One the country’s most renowned butchers and suppliers of meat to many of London’s best restaurants has created an online retail portal for half hoggets, whole ducks, steaks, and chops which have been without a destination since the closure of the capital’s professional kitchens.
Warren’s On the Pass, a new initiative from Warren’s launched a fortnight ago, is an online shop available to the public offering meat reared and prepared to specifications set by Michelin-starred West African-inspired restaurant Ikoyi, central London’s inimitable Thai barbecue restaurant Kiln, and Shoreditch’s Michelin-starred Brat. On the new site, Warren’s explains that the coronavirus crisis has presented restaurant and meat-lovers with an opportunity to buy products the butcher has spent a decade fine-tuning in farms across Cornwall.
For the past 10 years we have built a business selling Cornish grass fed meat to London’s most talented chefs and most prestigious kitchens. A month ago that stopped but the dry ageing of their personally chosen meat didn’t. This is your opportunity to buy the best that was destined to be on the pass!!
Warren’s has since added cuts which would have been served at more of London and the U.K.’s most well-known restaurants: sirloin and rump cap from Blacklock, one of the capital’s best steakhouses and prized for the quality of its beef; saddle of lamb ordinarily destined for the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury in Notting Hill; and whole free-range ducks reared and aged for frequent Great British Menu chef Paul Ainsworth in Padstow, Cornwall.
While the majority of what’s for sale currently has to refashioned for the domestic consumer — for example, the butcher will cut Michelin-starred Brat’s 55-day aged sirloin however the buyer chooses — and the products, with their steep price-tags, are very obviously intended for a restaurant, Warren’s is not only focusing on the short-term. Yes, there is a surplus which it hopes to shift, but there’s a tacit belief that an audience for at-home retail could exist after the immediate effects of lockdown ease.
It’s with that in mind that Cornwall’s celebrated restaurant-with-rooms Coombeshead Farm is planning to sell its renowned Mangalitza pork through On the Pass in a fortnight’s time. Boxes which will contain prepared cuts, brined hams, sausages, and bacon taken from a quarter of a pig have been designed for the at-home buyer. Last month, when non-essential businesses were forced to close, Coombeshead quickly pivoted, preparing and distributing hampers across the country. Logistical complications forced a re-think. So too, did the feedback: People wanted bacon and sausages. Owner Tom Adams put it succinctly when he told Eater London: “No one needs three kilos of brawn in their fridge.”
On the Pass’ emergence also represents an interesting trend, as a number of the country’s most well-respected restaurant suppliers look to maintain cashflow as well as the supply chains they’ve worked tirelessly to cultivate and maintain as the food industry in Britain has evolved. Natoora, one of the leading suppliers of fruit and vegetables from across Europe, is one. But there are many others: Pesky Fish last week launched a next-day home delivery service for seafood caught the previous morning; English and Japanese vegetable grower Namayasai has expanded its vegetable box collections across the capital; eminent natural wine distributor Tutto launched Tutto a Casa; and the Estate Dairy is delivering its prized milk, otherwise destined for many of London’s trendy speciality coffee shops, across London.
Whether these novel direct-to-consumer supply chains can remain in place once the restaurants that depend so heavily on them reopen is not yet known. It could be fad, for giddy food enthusiasts to satisfy the pain felt by the sudden disappearance of restaurants. Moreover, many of these products are expensive and will need greater demand to expand their supply if their appeal is to broaden. But if these suppliers can not just harness but sustain the interest, their business models could adapt for the better, especially if restaurants — with all their expertise — can continue to play a role. After all, two routes to market in a more collaborative and sustainable food ecosystem are better than one.