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Ben the (definitely Gourmet) Butcher

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by Julie Mundy (subscribe)
Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog:
Published September 29th 2014
Real meat from the real deal
For those who care about the quality and thought behind the food that we put inside us, Ben the Butcher's (which includes Ben the Butcher in Balwyn and Gourmet Meats on Bridge in RIchmond) is a must-go for mouth-watering and sustainably-produced meat.

Ben the butcher, meat, butchers
Delicious selection of meats at Ben the Butchers/Gourmet Meats on Bridge

The eponymous Ben, is absolutely passionate about good meat - all of the lamb, beef and chicken they stock is free range and grass-fed (including grass-finished), and comes from single-source, named farms. All of the produce is also hormone, steroid and chemical free. The Dorper lamb, for example, is ethically sourced from South Australia by the Remarkable Meat Co from South Australia, and is the most environmentally sustainable breed for the Australian environment - it is drought resistant, does not need shearing (it drops its own fleece - how clever is that!), and is very lean & tasty. It is also hung for between 6-12 days before being sold (beef for up to 2 weeks), unlike supermarket-bought meat which is usually processed and sold within 1-2 days. You can definitely taste the difference and the meat I tried was incredibly tender. The beef comes from Hopkins River Beef near Dunkeld, from a farm which is determinedly carbon neutral.

Ben the Butcher
Cheeky-chappie Ben in action: Ben the Butcher with his dorper lambs
This environmental ethos extends to Ben's own shop - he is aiming to make all of his shops environmentally sustainable and has a real focus on minimising waste - they only purchase whole carcasses of chicken for example (many butchers will just buy chicken breasts), from which they use all the bones to produce and sell their own free range stock (made to Ben's own recipe), which is sold in convenient resealable bags. I made a delicious simple lemon and chicken soup using a bag of his stock as a base, and it was tasty and moreish.
soup, chicken stock
Lemon and chicken (stock) soup for the soul!

Ben is rightly proud of the fact that he employs a full time chef (that's Marco on the right below!), who makes up all fresh marinades (check out the Jamaican Jerky Chicken!) and ready meals - the Italian lamb ragu is a firm favourite amongst regulars, but there is also Lamb Tagine, Italian Meatballs, Thai Green Chicken Curry and fresh lasagne. The braised beef and onion pies in particular are worth a trip across town for, and got a huge thumbs up from my family. Stick one of these tender and juicy single-serve (family size are also available) pies in the oven for 20 minutes and you will never eat another Birds-Eye again!

Ben the butcher, free range, gourmet meat on bridge
Ben and some of his team in Richmond

Ben is also passionate about the keeping the art of butchering alive, maintaining that buying meat from local butchers is key to enjoying tender, well prepared and selected meat. You can see the impact of his three years working at the iconic traditional London butcher's, 150 year old Lidgates of Holland Park, where he learned the art of using everything, minimising waste, and really knowing his meats. His juicy pork sausages, made to his own secret recipe, are a bit of a homage to his time there. Ben also believes passionately in his fabulous young staff and apprentices - with an aim over time to set each of them up in their own 'Ben the Butcher' shop, perhaps creating their own tradition.

just Braised Beef and onion pies after 20 minutes in the oven.
Ben's braised beef and onion pies - yum!

Proof of the pudding is in the eating - how's this for tempting!

Braised beef and onion pie, ben the butcher, home-made
Steaming beef pies - ready to be devoured!

There is also an online store, with free delivery if you can't make the trip, but my advice is to get into the shops and find out everything you want to know about your meat from your butcher - where it's from, how it's been prepared, what's the best way to cook it. You won't get that knowledge or service in a supermarket.
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*Julie Mundy was invited as a guest
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Why? Because meat this good is worth travelling for
When: Check website for opening hours, but in general: RIchmond is open weekdays 7am-6pm, Saturdays 8am-4pm (Balwyn till 5pm) and Balwyn is also open Sundays from 8am-5pm
Phone: 03 9429 1487
Where: 320 Bridge Road, Richmond and 399 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
Cost: Much more reasonable than you'd expect - see website online store to check prices in advance
Your Comment
Looks tasty :)
by Lorraine A (score: 3|1601) 1937 days ago
I love Ben the Butcher and all of the staff down there. We do all of our meat shopping here and particularly love the marinated meats they do. Just a good bunch of butchers, producing great cuts of meat. Awesome.
by Guy Rutter (score: 1|14) 1932 days ago
Great article Julie. This is my local butcher and the one I go to for grass fed meat. They do really good bacon as well. Once I went in and asked for some bacon and they said it wasn't quite ready. Still in the oven. How fresh is that!
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|5716) 1937 days ago
I like the way they crimp their pies; it makes them look a bit different from other places.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12512) 1937 days ago
its good to know that there is a good butcher out there. can't wait to try them
by newintstudents (score: 2|474) 1923 days ago
Great to know at least one reliable butcher does things sustainably. Thanks for bringing him to attention.
by H. Clare Callow (score: 2|109) 1933 days ago
Foodi Photoh Classie
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