Tongue ‘n Cheek

As a person who is most interested in unusual and uncommon food, I was very intrigued by Tongue ‘n Cheek since I heard about it. I believe offal food is mostly underrated and the restaurants who manage to cook them properly, just like St. John, become quite famous and valued. From time to time back in Turkey, I used to enjoy and eat dishes like lamb intestines, tripe soup, lamb feet and brain soup, lamb brain salad, and so forth. I know you are are probably turned off now but it is the exact point I am trying to make, these are really delicious when cooked with a bit of skill.

The best place to find good offal dishes in Europe is without a doubt; Rome. Apparently centuries ago, muscular cuts of animals were spared for the rich and noble, and offal cuts were given to the poor. Over time, this situation enabled Romans to come up with distinctive offal dishes and cooking techniques, all under the name “cucina povera” (poor cuisine), and it has a huge importance in modern Rome cuisine.

Cristiano Meneghin left a career in marketing and moved to UK last year to take a part in renaissance of the UK street food culture. He prepares ox tongue (with salsa verde or horseradish & apple), ox cheek (with polenta and vegetables) and polenta (with vegetables). He buys the meat from Woodwards Farm, Cambridgeshire, and the bread from Wild Caper in Brixton. He cooks the meat for 21 hours in a mix of Meantime stout, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, bay leaves, tarragon, rosemary, sea salt, black pepper, and stout beer. In the end all the fat melts, meat becomes extremely tender and gets all the flavours in the mix. Everything sounds perfect so far: We have an Italian person who left everything and moved to the UK, found local quality offal food, cooking it very well and aspiring to transform people’s view towards offal. Knowing these, I made my way to Real Food Market in Southbank Centre.

When I arrived at the Tongue ‘n Cheek stand, they were out of coleslaw and preparing some new. I asked for ox cheek, and enjoyed watching the guy (not sure if he was Cristiano) slicing the carrots slowly and carefully, one by one, and then mixing with lettuce. It was like somebody preparing me some food at their home.

Here is the ox cheek. The only cheek I ever ate was fish cheek (it’s amazing, if you haven’t tried it yet) so the wait was quite exciting.

First bite, just amazing. So tender, falling apart meat with lots of flavours but none of them are overpowering. The taste of meat is so good, and the fat ratio is just right. At this point, it was really hard for me to switch to coleslaw or bread as the last thing I wanted was to lose this taste. Nevertheless, as a man of mission, I tried coleslaw and I think it was the most elegant coleslaw I ever ate. It is not creamy, it is very light, healthy, tasty and crunchy. Simple and to the point. The bread was also of good quality and fresh. Although all three makes a good combination, I just could not stop myself from finishing off the meat before continuing the rest.

I see Cristiano as a very important trader in London Street Food scene. He is inspiring and challenging our perceptions on offal food, and he is doing it the best way: by cooking it to perfection.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Price: £5

Location: They are usually at at King’s Cross, but it is best to check their twitter account.

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