It's rare for a butcher's shop to feel more like a jewellery store. But Victor Churchill isn't your average butcher.
Displaying steaks and sausages under downlights, installing mirrors and copper arches, and framing prime cuts in timber, marble and stone, Victor Churchill was founded in Sydney 12 years ago by Vic's Premium Quality Meat principal Anthony Puharich and father Victor, bringing Australia's top producers of beef, lamb, pork and poultry – names normally seen on restaurant menus – to home cooks.
On November 15, the first Victor Churchill opens in Melbourne, bringing all of the brass, the glass and the class of the original, along with the who's who of Australian producers to a 280-square-metre store in Armadale.
"The experience of shopping at Victor Churchill is unique," Puharich says. "But if we don't have quality meat, all that other stuff doesn't matter to me."
What sets Victor Churchill apart, says Puharich, is access. After 25 years of supplying tastemakers such as Peter Gilmore and Guy Grossi, Puharich has a little black book few can match.
He wants his meat to "blow people's minds" when they cook it at home, whether it's Cobungra Station full-blood wagyu (only available in the Melbourne store) or Great Ocean Road duck.
But Melbourne shoppers needn't wait until they get home to experience that. They'll be able to pull one of 12 seats up to the horseshoe-shaped bar to sample grilled kurobuta pork chop on the bone and lobster selected from the tank to go with Krug, a martini or an old-fashioned.
Then there's the impressive dry-ageing room, a specialty of Puharich and his father, Victor, from whom he learnt the craft more than 25 years ago.
When father and son first started Vic's, dry-aged meat wasn't as sought-after as it is today, but Vic's now ages about 15 tonnes of meat at a time.
Through Victor Churchill in Sydney and the likes of Gary's Meats and Meatsmith in Melbourne, today's shoppers are more familiar with the concept – and the hefty price tags. "Time is money," explains Puharich.
Over the days a piece of beef is hung (anywhere from 21 to the more extreme 200), enzymes begin to break down the collagen, tenderising the meat and concentrating the flavour into something even more beefy. It's rich and certainly not an everyday food, but, as Puharich says, "it's the ultimate way of preparing a piece of meat to enjoy it at its fullest".
Store open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm; bar Mon-Tues 11am-5pm, Wed-Sun 11am-10pm from November 15.
953 High Street, Armadale, victorchurchill.com
Tips for buying dry-aged beef
If you're shopping for dry-aged beef, use this checklist before handing over money.
- Ask to see where the meat is dry-aged: the meat should be well-spaced in a room between 2 and 3 degrees with good airflow and humidity control.
- Ask to see the meat before it is cut for you. Look for firm flesh with no signs of moisture and a weathered looking bone.
- 28-35 days of ageing is great for home cooking.
- Prime cuts like fillet, rump, rib-eye and sirloin yield best results.