Waste not, want not: nose-to-tail eating at Flank
In the UK alone, we kill over 950 million farm animals for meat annually, and we waste around 330,000 tonnes a year throwing most of it away. In days gone by, people really made the most of their meat, eating everything from intestines to brains and kidneys, but food fashions changed and dishes like brawn and faggots fell out of favour. Tom Griffiths, head chef and owner at Brighton-based, Flank, is set to change this, and he’s bringing some brilliant food to the table while he goes about it.
A residency at Preston Street’s Royal Sovereign pub, Flank grabs your attention as soon as you walk through the door. More permanent than a pop-up, but set to move from its current location soon, the restaurant’s identity is only bound by the simple menus that dot the fireside tables. But, the menu is a clue in itself. With flowery phrasing and gimmicks eschewed, the description of the food served is as crystal-clear as the beautiful illustration of a bull that adorns it. Griffiths’ food is much more about precision, attention to detail, and care for ingredients than it is about where you’re eating it.
“I’ve had Flank since September 2015, and we’re a nose-to-tail restaurant, so we use all of the off-cuts that farming doesn’t sell,” he tells me. “If people are going to eat out, I want them to be able to get something a bit different. We make a sausage out of pretty much every snippet of the pig that we can and it makes the most beautiful tasting sausage, but when I tell people that it’s made of pig cheeks, collar and trotter they recoil. I ask them to trust me and try it; just because it’s not what they’re used to eating doesn’t mean it isn’t a fantastic ingredient that can’t be eaten. I’m a chef and I wouldn’t give people anything that tastes bad.”
Personally, I didn’t need to be encouraged. Griffiths’ food looks incredible and is presented impeccably too, but the flavours? Wowee. The flavours he gets out of the ingredients he uses is incredible. I ate that sausage without hesitation; simply served with refreshing pear and sage oil to lift it, it had an intensity of flavour that I’ve not tasted in a sausage before. I brought my kids along in the evening to try the sausage too and they wolfed it down, which speaks volumes. They didn’t question what was in it, so why should we?
“I think it’s all about perception; we’re all so used to seeing meat that is neatly cut and shaped,” says Griffiths. “And the other thing is that people don’t know how to cook other parts of the animal to get the best out of it. All I’m trying to say at Flank is that you can eat practically all of an animal, and I’m trying to create interesting and really tasty dishes while doing so.”
And that he does. With aplomb. The stand-out dish for me was the glazed beef short rib, cooked gently for 48 hours and served with bone marrow ketchup and roast baby gem lettuce. Meltingly soft, but with a huge hit of flavour, it cut like butter and felt decadent to eat. A special mention has to go the vegetables we ate too. The nose-to-tail concept applied by Griffiths extends throughout the whole menu; he makes mushroom pepper to season (a revelation); I would happily eat a plateful of his fermented pickles as a standalone dish; and those not in the mood for meat will adore the velvety, but textured combination of roast artichoke, mushroom and celeriac puree, brought to life by watercress and walnut oil.
There isn’t anywhere else in Brighton as driven by the nose-to-tail concept as Flank, and with mention of a new, entirely self-sufficient eatery, as well as a plant-based venture in the offing, my advice would be to catch Flank while you can. The sensible folk that lovingly prepared and ate all parts of an animal before factory farming reared its ugly head clearly knew what they were talking about – and so does Tom Griffiths.
Flank at The Royal Sovereign
66 Preston St
Brighton, BN1 2HE