But Nick may be pleasantly surprised.
Butchers have recently reported an increasing hunger for offal, with sales of off-cuts – such as liver, kidney, tail and tongue – up by 24 per cent, and one in four of us is now eating offal at least once a month. For shoppers feeling the financial squeeze, offal is a cheap source of meat that’s high in iron and protein. And this trend may be about to catch on with restaurants.
A recent survey of consumer attitudes to offal by The Jellied Eel magazine found that, while half of Londoners had bought offal, the majority had never eaten offal in a restaurant. It also found that 40 per cent would eat more offal if it was on the menu in restaurants, proving there’s a willing market of nose-to-tail diners.
“I think it’s austerity that’s made things go that way,” says Rob Fredrickson, head of catering at the RSC’s Stratford-on-Avon HQ. “Everyone’s watching their pennies, and for a whole generation in post-war Britain that was the food that was available. Then the prime cuts came back into prominence again.
“But in recent years there has been a swing back to the less conventional cuts of meat, which we both feel are infinitely more flavoursome.
“There’s extra work in getting them,” he adds, “but there’s extra reward for that effort for both the person cooking and the person eating. I think there’s a genuine interest in food now, which has skyrocketed over the last five to ten years.
“That can be both good and bad because now everybody is a food critic and everybody has an opinion! That’s no bad thing, but it does make it a challenge for someone running a restaurant. And that increase in interest has also meant a resurrection of foods that have been long forgotten.”
Over the past decade the rise of farmers’ markets and the focus on “ethical eating” has seen previously unpopular cuts of meat swing back into fashion, with one meat packing plant claiming demand for tripe has risen by 300 per cent over the past year.
“Ten years ago we never had ham hocks in the supermarkets – it was always chicken”, says
Rob. “It won’t be long before we’re seeing pig cheeks, too. And it’s not just about what people choose to eat in restaurants but what we as restaurants can cook. For a prime cut of beef we’d have marked that at £28 per plate.
“That’s just not our market and it’s a very small market, whether you’re in Stratford-Upon-Avon or anywhere else in the country.
“But you can get devilled kidneys for £13 and pig cheeks for £6.25. These are not crackers prices.
“And if you look at local boozers and gastropubs, that’s what you’ll find. They’ll do a plate of chicken livers or lamb’s kidneys on toast with no pretensions.”