Andrew McConnell is getting down to the grassroots with his next business venture, an upmarket butcher shop with a heritage-breed focus and a support cast of his own charcuterie, sauces and marinades.
Taking over Smith Street's former Soul Food Café, Meatsmith - a partnership with Troy Wheeler, head butcher for the past 10 years at Hawksburn's upmarket Peter Bouchier - is due to launch its wholesale arm in May, with the retail side opening in July or August.
"Without Troy I wouldn't ever attempt a project like this," says McConnell of jumping the divide from restaurants (Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co, Luxembourg and Supernormal) to produce. "I'm definitely the chef and he's definitely the butcher, but it makes a good combination. There will be placements for all my chefs to go and work with Troy, and with things like making our own charcuterie I really like the fact it's still closely connected to what I do every day."
The fit-out by Herbert & Mason (responsible for the likes of Maurice Terzini's Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta in Bondi) will stick to the traditional butcher-shop mould, with a small wine shop "selling the boutiquey wines we like to drink", says McConnell. A grocery selection will be "a combination of things we do ourselves - the Builders Arms' mustard and relish, our own rendered duck fat - or else the best of the best in things such as anchovies".
Meatsmith has its seeds in McConnell's 2012 relaunch of the nearby Builders Arms Hotel, where Wheeler lent his expertise for the dry-aged meat.
"It's good to find someone with a similar vision for heritage breeds and focusing on Victorian producers," says Wheeler. "I've been speaking to a lot of small producers of things like Old World chicken breeds instead of generic chicken and heritage sheep and beef breeders to really bring something different to the table."
McConnell fans will also be pleased to see precooked items ready to go: "The Cumulus Inc lamb shoulder, for example," he says. "You can take it home and cook it in half an hour instead of eight."