Ask any chef to name the best butcher in Australia, and there’s a good chance they’ll say Vic’s Meat. The Mascot-based wholesaler supplies produce to about 600 venues, including 75 per cent of the top 100 restaurants in the country. Sydney-based clients include Bennelong; Quay; hospo giant Merivale; Matt Moran’s eateries (including Chiswick; and Qantas. In Melbourne the list is just as impressive: Vue de Monde, Stokehouse and Scott Pickett’s Matilda and Estelle.
But then coronavirus hit, and, as fifth-generation butcher and Vic’s Meat owner Anthony Puharich eloquently puts it: “They fucking shut overnight.”
It was a catastrophic turn of events for a meat supplier that has a mountain of stock at all times – about 250,000 to 300,000 kilograms. “It was like the tap had turned off. It was crazy how quickly it happened,” says Puharich. “It just ground to an absolute standstill.”
The Vic’s Meat team had to think fast. “On the back of complete chaos and panic we thought, ‘What are we going to do to keep the wheels turning and move 300 tonnes of stock?’”
The solution? Vic’s Meat Direct, an online butcher that launched last week selling all the basics: sausages, mince, bacon, chicken, hamburger patties and more. But last night the menu got way better – like Christmas for meat-lovers. “We’ve upped the ante by offering all these things we exclusively offer to the restaurants,” Puharich tells Broadsheet.
This means that regular punters can get their hands on some of the best beef in the world to cook at home for the very first time.
“We’re selling cuts of Rangers Valley, Blackmore Wagyu and O’Connor Angus – the three greatest beef ranges in the country, and the greatest brands in the world when it comes to beef,” he says.
Also available: Kurobuta pork from prized Berkshire pigs reared in northern NSW, and Wagyu bresaola. “We didn’t invent bresaola [air-dried beef] of course, but we were the first company to make it using Wagyu, and Wagyu from Blackmore,” explains Puharich.
Next week Vic’s Meat Direct will introduce even more products, including those available at Puharich’s boutique Woollahra butcher, Victor Churchill. (The late food writer Anthony Bourdain was a fan, describing it as “the most beautiful butcher in the world”. He also wrote the foreword to Puharich’s book.) The handsome shop is named after Puharich’s father, Victor. Together, the duo pioneered the dry ageing of beef more than 20 years ago.
In fact, one of Sydney’s most famous cuts of meat – the 200-day dry-aged steak cooked over flames at Lennox Hastie’s Firedoor – was a Puharich invention. It’s been described as “the world’s best steak”, and it even had a cameo in the steak episode in the second season of David Chang’s Ugly Delicious.
“We’ve been selling it at Victor Churchill,” Puharich says, “but it will definitely be on the online store by the end of this week.”
And the price? “Are you sitting down?” he quips. “It’s $130 a kilogram.”
Keep in mind that a serve at Firedoor will set you back $150, but Puharich stresses that restaurants aren’t ripping people off with their pricing. “Restaurants run with such low margins. If you go to a steak restaurant like Rockpool Bar and Grill and order one of these cuts, it’s $50 or $60. We’re now selling it for $20 to $30. But you have to cook it, set the table, you have to wash up – you have to do it all.”
Beyond the high-profile products that are (understandably) appealing to online customers, Puharich is excited about the more interesting secondary cuts now available: Wagyu hanger tenders, flank, bavette and brisket, for example.
One expert tip: you don’t need Hastie-level skills to cook the fancier meats. “With really quality meat you have to be really fucking bad to stuff it up. Things like Blackmore steak have a higher threshold ... it’s just really great no matter [what].”
Vic’s Meat Direct delivers to most Sydney postcodes Monday to Friday (delivery is free until April 8). You can also select pick-up – there’s a drive-through service for peace of mind. There are plans to launch in Melbourne soon.