Having heard on the grapevine that this was the equivalent to Meat Liquor's retro little sister, I as keen to check it out. Located in Jubilee Market Hall in Covent Garden via a side door on Tavistock street, Meat Market is a narrow balcony area set over the market with a very fast food feel to it. From the moment you step foot in the door, you can feel the clock ticking - these guys want you in and out as quickly as possible; they have a one-way system, you order and pay as you walk through then find a seat (I dread to think what it would be like when busy, luckily it was fairly quiet when we went), even the music is high tempo to hurry you along when eating.
Like a lot of London gourmet burger joints the rule here is no reservations - it's first come first served, and be prepared to queue. Crazily, on their website it states that they don't serve burgers on Bank Holidays - I don't know if this means they're closed, but if not and they're not serving burgers, then they might as well be closed (confusing).
The menu apparently changes on quite a regular basis - when I went (just this week), there were only 3 burger options and the rest was a mixture of sides, drinks and shakes - not a whole lot to choose from really considering two of the burgers were almost identical (The Black Palace Burger and the Double Bubble).
When you order and pay they ask for your name (how very Starbucks of them) and print it on your bill. Now, this should make the whole experience feel more friendly and personal, surely? It's not quite the case when they shout your name over the grating tannoy then slam your order on the table when you fail to collect it within 5 seconds...
When the food arrived (and it was 'fast', you can't knock them for their speed), the packaging was very much like anything you'd find in Burger King or McDonald's, which would be fine if they didn't charge gourmet burger prices - a Dead Hippie Burger (pictured below), fries and a 'hard beige shake' (that's a vanilla milkshake with bourbon to you) will set you back £16! That wouldn't be so bad if you didn't feel like you were being rushed to force it all down your neck and be out of the door within 15 minutes, or if the quality of the food wasn't so bad...
Thanks to my recent burger adventures, I think I'm becoming a bit of a snob/ connoisseur - you realise when you hear yourself verbally critiquing what you're eating Adam-Richman style, like you're on talking to camera for your own Man vs Food episode. Once you hit that point, there's no turning back - you are a hardcore foodie of the burger variety, the bar has been set, and you will forever be disappointed with sub-par burgers and feel compelled to blog about them.
You can see from the picture that they don't use the shiny burger buns that seem to hold everything together by magic (this is exactly what I'm talking about - snob), and that this one - and I suspect every burger from there - happened to be swimming in grease, makes for an interesting eating experience. Another clever challenge against the clock - eat the burger before it disintegrates into a soggy, horrible mess. Our group managed it, just - but it wasn't fun!
To add insult to injury, the chips (sorry 'fries') were liberally covered in salt, and my 'hard' beige shake was not only tiny but also decidedly 'soft' - if there was any trace of Bourbon in there I'd be surprised. The lack of alcohol situation was soon rectified with some potent cocktails at Jewel just up the road - which seemed to take the edge off the less than pleasurable Meat Market experience.
I'll be honest, I'd have enjoyed a McDonald's meal more (and would have been able to buy three for that price!). But hey, you've got to try these things out. It is definitely my least favourite of all the London Burger joints I've sampled so far - let's hope the next place fares better...
Overall - no great shakes (literally)