All images taken on a Pentax Q
I once got a comment via a friend that her colleague was annoyed with me for "busting" her favourite cafe. She was disgruntled that the secret was out and that she wouldn't be able to get a seat at her cafe. Oddly enough, this person was a journalist that routinely wrote about places, people and things. I didn't quite understand the attitude, after all I get excited when I come across something and want to share it with you Dear Readers.
If you've dined at a restaurant in Sydney, chances are high that the restaurant has their meat supplied by Vic's Meat. Established in 1989 by butcher Victor Puharich it is said to source the top 10% of Australia's best meat. 2009 saw the expansion of the business from wholesale to retail with the retail store Victor Churchill in Woollahra and three years ago they opened up the wholesaling business to the public from their Mascot location. There, people queue as early as 7.30am every Saturday and they serve up to 450 people in four hours.
The Bourbon chef James Metcalfe, who is a customer (left) and Anthony Puharich
The two stores couldn't be more different. Victor Churchill only sells fresh meat that has not been cryovacced. Victor Puharich himself selects the meat that will go to the Woollahra location every morning. Customers go into a store that resembles a Louis Vuitton boutique and buy meat sliced to order, a fat roasted Thirlmere chicken, some charcuterie or potted terrine. They will exit the store with a logo'd paper bag full of their purchases.
At Mascot, it is a "bulk experience" market style. They buy chops, sausages, rump and scotch fillet and there are no more than thirty cuts of meat. The Mascot warehouse shop actually takes place in the butchering room where old school butchers slice away at meat. Within half an hour the space is transformed into a store.
Victor is very much against the machinising of the butchering trade and the only equipment they have is a vacuum packer, sausage filler, band saw and mincer. Other wholesalers use laser cutters to slice their meat. Anthony laments that butchering has become a dying trade with only a handful of skilled butchers around although he tells us that a skilled one can earn in the six figures (although the hours of 2am-11am are not for everyone).
One sunny Saturday morning when I decide that I need to make some beef short ribs, I go to the Mascot store for their "market day" where they open from 8am-noon every Saturday. I arrive around 11am and parking is easy and I am handed a basket. Some of the cryovacced already portioned items are self serve while staff members will assist with fresh cuts. I walk around and survey the prices and they're very good. The main activity is at the prime cuts area where lamb cuts are at $19.99 a kilo. People come from all over and many do a two month meat shop freezing some of the meat.
The section in the centre has about six types of sausages from David Blackmore Wagyu chorizo at $14.90 a kilo to lamb merguez sausages and pork and white wine for $12.99 and basic pork sausages for a $6.90 a kilo. You can buy as little or as much as you want and I over hear one woman asking for a smaller cut of corned beef and the butcher tells her that he can cut her a smaller one so there's no pressure to buy big bulk lots. At the back Victor Puharich is cutting meat and this will be moved over to the prime cuts section.
Opposite there is a not very commonly seen item, suckling pig quarter and lamb quarters. These appear every now and again when a restaurant is unable to take a standing order for an item so they break the beasts up into quarters which are more manageable for the public and sell them here.
There are also some value added items like pre made pies and with the oncoming chill are beef cheeks at $19.98 a kilo from Rangers Valley. Thermometers, steak knives, cutting board and other acoutrements are also sold. I bought some lamb merguez sausages, some pork and white wine sausages and a two and a half kilo piece of Rangers Valley grain fed short ribs and another large piece of brisket for corned beef. My total is just under $100 and each purchase gets a whole chicken slipped into their bag. Even as I leave around closing time, the store is still full of people loading up trolleys and baskets.
So tell me Dear Reader, would you prefer the Vic's Meat market style experience or the flash Victor Churchill experience? And do you tend to buy meat in bulk and freeze it or fresh whenever you need to eat it?
Just added: for this Saturday only (3rd August, 2013), NQN readers will enjoy a 5% off their total bill! To redeem show staff the blog home page at checkout on your phone or mobile device or just print off the first page of this post!
10 Merchant St, Mascot NSW 2020
Tel:(02) 9317 6900
Market day 8am-noon every Saturday