How did you get into butchery? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I have always had a strong interest in food and wine. I used to run a gastro pub company and I have also owned and run a vineyard in South Africa. I was a private chef in the South of France for a couple of years and I am a food TV director…….so food, yes. I liked going to a butcher’s but I never thought that I would end up running one.
My wife (non-butcher background) started Parsons Nose with her brother (non-butcher background) in 2007. Serena and I bought him out in 2018 because we wanted to spend more time together. At the time, I was consulting for a number of large companies in India, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa. At its height, I racked up 174 flights in a year and most of them were pretty long ones.
It was not sustainable, so Serena and I turned our joint focus onto Parsons Nose and we have never looked back……..well maybe once or twice. Retail is hard!
How and when did The Parson’s Nose come about?
2007, Serena and her brother initially set it up as a vehicle to supply their fast food business “Fuzzy’s Grub”. But also to try and keep the high street butcher alive and kicking.
What are your most popular items, and do these change seasonally?
Beef wellingtons, dauphinoise potato, salmon, steak mince and, of course, chicken. These items sell throughout the year. We won a 3* for our beef wellington this year, so that has propelled it into the must-have “special occasion dish”
How many branches do you have, and where do you deliver to?
We have 3 stores and an online business. We deliver to most of the west side of London the same day and nationwide the next day.
What is The Parson’s Nose ethos, and how do you differ from other butchers?
Our customer service and attention to detail. Basically, we really care about the experience a customer has, in-store or online. It is a little bit more difficult online, but it is possible and that allows us to grow nationally. In-store, we are meticulous about advice, guidance, cooking instructions and also how the stores look and feel….clean tidy and full shelves all day long. People buy with their eyes, they won’t buy if they can’t see it!
You now offer British Wagyu, can you tell us about this?
Japanese Wagyu has always been synonymous with the very best beef money can buy and for most the ’money’ bit was the problem because it is so expensive. The name Wagyu is the collective name of 4 principal Japanese breeds of cow and one of the main reasons for its high price tag is supply and demand. The number of Wagyu farmers in Japan is relatively small compared to the global demand.
The meat itself is quite special for a very simple reason; fat. As a butcher and a massive foodie, one of the things I always look out for is the fat content in the meat – the marbling. It is the fat that gives the flavour and breaks down the texture of the meat. As a rule of thumb, basically, the harder the muscle works in the cow, the leaner the meat will be. For example, take the fillet and rump or chuck. These are all working muscles and as a result, there is less fat. A muscle that does not work as hard often has a bit more fat running through the meat (marbling), so cuts like the short ribs, rib eye and sirloin. It is this marbling that makes the meat more tender and gives it a more intense flavour.
The Wagyu has lots of fat in most of its muscles, layered a little like an old-fashioned Vienetta ice cream block, so virtually every cut is marbled. This is partly genetic but also that the cows are a bit lazy!
Over the last decade or so, farmers around the world have started to breed their own Wagyu cattle, with a much more affordable price point.
We have been working with our partner farmer in Yorkshire for some time now. The consistency as well as the sustainable and ethical farming principles are outstanding. They have proved very clearly that Wagyu can be produced outside of Japan and produced to a very high standard.
It’s a bit like champagne, you are only allowed to use the name if it’s produced in Champagne, but actually, there are some amazing sparkling wines from every wine-producing country on the globe.
Where do you live, and why?
My wife, Serena and I live in Parson’s Green with our 2 children, so our commute is pretty short. We have been there for decades now and we feel very at home there.
Where is your favourite place to hang out in west London?
If Serena and I want to go and have a secret hang out for an hour or so, we generally head over to Aragon House for a cheeky glass of wine.
What is your favourite meat and cut, and how would you cook it?
Bavette, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s got nothing to do with cost, even though it is one of the cheapest cuts.
If cooked correctly, it is earth-shatteringly good.
How to cook it:
- There is a thicker end and a thinner end to a Bavette, I always go for the thicker end.
- It absolutely must be at room temperature before cooking.
- 5 minutes (not hours) before cooking, I give a very generous covering of good quality salt all over and let it stand.
- You can absolutely cook this in a pan with butter, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. A high heat and cook on both sides for 6-10 minutes each (depending upon thickness). Spoon over the butter and oil to infuse flavour. Then wrap it in tin foil and a knob of butter and leave it to rest for about 15-20 minutes (the longer the better).
- If you cook it on a grill, no need to oil it, just throw it on and cook for a similar time. Do the same with the tin foil.
- The most important thing about bavette is the way you cut it. Bavette has quite a stringy texture and a very definite grain. You MUST cut across the grain in thin slices. If you cut with the grain, you will not be able to eat it. If you cut across the grain, it will be some of the best meat you will ever taste. And, don’t forget to pour the juices from the tin foil over the meat before serving.
- Do not overcook the meat! A good bavette is cooked on a high heat and is medium rare.
Where is your favourite place to go for dinner?
If I am honest, when we can, we both love to go to Joe’s Brasserie on Wandsworth Bridge Road. It has been there for donkeys of years, but I have never found a burger as good. It’s my go-to meal.
How did The Parson’s Nose’s name come about?
This is simple, we live in Parson’s Green, our logo is a chicken and the chicken’s bottom is called the Parson’s Nose. It made us giggle at the time.
What’s next for The Parson’s Nose; any plans for world domination?
I don’t think we will open any more physical stores unless something really amazing lands on our doorstep. We are much more about “do what you do, but do it the best” and best does not always mean big.
We do a lot of outreach with local schools and, over the last 18 months, I have been to Ukraine 6 times to fundraise and direct a lot of TV programs about “war and food”.
It’s taken me within metres of the Russians, I’ve been shot at, had artillery aimed at us and have been followed by drones. I’ve also cooked borscht on the front line for a battalion of Ukrainian soldiers. It’s an amazing country and the people are out of this world. Food is a very important part of their lives and even more so now. For me, it was the only way I could see myself helping, to raise money through food. Everyone should do one good thing for humanity in their lives. For me, this was it. One of my proudest moments was with soldiers on the front line in Kherson wearing Parson’s Nose badges. It brought a tear to my eye.
Moving forward, we are launching something a little more sedate in Provence in the South of France. I can’t say too much just yet, but we will be launching a new foodie experience very soon. As a hint, it will include truffle hunting, wine harvest, vegetable growing and a whole lot more.