Canberra's best suburban butchery: Wanniassa v Hawker

The search for the capital's best suburban butchery starts on Facebook, where I ask 1200 Canberrans for their tips on the best in the business. The butcheries at Red Hill, Kambah Village and Lyneham shops all receive rave reviews, while Darmody's in Bungendore, and the butcheries at Griffith and Kaleen shops rate a special mention.

But there are two crowd favourites that can't be ignored - Jordo's Chop Shop at Wanniassa and Hawker Butchery and Bonza Bangers.

The Jordo's Chop Shop team (from left): Owner Aaron Fenning, Tony Roberts, Stacey Hellwig, Marley Riordan and Jackson Rowe. Picture: Bree Element

The Jordo's Chop Shop team (from left): Owner Aaron Fenning, Tony Roberts, Stacey Hellwig, Marley Riordan and Jackson Rowe. Picture: Bree Element

So I spend a day among lamb cutlets, chicken Kievs and T-bones, getting the lowdown on the two stores. Both butcheries supply their most popular cut of beef, as well as a couple of Worcestershire and cracked pepper sausages (turns out they both happen to offer this particular delicacy) for cooking and review. The judge for this contest is a red meat connoisseur: my bogan, barbecuing, tradie husband Mark.

Here's how the battle goes down.

Jordo's Chop Shop, Wanniassa Shops

Interviewing Aaron Fenning, owner of Jordo's Chop Shop, is kind of annoying. We're interrupted every few minutes by someone stopping to shake Fenning's hand and say g'day. It appears he's somewhat of a minor celebrity in the south. I mean, 8,942 Facebook followers can't be wrong, can they?

"I like the smiles on customers' faces," Fenning responds when I ask what he loves about being a butcher.

"I don't mind cooking a bit, so I like hearing what customers cook and sharing my experiences on how to cook things.

"Being able to talk to your customers is big, educating your customers is big."

Jordo's Chop Shop owner Aaron Fenning says others have "tried and failed" online meat delivery. Picture: Bree Element

Jordo's Chop Shop owner Aaron Fenning says others have "tried and failed" online meat delivery. Picture: Bree Element

A father of five and a Wanniassa native, Fenning first sharpened his knives as an apprentice butcher in 1995, in the former Mr Chops butchery at Cooleman Court. He worked at several butcheries before purchasing Jordo's in 2013.

He kept the name Jordo's because the shop's new venture into online delivery was just starting to take off.

"It was too hard to redirect everyone to a new website named after me," Fenning laughs.

The butchery's gluten free range and ability to meet a range of dietary requirements - like Nutellex butter in chicken Kiev for those allergic to dairy - sets it apart from other shops, Fenning says.

But it's the butchery's dry-aged beef he's most proud of.

"Over time the fibres [in the meat] break apart and it's so succulent you can literally eat it with a spoon. You can cook chuck steak on a barbecue, you can cook gravy beef on a barbecue, it's that good."

The delicious cattlemans cutlet from Jordo's Chop Shop after 20 minutes on the BBQ. Picture: Bree Element

The delicious cattlemans cutlet from Jordo's Chop Shop after 20 minutes on the BBQ. Picture: Bree Element

The taste test

The sausage: A good all-round Aussie snag perfect for a family BBQ. Just a bit underwhelming in taste. 7/10.

The steak: Jordo's provides a two-inch thick cattlemans cutlet to be cooked on the barbie. The cutlet is cooked medium rare. "It's juicy and almost melts in your mouth," Mark says. 8.5/10.

Total score: 15.5/20

Hawker Butchery and Bonza Bangers, Hawker Shops

James Read is the owner of Hawker Butchery but says his 2IC - Daniel Hall - is a big part of the butchery's success.

When Dan proudly flashes a 'Belco' tattoo from beneath his polo shirt, I understand why.

The Hawker Butchery team (from left): Owner James Read, Daniel Hall, Vanessa O'Toole, Simon Price and Michael Read. Picture: Bree Element

The Hawker Butchery team (from left): Owner James Read, Daniel Hall, Vanessa O'Toole, Simon Price and Michael Read. Picture: Bree Element

"He definitely has charisma," Read laughs.

Very clearly a north-Canberra obsessive, Hall has worked with the Read family for 16 of the 27 years they've owned the butchery.

Hall admits the Hawker shops have changed significantly over the years - "I also grew up in Scullin and witnessed the demise of the shops there" - but says Hawker Butchery is still an important and much-loved destination for residents of the north.

"Being a butcher is a bit like being a hairdresser," Hall says.

"You get to know them, they know us, they know our names, who we are, they know a bit about what goes on in our lives and we know a bit about what goes on in their lives."

While Hawker Butchery itself is busiest on weekday mornings and afternoons - some customers come in every day - the butchery also supplies some of the smaller supermarkets in the capital from the Denman Prospect IGA to the Supabarn at Florey.

Daniel Hall, of Hawker Butchery, shows off his Belco pride tatt. Picture: Bree Element

Daniel Hall, of Hawker Butchery, shows off his Belco pride tatt. Picture: Bree Element

The Bonza Bangers section of the butchery was born in the early 2000s, and today sells half a tonne of sausages each week across 40 individual flavours. Beef and bacon is Canberra's favourite, followed by chicken macadamia honey and Texan chilli.

"The thing with meat is, it's like everything's on life support," Hall explains.

"Even though it's dead, it still has to be well cared for. We can't just say, 'we'll get a week's worth of meat in, she'll be right'.

"It's like a living thing the way it just keeps rolling over. The amount of stuff that comes in and out each day, it surprises even us some days."

The judge, my husband Mark, tucks into some serious meat. Picture: Bree Element

The judge, my husband Mark, tucks into some serious meat. Picture: Bree Element

The taste test

The sausage: Mark declares it a winner. The flavour's spot on - with cracked pepper making its presence felt at the first bite - as well as being the perfect size for a sausage sanger. 8/10.

The steak: Hawker Butchery supplies a rump steak for Mark's consideration. It's also cooked medium rare and "ticks all the boxes", Mark says. Lean, super succulent and with an impressive flavour. 8.5/10.

Total score: 16.5/20

And the winner is ... Hawker Butchery and Bonza Bangers.