Andy Waugh – Mac & Wild

I first met Andy Waugh, founder of Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild, a few weeks ago
at a work event. I was happily downing the prosecco and he was presenting a haggis
masterclass. It was the evening before Burns night, the perfect time to be learning
about haggis.

While I know intellectually what haggis is, I watched in mild disbelief as he pointed
out the heart, liver and lungs. I did a terrible job of chopping the liver. I’d like to blame
the gloves, which were too big, though I can’t deny the simple fact that I am
inherently uncoordinated.

Andy brought an entire pull to show us – that’s the heart, liver and lungs still attached
and very raw. He blows into the (well, I don’t really know) and the lungs expand.
Everyone squeals. He is asked to do it again to allow for a ‘boomerang’. I suspect he
is obliging us more times than he wants; he is spluttering just a little bit, but he’s
decidedly good humoured about it.

A week later and I’m waiting for him in his beautiful Devonshire Square restaurant.
It’s a large space, but with a cosy warmth about it that seems also to extend to the
staff. A few minutes pass then Andy appears, “Hang on just a minute, I need to get
some meat”. I wait, and when he reappears a moment later, meat in hand, I follow
him and the lump of meat to one of the Mac & Wild ‘hunting lodges’ which sit poised
in the centre of the square. He disappears again to wash the meat juice off his
hands, while I hang out with the cut. By the time he gets back we’re both rather
relaxed (that’s me, and the meat). I chatted to Andy about his upbringing in
Inverness, going from butchers’ stall to restaurant, and the food that really grosses
him out.

So, we’re sitting here with a big lump of meat, would you care to tell me what
cut it is?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been referred to as a big lump of meat! This is a
saddle of venison, and this is where we get the strip loin, which is the beef equivalent
to sirloin. It’s the prime cut of venison. The fillet we use is tiny and dear – you don’t
get much of it – so this is still the number one cut, the sirloin, as such, of venison.

The people this evening at your butchery class will be learning what, exactly?

One of the things I love about meat and butchery is being able to recognise the cuts
and where they come from. The whole way an animal is made up is quite interesting;
everything fits together. It’s mechanical as you and I are. Obviously, when you get
down to cellular level it gets a bit more complex, but generally you can see the way
all the things are attached. Pull things and they jangle and then other bits move.

Like a skeleton in a science lab?

Exactly. There is a really interesting bit on here which I always talk about, this little
tendon here. It’s called the Paddywack, you know the song ‘nick nack Paddywack
give the dog a bone?’

Yeah.

So, this is the bit the dogs would get, cos its chewy, you can’t really eat it, but the
dog will be able to get through it, because they have quite powerful jaws… and they’ll
eat anything.

That’s cool, I never knew the connection. Now, we don’t have too long before
your butchery class so shall we power through?

Let’s do it.

Tell me in a nutshell about your restaurants ethos.

Mac & Wild is a Scottish restaurant. We’re all about Highland hospitality; hospitality
in the true sense, not just as a sector. Hospitality is if someone comes into your
house, you get them a drink, sit them down, whatever they want, make them feel
warm and welcome. Especially in the Highlands, because we don’t get many visitors
up there, everyone is excited when they see someone new, so I try to drum that in to
the style of service.

And the food?

Our food is all Scottish ingredients – all our proteins are Scottish, and we get as
much vegetables from there as possible, though we don’t grow a hell of a lot up
there. Also, everything is about extreme providence. It’s not just about telling you the
name of the butcher or the name of the farm. We want to also be able to tell you the
name of the farmer, who shot it, who butchered each cut. There is a serious
traceability in what we do, and it’s just trying to open people’s eyes a little bit…

In what sense?

I’ve got a big grievance, perhaps I shouldn’t be in the restaurant world, because I get
really annoyed that people think food comes from a kitchen, and it’s tough to smash
people’s thoughts, their own ethos on food without offending them or putting them off
meat forever. So, I try and create a little portal to at least to get people to question
what they’re eating on a day-to-day basis.

Like those kids in America on Jamie Oliver’s show that didn’t know that chips
came from potatoes?

Really?! Wow that’s like… I can understand it though, that’s the problem, if they buy
them frozen in a packet. Like the crinkled ones…

Yeah, those crinkled chips are fun, I like the twirly ones, they’re exciting…
Anyway, how has your family – your upbringing – influenced what you do
now?

I was born in the north of Scotland, Inverness was the nearest city. We were about
an hour away from Inverness, born and raised in the same house until I was twenty-something. My parents still live in that same house. It’s an old run-down cottage in
the most picturesque location you could ever imagine, right on the water, a tidal, it’s
called a Kyle. We love our bodies of water in Scotland, so we have Kyles and lochs,
and even more. Basically, it’s where the river meets the sea and it creates this
massive mud flat when the tide is out and there is a valley going all the way up. I was
very fortunate to live there, but we didn’t have any money. Mum would literally go
around the supermarket with a calculator.

Was that standard?

The north of Scotland is quite an impoverished area. People don’t have a lot of
money, they don’t drive around in Range Rovers, everyone has an older car. You
don’t realise the difference until you move to England and realise it’s a completely
different country. We would have meat for breakfast lunch and dinner. Venison or
pheasant, pigeon, whatever the meat was, and mum would tell us – well, I don’t think
she would even tell us, she was just a great cook. We’d have mince on toast, but it
was venison on toast. McDonalds was a serious treat for us. Then, what would
happen is we would end up swapping big bits of venison haunches for a box of
langoustine, or a lamb or something, and that was how we got to eat the, I suppose,
more normal foods.

So, it was a very meat-based diet back then?

Yeah, I suppose so. I remember also eating a lot of Heinz spaghetti hoops, and
Alphabetti Spaghetti. It’s probably pretty bad for you now, I’m not sure it even exists
anymore. Also, holidays, we didn’t go on any. I mean, I’m painting a really sad
picture of myself right now, but we never went on holidays to another country. As a
family we’ve ever really been away, I think that’s a thing we should do someday.

So, is it fair to say that travelling hasn’t massively affected your journey in
terms of being a restaurateur?

Well it has – it’s not that I’ve not been away. I’ve been to other countries, and I lived
in Australia. That was a huge eye opener for me, moving to Melbourne and seeing
the whole ‘Australian Made’ and people keeping it local. I had never heard of it. I was
like, who are these Aussies? And then I was like, shit, it’s so good that they are
buying Australian and supporting Australian business. I didn’t really think about it
until more recently, when I realised that was the first place that I saw it. Then I came
back to the UK and there was a bit more of a British pride, and a Scottish pride, but
I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent there…

You were telling me about your family holidays.

What I was saying was when we would go on holidays, we would go fishing – usually
fishing – maybe shooting, and we would always stay in these wicked places.
Because my parent were game dealers, they knew people who owned estates, so
we could always stay in these cool houses, and learn how to fish and hunt.

That sounds fun. So, you started in London with street food?

I began as a butcher stall, selling cuts of meat, venison and game, so I’d get a
couple of boxes of meat sent down…

From your parents?

Yeah, and it would arrive at my door in Notting Hill, where I had a blue van to the
disgust of my neighbours, and I had a freezer in it. I bought a domestic freezer, put it
in the van, and I’d fill it with ice packs and two litre bottles of water and turn it on a
couple of days before everything was due to arrive. Everything would freeze, and
then I would turn the freezer off when the meat came and put it in there. It’s, I mean,
it’s totally illegal I think, but it works, I’m not sure, maybe it’s not illegal, it might not
be, but it’s not exactly cool. Anyway, I don’t do it anymore.

You might get arrested after this interview.

God imagine… Then I started selling the raw meat every Saturday. I’d take my meat
and go to Broadway Market. I soon realised that to sell meat you need a full counter.
No one wants to go and buy the last few bits, you need to keep it full all the time, so
on Sunday I’d have the meat to do something with. I’d end up cooking it at home and
getting friends to come over and eat it, then I realised I had to try and sell it, because
it cost a lot of money, so I started in street foods.

And how did that pan out?

The idea was that I could show people how simple it was to cook game. I mean,
people are a bit more hesitant towards game, so I would just sear it up and make a
steak sandwich. Then the street food thing ended up being the business, and the
meat thing is now just what I used to do. I still love it though, I still have pipe dreams
of owning a butchery.

Could you have a butchery off the restaurant?

I don’t know, it feels a bit gimmicky.

I guess people like to forget that their meat was once animals.

Oh yeah, definitely.

I feel the same about haggis. It’s delicious, but I really to have to suspend
my knowledge of what it is to enjoy it.

But when you think about the whole thing, you can link lungs and heart to a steak –
you’re eating the muscle of an animal. A heart is just a muscle I suppose, but still it’s
a muscle, that belonged to an animal.

It’s a bit grim isn’t it?

Yeah, a bit, but I think we have gone so far from what is the status quo of normal
eating that that’s why we consider all these things. If you were running around in the
wild and you caught and killed an animal, you wouldn’t think, gross, this is the lungs,
you’d be like, let’s fucking eat this thing and have a great party.

Is there anything that really makes you gag, something that is particularly
unappealing? Or you’d say you have a strong stomach…

Genitalia, I really don’t like anything that involves genitalia.

I’m assuming you’re talking about animal genitalia…

Yes, animal genitalia, well generally… I went to this chicken restaurant, called Pique-
Nique, it’s out in Bermondsey. It’s a French chicken restaurant, and it was great, but
they have a tasting menu. The first course was chicken liver parfait, with amazing
French bread – it was lovely – and the next course was a chicken consommé. It
came with a little stick on top, and then this French waitress comes over and says,
“This is the gizzards” and I’m like, “the what?” and it was the bit underneath the
beak, so I’m like, right cool, and she puts it in my soup. Then she says, “This is the
peak”, and I’m like, “The peak?”, and she points to the bit on top of the head, and I’m
like, “Alright”… and then she says, “This is the heart…” So, we have these three bits
now floating in my soup and there is one bit left and she says, “And this is the
testicles…”

And you were like ‘No’.

I was like “Fucking testicles… and it’s in my soup!” The consommé was delicious, the
gizzard was amazing, and I obviously preach that you should eat other bits of the
animal, you can’t just chuck things out. I was with these two other girls, friends of
mine, they had eaten their balls, and they’re like, “Come on Andy”.

So…

I shuddered, but I ate them. Mine were particularly big. Mine were the biggest balls
there. They were fine, I mean it’s all fine, it’s just something… Also, I really don’t like
seeing nipples on my pork belly. Other than that I’m fine.

I’d say those are very reasonable dislikes. Moving on, I couldn’t help but notice
that your sporran is a fluffy teddy bear, and then I felt awkward for noticing
because I guess it’s not that polite to stare at someone’s sporran, but I am
quite partial to fluffy things, so is there any story behind it?

Mine is particularly fluffy, some people say that it looks like an Ewok.

It does a little...

It’s red fox, it’s quite garish. I mean, it is a little flamboyant isn’t it?

A little bit, no judgement though of course.

I used to have another one when I started the market stall. I wore a kilt every day for
about four or five years, literally every day. My old kilt is knackered. This is quite a
nice new one. My sporran, it had deer skin on it, and it had worn down, so it looked
shit. Then sadly my nan died, and all the grandchildren were given a £500 cheque to
buy something frivolous. We couldn’t put it in savings or anything, we had to buy
something. I bought a teddy bear sporran. It’s kind of awkward sometimes, like with
kids at weddings, they really go up to it and I’m like ‘get away’.

Yeah, you’ve got to be careful of those handsy kids.

I wouldn’t want to get a reputation.

If there was a Sunday roast called the Andy Waugh what would be on it?

Oh, that’s not fair.

Come on, it’s not that hard.

What is this question really, it’s metaphorical? Or is it food?

Yes, well both, it’s food, the Sunday roast that represents you.

I know I should say venison, I do love venison, it’s probably my favourite meat, but
growing up, chicken was a real treat for us kids. We never had chicken – there aren’t
any chicken suppliers in the Highlands and the only chickens you could get were
these old hens that were as tough as old boots. Now I live in London, chicken is
everywhere. I read today that we chuck 2000 chickens in the bin, every day.

That’s horrifying.

Crazy. My roast chicken, you crown it, rub it with oil and salt, whack it in a 180 oven
for 30 minutes, take the crown off; it has the breast on it. Then that’s perfectly
cooked, the rest stays in for an hour and a half and the skin is literally the best thing
you’ve ever eaten, all buttery. It needs onion sauce, a simple roux, but before you
put the flour in you cook some white onions until they are translucent. I’d also have
loads of gravy, put a yorkie on there, then peas and carrots.

You wouldn’t have a Yorkshire pudding?

Yeah, a yorkie.

Oh sorry, missed that, you’re speaking Scottish and I’m speaking Australian.
So, frivolous question, have you ever watched Outlander? Do you think Jamie
is as dreamy as I do?

Jamie? Which one is he? I watched the first two episodes…

He’s the redhead.

Oh right, the Highlander… with the curly hair, right, yes, he is dreamy. I’m not sure if
his accent is quite right though, doesn’t sound like he’s from Inverness that’s for sure.

He’s also not a redhead.

Is he not?

No, he’s blonde. Disappointing.

I was a bit in love with the woman, whatever she’s called. I know it’s shot in
Inverness. I don’t recognise any of those spots though.

You don’t recognise any of those spiky rocks? The one she jumps through to
go through time?

Where have you watched to? Have you seen the end? Tell me what happens, you
can ruin it – I don’t have the energy to watch it all. Does she fall in love? Does she go
back? Does Jamie go back with her?

(Pause for spoilers…)

Oh my god, I can’t believe that happens. I’ve got goose bumps.

You should watch it, it’s really entertaining. It also has great sex scenes.

Oh yeah, I’ve heard it’s quite porny…

Anyway, back to food – what would you choose to be your last meal on earth?

Oh god, I get asked this all the time and I always change my mind… but it’s fine, it’s
so fun talking about it don’t you think?

Yeah, I mean, I’d rather delay my last meal on earth, and just, be alive, but if
you must make a choice…

I’d rather not choose my last meal for a while, but I think it’s got to be a steak. I’d
probably have some fillet, and then béarnaise, chips, a cracking good glass of wine,
and some gravy… or pizza.

That’s the sublime to the ridiculous.

I’ve got a pizza fetish.

What’s on your ultimate pizza?

Just simple, Margherita with a bit of cured meat on it.

I’d have artichokes. Margherita with artichokes.

Would that be your last meal?

No, but it’s a good pizza.

What would be your pudding?

That a hard one – maybe this apricot meringue my mum used to get. A few last
quick questions… chicken or steak?

Steak.

Butter or olive oil?

(Groan) I can’t answer that, butter?

Wine or spirits?

Again? This is like having to choose your favourite kids. Um, spirits.

What sort of spirit?

Whisky.

Scotch whisky?

Of course, not any of that other stuff, bourbon or whatever, that’s not whisky.

Hunting or gathering?

Gathering.

Really?

It’s the best thing you can do.

What would you gather?

Depends on the season, but if you ever get a chance to go foraging, you should start
now, learn three or four different plants in a year, intimately, and go find them.

I think I need someone to take me foraging, I’d probably get lost and then eat a
poisonous mushroom.

We do foraging once a month – we have one coming up soon. I used to just eat
anything and then decide it was gross and spit it out – that’s not really the right thing
to do though apparently. Also, you don’t need to go foraging in the countryside, you
could go foraging in this square, there are things here you can pick and eat.

You want to eat stuff from a square in Liverpool Street?

Hmm, it probably won’t kill you. The whole reason I do this class is because you can
go out to Finsbury Park, find wild horseradish, and all sorts of other things that grow
throughout the year. There is a real sense of achievement when you’ve done it; it’s
good for your mental state.

Do you have all the info on your website?

Yeah, it’s like thirty-five quid. Someone takes you around, shows you some things,
gives you snacks. You maybe have a dram or a cocktail or something, and then you
come back here and have brunch. It’s a Saturday, the first Saturday of the month.

Last question, and then I’ll let you run off to your butchery class… why did the
chicken cross the road?

‘Cause he was being chased by some farmer, probably. We used to have chickens,
and I used to get in trouble for chasing them. My mum would say “Andrew, stop it!”
but when you’re a kid it’s the most fun thing to do, to chase chickens.

It’s probably still fun to chase chickens now.

Probably.

 

For more information on Mac & Wild, or to make a booking, visit www.macandwild.com or email enquiries to info@macandwild.com.

Mac & Wild – Fitzrovia
65 Great Titchfield Street.
London, W1W 7PS
Phone: 020 7637 0510

Mac & Wild – Devonshire Square
9A Devonshire Square,
London, EC2M 4YN
Phone: 020 7637 0510

Interior restaurant image Mac & Wild Devonshire Square (1)
Mac & Wild- Devonshire Square interior. 
Veni-moo with bacon Mac & Wild image
Veni-Moo with bacon
thumbnail_Mac and Wild 6th December-23
All photos courtesy of Mac & Wild – Photographer: Lateef Okunnu

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s