“You know a trend is on its way out,” mused Laura, “When you start seeing them being sold in Pod.” We were talking about London’s now relatively long-standing craze for Taiwanese steamed buns, whose hype is finally starting to wane. (The guys behind Bao, who really got the trend off the ground, certainly know which way the wind is blowing; they’re set to open a new high-end (i.e. bunless) Taiwanese restaurant in the spring.)
Ironically, we were sat at the kitchen counter at Temper experiencing two new big food trends: open fires, a la Kiln, and tacos, which are still wildly popular despite Wahaca’s best attempts to dampen the craze with a norovirus epidemic last November.
Tacos, rather pleasingly, serve as starters in this newish restaurant that was humming even on a wet Monday lunchtime. A small, life-affirming portion of crab with pickled onion pork skin (£9.00) sung on the tongue, clean fresh flesh topped with crispy nibs of smoky pork. The smoked goat (£8.50) told a tale of a happy little creature who, I like to think, spent its days balanced on teetering rocks and leaping from precarious ledge to precarious ledge, before being taken down by a grappling hook-wielding mountain man and barbecued with the kind of care and tenderness normally reserved for small children and the very unwell. (I am getting carried away; I watched Planet Earth II: Mountains over the weekend. But the goat was really very good.)
The tortillas, which were the size of a moderate-to-large nipple, were a little too small and thick for purpose, and we had to ask for some more. Don’t be shy about this; it isn’t a taco if you have to scoop the majority of the filling up with a spoon. I was surprised we weren’t charged extra, because it is very clear that, at Temper, someone is watching the bottom line very closely. Basic sauces, like salsa, cost £1 a pop, and a sprinkle of crunchy onions is priced at 50p. When asked for a recommendation, the waiter pushed the most expensive wine on the list – £14/175ml – which rather negated the otherwise good service, and left a sour taste when the bill came.
For your main course, you can choose from a selection of chopped, grilled and smoked meats, which come presented on flat breads and sold in denominations of 100g. The pork (£7.00/100g) was disappointing and I lost about 40% of my portion to gristle; I wish I’d asked for a leaner cut. The slices of locally sourced beef, or at least the bits that weren’t pure fat, were one of the best things we had, though at £9.50/100g – that’s more expensive, gram for gram, than a rib-eye steak from Hawksmoor – it had better be.
The fat theme continued into the side dishes. The platter of beef fat dripping potatoes (£5.00), huddled together beneath a thick cloak of gooey raclette, looked the part but was desperately under-seasoned, but the portion of corn (£4.00) with mint, yellow chilli and yes, lamb fat butter, was an unanticipated delight. I loved the flavours of the jerked cauliflower and pineapple (£5.00), though the cauliflower was a shade too on the crunchy side of tender-crisp for me, a card-carrying member of the squidgy vegetable society.
Now, maybe Temper just isn’t for me. I loved the tacos and the theatre of the open coals, but ultimately this is a barbecue joint, and I like my meat preened and lean, muscular and meaty, devoid of big globs of fat. The battle against my ever-expanding backside is hard enough, thank you very much. But if you’re the type to lust over proper meat, with real fat and all the other bits and pieces that once made a living, breathing animal, then you might leave in a better temper than I did. Aha.
Temper, 25 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F 0QA
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.