I have no idea where I’m going. Rather than an address, I have instructions: ‘Head to Embankment station and directions will follow.’ When I arrive, I phone a number and am directed down an alleyway. At its end stands a woman in a long dark coat. ‘Are you from Time Out?’ she asks, glancing around furtively as I approach. ‘Follow me. I’ll take you to the horse burgers.’
For the last 18 months, Flogging a Dead Horse has been offering ‘unique dining events where people can enjoy the taste of horse meat without having to travel abroad’. Its pop-up dining nights have ranged from a seven-course ‘feasting menu’ prepared by a top London hotel’s chef to a homelier, pub-based event where guests partook of one big communal horse goulash. Thus far, they’ve been largely under the radar.
Partly this is deliberate. Aside from the secrecy about the venue for our horse burger tasting, I’ve also been asked not to reveal the surnames of the people there. According to Manfred, one of the founders, this is ‘due to an incident with a celebrity chef’. Which is a discreet way of referring to the 2007 episode where Gordon Ramsay encouraged people to eat horse meat on ‘The F Word’ and animal charity Peta responded by dumping a ton of horse shit outside Claridge’s, where Gordon has a restaurant. So the dining society’s secrecy seems reasonable. After all, we can’t imagine many meals being improved by diners traipsing through piles of dung.
‘It’s all been a bit clandestine,’ says co-founder Caroline. ‘Even finding a supplier felt really taboo. It took months of phoning up farmers, who thought I was an animal activist. When I finally found a supplier in Ireland it involved picking the meat up from a truck on the Strand in the dead of night.’ Now, a year-and-a-half in, FADH has found a UK source for its meat,
based in Somerset. ‘It turns out that it’s easier to get zebra meat in London than it is horse meat,’ says Manfred. ‘Well, unless you’re a supermarket, that is.’
FADH’s burgers are classy fare – absolutely not made by chopping up drug-raddled My Little Ponies into cartilage patties. ‘We handmince all our own meat,’ explains Caroline as she fries one up. ‘It’s really lean, so most recipes recommend mixing it with pork, but all we’ve done is mix in some spring onion because we didn’t want to mask the flavour,’ she adds, slipping it inside a white bap, and handing it over. How does it taste? Like a more flavoursome, sweeter beef with a delicate gaminess to it. It’s tasty. So tasty it should be illegal.
‘Actually, a lot of people do think it’s illegal,’ says Caroline. ‘We get some very odd reactions when we tell people what we do.’ What they do includes plans for an evening of horse sashimi. So those reactions probably aren’t going to get less odd any time soon. But what of their next event? They haven’t decided exactly what it’s going to be yet. But, hey, what do you expect? It’s an equine dining society. They’re going to like to do things on the hoof. Alexi Duggins
Try for yourself, head to floggingadeadhorse.co.uk