Right on one of the four corners of a crossroads in Larkhall – where Brookleaze Buildings meets St Saviours Road – is this unassuming little butcher’s shop. Don’t be fooled by its old-school appearance, though; this is one of the most popular and forward-thinking butchers on our patch, and it’s got multiple awards and a solid base of loyal punters to prove it.
The building has been home to a butchers since the ’70s, and before that, it was actually a pub – The White Lion. Owner Pete Milton started working here as a Saturday boy when he was 12 years old and, three years ago, decided to take the business on himself. Despite his history here, he never thought his career would be in butchery. That is, ’til he found himself at the helm of this shop.
“It really wasn’t the plan,” he tells us when we visited recently for a nosey. “I’ve always been really passionate about food, sure, but most people who are usually become chefs – that’s the more romantic version!”
Ever since taking the business on, Pete has slowly been making changes: nowadays, it has a solid local focus and contemporary attitude. For instance, deliveries – both to customers and the restaurants he supplies (think Widcombe Deli, Thoughtful Bakery and The Grocer) – are all made by electric van. Soon, customers will be able to order online through Good Sixty too, with those deliveries being made by electric bike, courtesy of Three Bags Full.
Another change that Pete has made is the way he works with suppliers; cutting out the abattoir, he now goes straight to the farmers for the meat.
“You have much more input that way,” he explains. “It gives us more control – we can ask for particular breeds, or to have them a bit fatter… Also, you know where the money has gone – at Manor Farm, for instance, you can actually see that they’ve invested in the next generation of animals.”
Right now, customers are buying slow cooking meat to go in autumnal stews – ribs of beef, in particular, are flying out.
“Flat rib is a lesser-used cut that’s ideal for slow-cooking,” Pete says. “It’s really quite cheap, and you can’t find it in supermarkets.
“People often think that butchers are pricey, and yeah, free-range chicken is expensive – it’s what we make the smallest margin on – but pick up a nice ham hock and you really do get a lot for your money.”
Autumn brings with it game season, so expect lots of venison, pheasant and partridge – from local shoots where possible – to be popping up in the counter. And keep your eye on social media to follow the annual National Sausage Week competition (have a super sausage recipe? Then send it in!). Looking further ahead, some big plans for a possible shop refit are on the horizon but, shh, don’t tell Pete we let slip.