I became interested in the concept of Temper long before it opened its doors in December, back when Neil Rankin announced his plans and an entire community of non-meat eaters decided the concept of cooking bits of animal in the middle of a restaurant was a bit too much for their heads to handle. Whilst they were in endanger of spontaneously combusting, I was busy working up a sweat of my own. You see, burning bits of animal is my thing; I understand if it’s not yours, but given the choice I’m always to take a slow cooked bit of cow over a carrot. And if I can watch the magic happen whilst eating said bits of meat then I’m all yours. Take me. Do as you will.
The first thing that hits you when you descend down the stairs is the smell. It is one of victory of the food chain in the correct order. Of smoke and of animal. It wears you more than you wear it. I take one of the stools around the central counter and watch the team at work. Various bits of cow, pig, sheep, and goat, each sold in mixed cuts of 100g portions. There are taco’s, larbs and kofta. Sides, sauces, and sprinkles. Aged cheeseburgers are the first to arrive; mini patties of aged beef, rare in the centre and charred on the outer, sat on freshly pressed taco’s the right side of sandy in texture. It is the perfect two bite snack; meaty, complex and undeniably masculine.
And then the meat. Oh Lordy, the meat. One plate of pork, another of lamb, piled on to flat breads so that the rendered fat has a final resting place. Each has various cuts, distinguishable only by the amount of fat between meat and skin. I remark to the chef working by me that the clarity of flavour each cut of meat is extraordinary – “just salt, pepper, and a little fire” is his response. If only cooking was that simple. The process works; leaner cuts come pinker than working muscles. Fat opaque. Skin crisp. Some bits require your own teeth, others don’t. All of it is incredible. Asking me which one is my favourite would be like asking my Dad to choose between his two sons. I reckon a decision could be made at a push, but it’s not for my ears. With this I order a burnt pepper salsa that adds a nice piquancy to both meats and a crumb of pork scratchings, hot pepper and pickled onion that seasons the pork to a new level, as well as providing an additional texture to a bowl of burrata, jalapeno and lime. The latter is an inspired choice of side and one that I reach for in-between mouthfuls of meat to cool and sharpen the palate.
They do desserts; a soft baked cookie and a caramel drenched pastry. Both sound like they could genuinely change my world, though by now I am sweating unattractively and unable to finish the slices of goat kindly offered by the same chef who shared his insight. I sit for a while and take it all in; the place is heaving at lunchtime just weeks after opening and rightly so – these people are here for meat and theatre and both are delivered in abundance. The smell of fire and animal would stain my jacket for the rest of the day. I wear it like a badge of honour.