Real men eat cows - and eat them whole

'He isn't a cook, but the advantage of having a steak house is that you don't need to be able to cook'
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The Independent Online

Beef, I am delighted to report, is back in fashion. I shall declare my interest immediately. This very newspaper ran a feature last week about the latest red meat restaurants and ended by recommending the best places to eat steak and chips in Britain. My husband's restaurant was nominated the best in London. I wish I could take some of the credit, but apart from making the puddings I have nothing to do with it, other than turning up occasionally with a crowd of friends and trying unsuccessfully to cadge a free meal. He doesn't charge us for the puddings.

Beef, I am delighted to report, is back in fashion. I shall declare my interest immediately. This very newspaper ran a feature last week about the latest red meat restaurants and ended by recommending the best places to eat steak and chips in Britain. My husband's restaurant was nominated the best in London. I wish I could take some of the credit, but apart from making the puddings I have nothing to do with it, other than turning up occasionally with a crowd of friends and trying unsuccessfully to cadge a free meal. He doesn't charge us for the puddings.

I've always preferred red meat to white. No amount of free-range, maize-fed, French-farmyard or organic labels on chickens will convince me that they taste of anything but rubber. I stopped eating chicken long before that spooky television documentary about factory farming practices in America, where they apparently pump so many hormones into chickens that some of the men working on the farms grow breasts.

As children the only beef we ever had was stewing steak or mince; fillet and sirloin my mother said were far too expensive. I always ordered steak in restaurants and was invariably disappointed by the accompanying gristle, fat and general chewiness. The best steak I can remember eating was in Spain, with a legendary expat called Betty the Bull, who claimed to be the first English lady matador. My memorable steak, she said, came from one of her conquests.

That must be more than 20 years ago, as I can honestly say that until my husband came across this amazing butcher in the Highlands one summer and brought home 1lb of sausages and 2lbs of popeseye – which is Scottish for rump – I cannot remember eating another decent, let alone memorable, steak. Nor can he, which is why he started the restaurant. He isn't a cook, he is a psychologist; but the advantage of having a steak house is that you don't need to be able to cook. All you need is an automatic fryer for the chips, a charcoal grill for the steaks and you're away.

The crux is having a reliable butcher. A week after my husband opened the BSE scare broke out, but the restaurant was always packed. It was the same with foot-and-mouth. We'd read daily reports in the papers about farmers and butchers and proprietors of well-known Scottish steakhouse chains topping themselves because no one was buying red meat, but young Duncan's deliveries of prime Aberdeen Angus grass-fed beef kept coming. So did the customers.

Being a busybody by nature, I sometimes go round to the restaurants (he's opened another one) and suggest alterations to the décor and ambience, romantic lighting, prettier napkins, nicer soap in the ladies' loo. I once arranged wild flowers in ceramic flowerpots for the tables instead of the standard spray carnations, but my husband said dryly that people came to The Pope's Eye to eat good steak and drink good claret, not to look at the daisies. It's definitely a man's restaurant. He has just been taken up by a dauntingly macho organisation called the Carnivores' Club, which used to try out different steak restaurants but now only comes to his. Once a month 15 or so enormous men, mainly South Africans, Australians and Americans, turn up at around 8.30 and order, wait for it, the following sort of combinations: one 20-ounce fillet rare, one 12-ounce sirloin medium rare, and one 12-ounce popeseye medium. He has difficulty fitting 44 ounces of solid meat on to the plate. Sometimes they ask for fried eggs on the top.

One member turned up last time half an hour late, but worse, he brought his girlfriend. The other Carnivores made them sit at a separate table. That may have been the time when someone ordered a single 40oz medium rare sirloin. My husband said it was like cooking a telephone directory.

I don't suppose anyone wanted white chocolate cheese cake or lemon tart after all that, I said sadly.

They certainly did, plus another dozen bottles of vintage claret and cheese and 20-year-old Talisker to wash it all down.

Real men don't eat quiche, they eat cows – whole.

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