Top local chefs help Surrey Hills Butchers launch The Cowshed in Oxshott
PUBLISHED: 13:52 13 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:39 28 February 2017
Award-winning Surrey chefs leave their pots and pans at home to test run Surrey Hills Butchers’ new events space in Oxshott. Surrey Life tags along for a butchery education
Over the years, the private lanes surrounding Oxshott village are sure to have hosted more than their fair share of covert meetings and parties – but the place has rarely been at the centre of the county’s culinary world.
That all changed last week, as some of Surrey’s top chefs convened on a previously unlikely foodie hotspot.
Most recently acting as a nondescript office in the heart of the village, the newly christened The Cowshed has been transformed by two-times Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards butcher of the year, Simon Taylor of Surrey Hills Butchers.
It’s found just behind his shop, alongside the recently refurbished Victoria pub. The building was once a slaughterhouse but now looks like a glossy magazine dining room.
It’s here that Simon plans to expand his butchery workshops programme - and who better to test the place, than a brigade of award-winning chefs (with Surrey Life along for the ride and attempting not to get in the way!)? No pressure then…
First at the door are Steve Drake and Daniel Britten. Many times Michelin starred Steve is currently masterminding the launch of his brand new restaurant in Dorking, Sorrel (more on that in March’s Surrey Life magazine). Daniel, meanwhile, is patiently waiting for the refurbishment of his new home, The White Horse in Hascombe, to be finished. Next up is Nick Sinclair, the tour de force responsible for rejuvenating Emlyn Restaurant at Dorking’s Burford Bridge Hotel. Last, but by no means least, is the ever flamboyant Matt Worswick, who has also recently overseen the redesign of his restaurant, The Latymer at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot.
While not quite on the scale of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, it wouldn’t take much time in a Hollywood wardrobe to transform the evening’s adventure into a passable Tolkien tribute act.
This isn’t your standard dinner party list but then this isn’t your average butchers. While the butchery itself has served Oxshott since the early 1900s, it was little more than five years ago that Simon took over what was then a dying business - he hasn’t looked back since.
The 4.30am starts have proven well worth it as the area’s prestigious clientele (including a number of Chelsea FC stars) have made him their go-to guy and he’s picked up the butcher of the year crown at the last two Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards (challengers should apply to foodawards.surreylife.co.uk!).
Never one to rest on his laurels, The Cowshed is his brand new baby.
Keeping the boys in line on the night and cutting through the beards and bravado with unflinching patience and seemingly effortless style is Jenna Harfield.
Having picked up her events organising nous in the uber cool city of Sydney, Australia, Jenna now runs the Hersham-based Chapel Lane Events. She helps to bring a little ceremony to the occasion.
The soundtrack is chilled and drinks are served, as the culinary collective discusses how Surrey’s restaurants can best go about conquering the world (or something like that).
With such a high calibre crowd, Simon shows an admirably steady hand as he walks us through the stages of his operation, from sourcing the highest quality meat to the tricks of the shop front trade, with sides of pork and lamb as his easels.
While the racks, the chops, the shoulders, the shanks etc are all showcased, the evening is at its most intriguing when the more unusual ‘nose to tail’ cuts are discussed – it’s fascinating watching chefs’ minds at work as they’re hit by flashes of inspiration or memories of great dishes from days gone by.
Ideas flow for hand of pork (taken from the side of the shoulder) cooked low and slow, and Bath chaps/pork jowls; there’s incredibly tender lamb cannons, which Simon says are basically sirloin steak; there’s the bavette, hanger and flat iron steaks, which are better value for money if you know what to do with them; there’s dry-aging; there’s wrapping various cuts together into one impossibly tasty looking package; there’s… well, the education is endless. Did I hear lamb pancetta mentioned?!
By the end of Simon’s demonstration, new dishes have been dreamt up for upcoming menus (in fact, Matt Worswick adds Bath chaps to The Latymer’s within days) and ideas are noted down for further experimentation.
With Simon’s laid back approach, unquestionable passion for his work, sheer skill and ability to flag up those cheaper all too often forgotten cuts, it’s an essential education for any meat lover.
Having sat down to enjoy some of the results of Simon’s efforts at the slab and in the kitchen and, following heated Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards discussion (no need to lock away the knives just yet!), the evening’s fellowship eventually disperses into the night passed unsuspecting pub diners and late returning London commuters.
• Surrey Hills Butchers currently offers two workshop options, Butchery Basics at £80 per person and A Guide to Steaks at £90 per person. Visit butcherscook.com for more information.
• Nominate your favourite Surrey butchers, restaurants, pubs, cafés, foodie shops and more in the 2017 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards at foodawards.surreylife.co.uk