spending a further 10 minutes wandering around Soho scratching our heads and questioning why google maps told us we were right next to it, before realising that it’s an underground restaurant), and were guided downstairs to the dark, smokey man-pit that was the dining room-cum-meat-theatre. We sat at the counter, and the sweating began. Regardless of the fierce heat that was emanating from the charcoal fires at the centre of the room, get a seat at the counter. It’s what the restaurant is all about. It meant that conversation for the evening consisted of ‘look how big THAT piece of meat is’ and ‘I wonder if the chef should be wearing a beard net’ – of course he shouldn’t, that would ruin the overtly macho man-with-fire, my-hair-will-only-add-protein-to-your-meat-so-suck-it-up-and-fucking-eat-it vibe this man was channeling. We loved it.
After ordering drinks (£6 house white, £5 cider so not extortionate but also enough to make us pleased we went to the pub beforehand), we were taken through the menu by another beard-clad, tattoo bearing waiter who very kindly swapped all flatbread for corn tacos to make everything gluten free for us (I would recommend doing that anyway, the tacos were delicious). Unlike more delicate restaurants where small, neat cuts of meat are served up adorned with an array of other miniature, artistically placed garnishes like baby carrot and truffle and x flavoured foam (I’m currently looking at the menu of Clove Club and it’s clearly distracting me), at Temper you order your meat by the 100g, and your meat comes to you, all 100g, slapped on a plate, oozing juices. We opted for a selection of Welsh lamb, Dorset slow cooked goat, and burnt end Thai larb. Oh, and side dishes? Fat. Beef fat potatoes, corn with lamb fat bearnaise, and a beef fat taco. Fatty meat with a side of meaty fat. Health food junkies would lament – or would they? Is this ‘paleo’? Is this a latest health trend? I don’t care, the screams of my coronary arteries were hidden by the sounds of the meat spitting on the fire.
And the verdict? Brilliant. The goat was meltingly tender, the lamb succulently pink and tinged with the carcinogenic depth of smoke from the fire. I could eat the burnt ends again right now, the heat from the chilli balanced by lime and heaps of coriander. I ended up spooning the corn, dripping with béarnaise, straight from the pot and mopping up any leftovers with a meat-juice drenched taco. The beef fat potatoes became slightly less appetising once their ongleshield blanket had cooled down and hardened slightly, but to allow them to cool is probably to miss the point of them; you want to shovel them in as soon as they’re out the oven, if you can take a break from the pile of goat sat in front of you. Oh and the sprinkles and dips – get them all. It’s your chance to DIY your own taco and feel as badass as the chefs – I reckon my combination of goat meat, chipotle sour cream, crispy onions and coriander from the Thai larb was well deserving of a place on their specials board.
While many might be put off by the, as Rayner puts it, ‘macho posturing’ of Temper, the immaculate service allows it to get away with such boldness. If you want a lean cut, they’ll give you a lean cut. If you want to replace this with that then they’ll accommodate you happily. No whiff of snobbery or superiority or ‘that doesn’t showcase the meat properly’ or anything. They’ve nailed service that is casual, attentive and prompt.
So in summary; don’t go there as a vegetarian. Don’t go there on a diet. Don’t go if you don’t love the smell of smoke in your hair 3 days later. Don’t go there with only an hour to spare, as we did. We still ended up missing the first 15 minutes of the play and I didn’t even have time to fully clog my arteries with the butterscotch kouign-amann and dulce de leche ice cream. An excuse to go again, I suppose.