Best Butcher: James Whelan
Pat Whelan (right) with Tom Carton at James Whelan butcher’s shop in Avoca, Monkstown, Co Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Behind a contemporary glass wall stand three lectern-like butcher’s blocks. This is where James Whelan Butchers’ in-house experts take to their spotlit “stage” much like performers in a play.
It is the theatrical cut and thrust of boning a carcass that is part of the butchers’ unique selling point in Avoca on Dublin’s Monkstown Crescent. At the weekend “whole families stand watching our butchers work their blocks,” explains manager Ernie Kenny. “It’s something you don’t get in a supermarket.” This modern approach to an age-old business also prompts questions from their customers – something the store relishes.
This butcher shop’s competitive advantage is that it has its own farm in Clonmel, Co Tipperary where it runs its own herd.
“This offers a continuity of standards. We can trace everything. People respond to that,” Kenny says. Pat Whelan, the owner, also has a shop in Clonmel.
What do customers want? “They really want you to explain how each cut should be cooked. For example, you will get a more intense flavour from your Bolognese sauce if you use minced beef shin instead of round steak.”
Like every other business, they have their regulars: “Customers that you can tell the time by, that come in to us at the same hour every day,” Kenny explains. As well as human customers, they cater for their canine regulars too and “try to match the bone to the dog”, also keeping bones for those training guide dogs.
The shop is two years in business this month and employs eight people including three trainees. One of these is their first female butcher, Orla Ryan.
James Whelan Butchers, Avoca, Monkstown Crescent, Co Dublin,
tel: 01-6638924 Web: jameswhelanbutchers.com.