The deal at the classes is: you turn up, they teach you how to dismember animals for a couple of hours, then you go home swaying under a towering podrida of fowl, sheep, cow and pig. We started by jointing chickens – there's a nifty way of getting the raw oysters off that I didn't know about – then moved on to oxtail (incredibly satisfying to cut up), French-trimming racks of lamb and chining some stellar sirloin from the Cairngorms: this beef is now sitting proudly in my fridge like a blood-soaked Titanic. It was a superb day and it brought home, as if I needed reminding, what a weight of theory and what a battery of surgeon's skills lie behind the best butchery. The tiny shop floor conceals a basement with another 25 or so staff: standing under the stuffed heads and lamb carcasses, you'd never guess it.
The classes cost £100 and are more than worth it for a keen food-lover. Allens give you a bundle of recipes to take home as inspiration, including Rowley Leigh's oxtail ragout and Brian Turner's method for roast beef. Perhaps surprisingly, just as many girls as boys do the course: less surprisingly, the girls are invariably better at it.
Butchery Class, Allens of Mayfair, 117 Mount Street, London W1K 3LA
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Tel. +44 (0)20 7499 5831
This was a freebie, but if I'd known about it I would have been pestering friends and relatives to give me the class for my birthday.