The sign outside the door reads ‘shop of the year’ and, as I entered Stewart’s Family Butcher, I wondered to myself, which year? Two minutes talking to Shane Stewart and all became clear – virtually every year! Well, to be precise this shop has won the Meat Trades Journal’s (an august and most respected UK-wide trade journal) Northern Ireland Shop of the Year for the last three years running. Indeed, in 2010 Stewart’s won the ultimate accolade of Top UK Butcher. Such an endorsement from such a source actually says more about the quality of butchering at Stewart’s than anything I could write!
For the record, the quality standards practised at Stewart’s family butchers are rigorous and come from what Shane Stewart describes as ‘a tradition of quality’. Every piece of meat, be it beast or fowl, is grown locally and for the Stewart family, good meat starts on the farm with good husbandry. The family only buys from Farm Quality Assured producers and only buys full sides. All the beef is dry hung and, crucially, all the staff are trained in house. “The best bit of beef in the world can be ruined by cutting it the wrong way,” Shane told me, “So we train all our butchery staff in-house in the skills that my father passed on to me.”
This genuinely is a family affair too. The shop was opened in 1979 by Shane’s father, Gabriel, who only retired last Christmas. At the moment, there are four of Gabriel’s children working in the business; Shane, his brother Emmett and sisters Kirsty and Aisling, who has started the baked and cooked foods counter in the shop and, just recently his wife, Linda.
Shane first came into the business at a five-year-old, sweeping floors for his father and he is now bringing in his own sons, eleven year-old twins Connor and Michael, to do exactly the same. Looks like the family tradition of quality will thrive and continue!
Article by Flavour Magazine