Nose to tail dining is a growing trend, with the rise in popularity of offal and other lesser-known cuts of meat. This concept is nothing new, but restaurants such as St John and Bocca di Lupo have made it more mainstream.
One of the main advantages of nose to tail dining is that every part of the animal is used, thus reducing food waste. It can also be more cost effective and gives chefs the scope to develop creative dishes using unusual cuts of meat.
Carl Newcombe-Ling, head chef at Newbridge on Usk restaurant, Wales, says “My personal belief is that if we are going to use an animal for food, we need to show it the respect it deserves by trying to use every or as many parts of it as possible. There is also the financial value of the kilo price for a whole animal being much lower than specific prime cuts.”
Jason Christie, head chef of The Crown at Church Enstone, Oxfordshire, has a business relationship with a local shepherd who delivers whole lamb carcasses. “We butcher them ourselves and use in many different ways depending on the season. We use bones for stocks and sauces and fat to confit meats and sauté vegetables. If you’re running a small pub then a whole cow might be too much, so I would stick to sheep, pigs and venison. Venison is the easiest animal to butcher by far and nowhere near a cow in size.”
At The Black Bull, Sedbergh, Western Dales, head chef Nina Matsunaga works closely with local farmers. “Keeping an open dialogue is important. We do the bulk of the cutting up in-house. We plan it well ahead as it can be time-consuming.” Her advice is to start small by using rabbit, game fowl such as pigeon, or a full fish. “Move up from there using lamb, chicken (responsibly farmed) and gradually move on to larger animals. You need to understand the whole animal and research how to butcher it. Build a relationship with the local abattoir or butcher as they can help you. Points to consider include hanging times, how long it takes to cut a carcass and storage space.”
Nina braises lesser-known cuts such as pigs’ and cows’ cheeks. “We also serve raw sliced beef tongue carpaccio, which proves popular,” she says. “Another signature dish is bavette steak in an Asian marinade. A lot of these cuts can be flash cooked, used in stir fries and lend themselves to Asian cooking.”
Some customers may not appreciate “nose to tail” dining. In such cases Nina says, “Sneaking in non-offensive cuts can sometimes work, such as adding a little brisket to your sauce. But with everything else you need to be upfront. Some customers don’t want offal especially liver and kidneys, but explaining it’s part of the dish often helps.”
James Christie agrees with this sentiment and recommends training for front of house staff so they can convey the right message to customers. “All our waiting staff are made aware of the work that goes into the dishes and are encouraged to taste every dish during a pre-service briefing. This means they can answer questions from customers and get them excited about trying new things.”