Victor Churchill’s Butcher Shop and a Beautifully Glazed Christmas Ham.
Photo credits: Victor Churchill and The Internet Chef
Nothing could have prepared me for what we were about to experience once we pulled the sausage link door handles and stepped inside Victor Churchill’s Butcher shop in Sydney’s Eastern suburb of Woollahra. First thing you notice is Holy COW!!!, pardon the pun… this shop is stunning, visually arousing even.
It’s easily one of the most beautifully designed stores I have ever set foot in. In fact IT IS the most beautifully designed store in the whole world having just won the International Interior design award for retail stores which was held in New York a few weeks ago. The Victor Churchill butcher shop carved up the competition from the likes of Hermes and Louis Vuitton stores. This store has added value to spare and is proof in the black pudding that the retail environment can fend off the advances of online shopping.
When surrounded by such finery, it’s hard to believe that your standing in the middle of a bustling butcher shop floor as there is none of the “normal indications” that this is place where amazing meat comes to be worshipped by its adoring public. But this shop has more than rare retail carnivorous beauty to awe and amaze, it has a fifth element that was so unexpected and inspiring that it literally took my breath away.
The Butcher Shop with more
This shop has soul. And that soul is created and nurtured by the wonderfully warm and inviting Puharich family.
There is energy within these walls, a rich history and a voice. For a start, this building is the oldest continuously run butcher shop in Australia. It opened in 1876 and still sells the locals of Woollahra its dietary staples. None of the incredible design pieces that make up this theme park for butchers have been placed in haphazardly, they all have incredible meaning, wicked functionality and a delightful story that Anthony Puharich, the CEO and co-founder of Vics Meats along with his Father and best friend Victor, is only too happy to share with you. It was a chance tweeting I had with Anthony aka @askthebutcher_ that led me to come into his butcher store and spend a few hours wandering through its incredible features.
Anthony greets me with the warmest smile and a huge hug, his generosity of spirit instantly evident. I can’t help but warm to him as we stand side by side in his Butcher’s boutique taking in all the sights and sounds that are happening around us. We begin the journey at the start, such a wise yet often missed placed starting point in any story. Anthony is roots. He has strong, solid family bonds that go back to the island of Croatia which his father Victor left some 40 years ago for the shores of Australia.
Anthony is a 5th Generation butcher. His Dad’s a butcher, his Dad’s older brothers are butchers, his grandfather was a butcher and so was his Great grandfather. Anthony wears his love for his grandfathers on his sleeve by way of a tattoo on his forearm which reads ‘Buzaga’ which is a term of endearment given to someone who holds a lot of respect. Alongside this tattoo are the names of his parents, his wife and his three children taking pride and place on the opposite arm.
You get the feeling that this is a man who believes whole heartily in his family. He pays homage to his genealogy in everything he does and with such pride and diligence to stay true to what they have created within in him. Victor Churchill and Vics meats is a family affair with father Vic, son Anthony and daughter Anita all working to create a wholesale meat empire, the largest in Australia where they process some 20 tonne of meat daily for the Sydney and Melbourne markets from their Mascot warehouse and now a retail extravagance that has managed to pick up that incredible world design award.
The success Anthony attributes to hard hard work. Their humble beginnings as an immigrant family where for 26 years Victor worked as a butcher to feed, support and nature his young family ensuring that they were well educated and well loved. Anthony went from high school to University where he gained a degree in Finance. With this degree in hand and a whisper of an idea in his pocket he convinced his Dad to open their first retail butcher shop Vics Meat in 1996 in Oxford street Darlinghurst.
The next two years Anthony explains were tough. The demographic at the time that called that part of town home weren’t buying meat to take home and cook, being a community of people that loved to eat out. All their potential business was going through the front doors of restaurants, so Anthony decided to try knocking on the restaurants back doors. It was through this moment of brillance and a lucky break, which Anthony describes, came by way of Dietmayer Sawyer who was at the time executive chef of the wildly popular Level 41 restaurant that lead to the break that Vics meats needed to get them into the market. Vics wholesale meats was born.
Over the next 12 years Anthony and Victor worked to create a wholesale empire with Victor Churchill retail being the jewel in the crown. Anthony’s labor of love can be felt throughout the store but none more so than in the genuinely happy smiling faces of the staff that work at Victor Churchill’s. They take such pride in showing us different design features that they particularly enjoy and one of the delightful butchers put it so well when he said ” Its the closest you can get to working but not working”
So is this store all its cracked up to be? Well global talk-show queen Oprah seemed to think so, dropping in to visit on her way to the airport. She described it as a Butchers boutique and even managed to leave some grafitti on the wall alongside some other well respected food and televison personalities that have dropped by for a snag.
My 30 minute interview with Anthony turned into a 2 hour love fest with so much to see and and do, I couldnt possibly expect to write it all in one article, so here starts the Victor Churchill series. As I write this article, Christmas day is but 3 days away, so I have included a Victor Churchill Christmas Glazed Ham recipe which is cooked every day in store by Executive chef Romeo Baudouin and sliced to order.
I’ve heard that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth… I beg to differ, Victor Churchill’s is.
Victor Churchill’s Christmas Glazed Ham
Recipe by Romeo Baudouin
200g brown sugar
20g dried mustard
60ml maple syrup
1 cup of cloves
1 Ham ~ Victor Churchill uses Kurobuta Berkshire Ham.
- place the brown sugar, dried mustard, cider vinegar and maple syrup into a bowl and mix together unitl all the ingredients are combined to make the glaze.
- Use a small sharp knife and carefully remove the skin from the ham maning sure that the fat remains on the meat. Save the skin to cover the ham surface until you are ready to start glazing.
- Use a sharp knife to score the meat in a criss-cross (diamond) pattern and stud the centre of each diamond with a clove.
- Place the ham in a baking tray and pour over the glaze. Add a little water to cover the base of the pan.
- Bake the ham at 180C for approximately 30 minutes or until the outside of the ham has turned a golden brown colour. Baste the Kurobuta ham with a brush 4-5 times throughout the cooking process.
- Simply slice to serve. The ham is perfect hot or cold.
- The remaining glaze can be warmed and served with the sliced ham.
Have you ever experienced a butcher shop like this in the world?