This may be something you can’t help shouting as you enter the subterranean temple of Temper, where you’ll find followers worshipping at the hooves of porcine, bovine and caprine deities and where Fred Flintstone himself would gladly grace with his bare foot presence.
Neil Rankin is the high priest of this new London restaurant in the heart of Soho having built up a cult following amongst low & slow devotees at his Smokehouse venues in Islington and Chiswick and was part of the original group at the now legendary Pitt Cue (note: we think the original Pitt Cue was better than its new home in the city).
The discovery that it was a good idea to cook meat is argued to be the tipping point at which we left our neanderthal ancestors behind, leaving them to discuss who’s turn it was it to chew on the mammoth leg. Turns out that eating cooked meat meant we could turn it into energy more quickly (the original Red Bull) and we could then spend less time hunting & chewing and more time doing useful stuff like inventing the wheel, electricity and selfie sticks.
Anyway, we’re glad someone first put meat over a flame because it ended up a few thousand years later with new openings like Temper on Broadwick St.
Don’t be fooled by the small reception area on ground level – down the stairs is where you need to go whereupon you will see, through the smoke, a brigade of chefs moving between joints of meat perched at varying heights above smouldering trays of charcoal.
It’s all about the meat
The two joints (beef and goat) directly in front of us were coming towards the end of their 12 hour journey and so we thought it was only right we ordered these from the succinct menu.
Before the main events we eased our way into things with a selection of tacos. The crab with pickled onion pork skin taco sounds, to be frank, a bit weird, but in Rankin we trust and sure enough the combination works well. Surf and turf re-booted. The mackerel tacos gave a good hit of firm fresh flesh with smokey chargrilled skin, the kitchen showing an unexpected delicate touch.
Main courses are priced per 100g – handy if you fancy ordering a selection of items to try out. Beef is served as a selection of cuts. Pretty (in the conventional sense) it is not – well it is a plate of meat that came off second best to a big cleaver. But is this the best beef I had in 2016? Yep, I think it is. The plate of rare breed Dexter was made of up short rib and sirloin, two cuts to show off a good textural range, all underpinned by a mellow smoke.
Goat was as tender as its young cousin, the spring lamb, showing what alchemy a stint over a fire pit can create.
A side of salsa verde added a nice bit of freshness to proceedings and the chargrilled lettuce is expertly handled. Mains are served with flat bread, hand-made in front of you. Make dough, roll dough, oven, plate, in less time than you can say “ready, steady, bak..”
On the drinks front we started with a well made negroni before moving on to a crisp IPA from the Walthamstow based Wild Card brewery.
The wine list is well priced and helpfully structured by type (fruity, full bodied etc) which makes it easier to pair with dishes. And the service was on point – attentive without being rushed.
The extraction unit, humming like a 747 about to take off, is one of the biggest of its kind in London. It has a lot, and I mean a lot, of smoke to handle and it does this well. But it’s not exactly a vape fest down there so be prepared to be asked if you’ve started on the Marly Lights again or why you are lighting bonfires on a Wednesday lunchtime.
Pull up a seat by the fire
If you like being close to the action, ask for a stool at the counter that runs around the central kitchen. Two notes of warning though:
a) it is pretty warm up there, so have a layer to take off…
b) the stools are very close together; so talking to your eating companion(s) must only involve a turn of the head. Turn your stool any more than a few degrees and you’ll be knocking knees, which may be a traditional greeting in west Wales but is not on trend for London…
We paid £100 for two of us.
Tacos are £5 to £9. The beef was £19 for 200g / the goat also £19 for 200g.
The Verdict: 4/5
Temper is a meat-lover’s El Dorado but it also has some great lighter dishes to balance everything out. Big, confident, atmospheric and good value for the quality of the produce; Temper is an exciting addition to the London restaurant scene. Go hungry, leave full /y smoked.
Words by JMRM