John Saunderson Butcher

40 Leven Street


Tel: 0131 229 8348

Butchers shops are places of death.  Places where dead things go to get chopped up and made more dead.  They smell of fear and flesh and detached limbs, of congealed fat, of every part of an animal rendered into something else.  Butchers shop are where horror movies are made, the stuff of nightmares, where gangland disputes are settled and where severed digits are carelessly swept up with yesterday’s mince.  No one ever chooses a butchers shop in which to get married; a supermarket or a bakers occasionally, but never a butchers.  Butchers shops are evil.

Someone clearly forgot to tell this to Saunderson.  This renowned Tolcross butchers is light and airy.  It is clean and fragrant.  It sells jams and and cakes and scrumptious pies.  It is a place of life and laughter; happy couples meet, propose and probably conceive here.  It is everything a butchers shouldn’t be.  Which is probably why it’s so great.  Most butchers resemble Ed Gein’s trophy cabinet, with carcasses and claret on every surface.  Saundersons, with its high ceiling, clean white tiles and sculpted pillars (inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh) could not be more different.

Thanks to the efforts of ubiquitous TV chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, ‘forgotten’ cuts of meat such as shin and beef cheeks are now en vogue.  So much so that it’s virtually impossible  to attend a dinner party these days without having stuffed pig trotters thrust at you.  (Or so I would imagine.)  In spite of the Asdas and Tescos of the world doing their best to appear like our friendly local butcher/baker/candlestick maker, the fact remains that if you want to make a rabbit stew, you’ll need to exit the supermarket car park and take a walk along the high street.  Past the amusement arcades and boarded up cafes, there are still a few bakers, grocers and butchers to be found.  Those that remain standing, like survivors of a zombie apocalypse, are alive solely because they have become the best at what they do and now refuse to take shit from anyone.  The supermarkets might be bigger and more numerous, but the fight is stronger in the independents.  All it takes is a double tap to the head of Tesco – artisan bread and homemade pesto; venison sausages and ox tail – and it’s first blood to the butchers.  Delis 1 : Zombies 0.  Saunderson Butchers have been slaying zombie corporations for years now.  Founded in 1958, this family-run business has survived several decades of questionable music, cringeworthy fashion and mediocre supermarkets.  VG; Mace; Fine Fare; Wm Low; Gateway; Safeway – all have come to Edinburgh and been despatched by an almighty swing of Saunderson’s meat cleaver.

That Saunderson is still standing is testament not only to the sharpness of its knives, but to the quality of its produce.  Steak; sausages; mince – all the staples are here, but there’s also so much more to behold.  They sell cajun pork schnitzel and Greek passion lamb steaks.  They have a guest sausage of the week (pork, tomato & basil; black pudding and apple) and sell mouthwatering pies of the sort last seen being stolen from windowsills in children’s storybooks.  The beef burgers are so succulent, you would think the cows had skipped their way to the abattoir.

Of course, with all this summer breeze, fabric softener niceness, it should be noted that Saunderson is still an emporium of chopped meat, and thus the Vegan Society are unlikely to try and hold their annual convention here any time soon.  Lest any one forget its true purpose, the vintage meat hooks dangling from the back wall serve as a reminder that this place could still double as the set for Saw XII.  With Saunderson’s policy of utilizing every part of the animal, it is possible to buy beef dripping, ox tongue and even 30p bones here.  While this zero wastage  approach is commendable, you wouldn’t want to lose sight of your dog in this place or you might end up having to buy it back  in 30p sections.

Try: The chorizo burgers

Avoid: Going to Scotmid across the road to get your meat.  You know you’ll regret it when you see the size of the queue.

Typical prices:

Pork or beef sausages from £6.50 per kilo

Ham soup pieces £4.50 per kilo

Steak burgers 75p