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Darker than a power cut; seedier than Fritzl’s basement; more industrial than a Rammstein concert. You choose your metaphor, you squint your eyes and you sit the hell down.
Through the crepuscular gloom, the horror slowly comes into view. Bare lightbulbs that swing from meat hooks. Booths divided by black plastic flaps. Doors dripping with what appears to be blood. Part sex dungeon, part abattoir, part Hostel of horror.
Welcome to the chamber of meat, where comfort food meets uncomfortable decor. Exposed stone contrasts with sanitised white tiles, all the better for hosing off bovine excretions, my dear.
You could have a great orgy in this place – meat orgy; midget orgy; gay orgy – whatever sort of orgy gets you off. Or, y’know, you could just have lunch. In the absence of companions with which to enact my darkest fantasies, I pull up a stool and grab a menu.
Dimly lit meals for one
Feel-good burgers jostle for space with feel-good sides and feel-good shakes. Everything is “drenched in”, “whacked in”, dirty and sticky. It’s a slap-up meal and a wank rolled into one.
“We encourage eating with your fingers,” says the waitress, “but if you’d like cutlery just ask.”
Iamokaywiththis.jpg. Aside from burgers, dogs and sides, two salads have been tacked onto the menu. One contains fried chicken and the other ranch dressing and bacon. The Boozy Cow: not for health freaks or veggies then. The clue’s in the name. And on the menu. And all over the walls.
I order a Diet Coke which arrives in a tin. In a previous life it may have contained dog food, but has since been transformed by the addition of ice and a straw. It’s easy to mock hipster establishments for their insistence on patrons drinking out of anything other than drinking vessels – metal tins; jam jars – but the alternative, to open yet another plates-and-knives burger joint, is even less palatable. “Whats Your Beef?” flashes a red neon sign. Aside from a paucity of apostrophes, nothing.
It’s 2014, yo. Get with the times.
Takin’ it back
BrewDog’s table tops are made out of reclaimed gym floors, so The Boozy Cow’s are formed from chipboard, obviously. It’s like a race to the bottom. How long till someone dispenses with tables altogether and just doles out napkins to act as a precarious barrier between lunch and your new Hollister jeans?
I actually like the stripped back, spattered look of The Boozy Cow but can’t help wondering where this trend will end. First we had restaurants that looked like restaurants. Then we had restaurants with chef’s tables, so diners could sit in the kitchen and watch their food being prepared. Now we’re eating in mock abattoirs – places that are traditionally redolent of tortured cries, death yelps, panic and the stench of raw flesh and recently evacuated bowels.
[quote_center]How long till someone creates a diner mimicking the inside of a cow’s stomach, with staff shovelling half-ruminated grass over the table between courses and mopping the floor with hydrochloric acid?[/quote_center]
I order the Green Chilli Cheese Burger and a side of Slaw (which I’d have branded Cow’slaw, but w/e). While my comfort food cooks, I eye my surroundings, pondering the verisimilitude of every new establishment in the city. Add a couple of taps to the bar and The Boozy Cow could easily pass for another BrewDog, 6 Degrees North or Bottle Cap Bar. Still, given the alternative – full beam lights and payment upfront in Union Square’s soulless chains – I’ll take dimly lit hipster joints all day err’day.
While middle-aged businessmen flock to pseudo-sophisticated establishments in the West End, the Boozy Cows of the world attract a younger crowd: the oil apprentices and 20-somethings who’ve yet to join the dark gold side but who will inevitably migrate there as 30th birthdays loom and the sight of oil-enriched buddies flaunting A3s and suburban hangars becomes too much to bear. Resistance is futile.
Would you like to spend the evening in a glammed up, overpriced West End restaurant or a stripped down, overpriced central diner? You pay your money, you check in on Facebook and you enjoy your night of conspicuous consumption.
Despite the waitress’s earlier warning, my food arrives with cutlery, saving me from having to grab fistfuls of Cow’slaw. It is at this stage of my visit – i.e the eating stage – that The Boozy Cow starts to fall apart.
Exhibit A, the burger:
I don’t care too much for presentation and I’m not a stickler for subtlety – what I got is just fine. As for the portion size though, well…the bun passes muster, but the burger? I lift the lid and place a digit next to my Green Chilli Cheese Burger. It measures from the tip of my thumb to the knuckle.
I’ve seen micro penises bigger than that. On the internet I mean. Actually, forget the analogy. What I’m trying to say is I’ve seen more meat at a Linda McCartney convention. I unlock my phone and hit the stopwatch. By the time I have eaten every last morsel of my £7.95 burger, 90 seconds have elapsed. That’s 9p per second. Nothing – not a blowjob, not a helicopter ride and certainly not a burger – should cost 9p a second.
Also, where’s the chilli? This thing is – was – about as spicy as a jar of Cow & Gate egg custard. “Ask about our chilli challenge” says the menu. The challenge, I presume, is to detect the chilli in the chilli burger.
I wanted The Boozy Cow to be good. To be honest, I just wanted my lunch to be good. Sadly, the church of meat proved to be strangely devoid of meat. Don’t let the bloody decor fool you: this ain’t no temple of carnivorous love. To supply the diner’s annual quota of burgers, only one cow had to die. A good idea miserly done, The Boozy Cow can be slain in two words:
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