OFM Awards 2017: Best Newcomer – Temper, Soho

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A fire pit is the heart of this basement restaurant where Neil Rankin uses every scrap of the animals butchered on site

Even at 10 in the morning, before the barbecue pit at the centre of the Soho basement of his Temper restaurant gets properly hot, there is something of the firestarter about Neil Rankin. He has a charred kind of Edinburgh accent, and a fierce intensity of expression. Rankin has rendered cooking to its basic elements. He buys whole animals into his kitchen, butchers them on site, and holds every last scrap of them, brilliantly, to the flames. Meat hasn’t always been his thing: he used to be a fish cook. But he knew when he came here that he “wanted to play around with live fire techniques and develop that. And I knew that I liked fairly punchy flavours and didn’t want to hold back from that”. He grins. “But no, when I started I never quite imagined this,” he gestures around the cavernous underground space, which has the look of a subterranean speakeasy furnished by Dante Alighieri, stools circling the bar which circles the fire – and above it prime slices of cow and pig and goat – and low-lit confessional booths around the room’s edges. “I would have been quite happy to be head chef of a little 30-seater Soho basement.”

Related: ‘We buy in all our animals whole, butcher our own meat and cook everything in front of the customer’

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