Good news for meat lovers and lovers of a meaty bargain as the raucously enjoyable Christmas Eve sale will return to Smithfield for the first time since the pandemic.
For some, it’s become a tradition to attend, as much for the fun of the event as the chance to go home with some exceptionally good cuts of meat at prices that are amazing. What was once a necessity in the days before refrigeration, to sell meat as close to consumption and ensure none is left to rot over the Christmas holiday — is now a tradition maintained by one Smithfield butcher.
Greg Lawrence has worked at Smithfield since he was sixteen and is now Managing Director of G Lawrence Wholesale Meats, and in the run-up to Christmas, his firm gathers up plenty of choice meats and turkeys from the other traders ready for the crowd that’ll turn up on a cold Christmas morning.
And they’ve just confirmed to me that the auction will be back again this year.
As Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year and the market is closed on Sundays, the auction will take place on Saturday 23rd December at 10am — in the covered Grand Avenue that runs through the market.
You don’t need to be there quite as early as some, who will be grabbing front row spots from 9am, as while being at the front of the crowd undeniably helps, they go to a lot of effort to spot people who haven’t made a purchase and try to ensure as many people as possible go home with something.
Out the butchers come, parading choice chunks of meat, declaring a shockingly low price, then a roar as people wave money and try to grab a bargain.
Being at the back and catching their eye means handing cash forward over people’s heads (the crowd always helps), and then a flying pig hurtles back at you as that pork loin or leg you bought is sent your way. Or the turkey, or the lamb, or whatever it is they manage to rustle up.
Don’t however expect delicate little slices of something in a neat supermarket package, for this is a proper butchers, and you’ll be getting the real thing in very large portions. But that’s the fun of it – to buy, for a price a fraction of what they charge in a supermarket – a hunk of meat that leaves you going home thinking “what on earth am I going to do with that?”
Bring some bags, a handful of tenners and twenties (cash only), and enjoy the puzzled look on the way back home on the tube with a rack of ribs bulging out of a bag or a suckling pig draped over your shoulder, all of a quality better than a supermarket, and at a fraction of the price.
Whether you’re going with the hope of filling the freezer, or just to snag a single item as a treat, it’s as much a tradition for the bargains as the sheer damn fun of it all. I’ve never seen a person leave who wasn’t smiling.
It’s wonderful to see it’s back again for the first time since the pandemic.