I organised an Oyster-themed trip to Kent for a group of friends recently which was obviously focused on local seafood, but you can’t eat only fish and shellfish for a weekend (#firstworldproblems). Thus, I wanted to enjoy some other local food options. So, when I discovered that there had been a Vegan convention in Canterbury a couple of years earlier and that some renegade Vegan extremists had protested outside a local casual restaurant, obviously that’s the place I wanted to visit.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe very strongly that humans should care for and respect animals even if they are going to be subsequently eaten. Indeed, some of the greatest practical supporters of animal care are farmers, butchers and restaurateurs who want to produce food in an ethical and moral way. Not only does this allow for a clean conscience, but it also helps in many cases to create a better product.
To use a few examples, as I discovered when I owned a pig a couple of years ago, free-range pork is typically relatively lean because the animals use energy running around, rather than contributing those calories to more fat in a cage-reared product. Similarly, mature Galician beef is famous for its uniquely complex flavour because the animals have lived for many years in caring environments, allowing the muscle structures and flavours to develop in a way that is simply impossible using more common mass Anglo farming methods. Both of those animal husbandry techniques are deeply ethical and respectful of how they care and grow the product – as well as tasting great!
In that vein, Pork & Co in Canterbury only uses free-range, locally-sourced, pork to create their visually spectacular meals, and owner Sam Deeson knows what he’s doing. Pork & Co is adjacent to Sam’s first restaurant, the much more formal and originally named, “Deeson’s”. They are both on a block of land adjacent to and owned by, the Canterbury Cathedral (fun fact: the diocese complained about an early promotional t-shirt which also talked about pleasure being hand-pulled). The servings are terribly (wonderfully?) huge, and many of the dishes are really quite indulgent with layers of cheese and all sorts of other glorious toppings. If you’re ordering a main, additional sides are unlikely to be required!
The ‘Big Boy’ is an impressive fancy and complicated tower beef burger that is centred around a six-ounce chunk of brisket, short rib and flank meat. If I had one criticism, it would be that this beef brisket can be a little bit dry – it could do with the addition of some more fat, or even marrow, to make it a little juicier. Beyond the beef, this burger includes a whole series of other complicated and fancy toppings: pulled pork, bacon, red onion chutney, some other sauces, and…. another patty of…. macaroni & cheese.
This secondary mac & cheese patty is a special topping because it adds a deeply interesting crunchy texture. A good crunchy texture can sometimes be lost from a complicated burger with many toppings: the sauces and juices can, in other burgers, be too much, causing the burger to fall apart in your hands, and no one wants a mushy burger of wet bread in their hands. The genius of the mac and cheese patty is that it is deep fried and breaded, creating a hard exterior that doesn’t leak over the rest of the burger – but when you bite into it, it explodes in an eruption of cheesy, gooey, goodness (which can be a little bit too hot). The end result is an excellent complicated burger, with a fun, interesting and very well-implemented gimmick.
Thus, just an hour out of London, you can enjoy an excellent burger at Pork & Co. It’s worth the trip (oh, and the Cathedral next door isn’t bad, either).