These days, fake flesh looks – and tastes – just like the real thing. Kate Burt visits the first 'vegetarian butcher' and asks, are the omnivore's days numbered?
Jaap Korteweg's butcher's shop in The Hague trades well on its retro
stylings. Outside the old-fashioned glass-and-wooden shop front, there's
a sit-up-and-beg delivery bike parked on the pavement and, next to it,
the obligatory fibreglass black-and-white cow. Inside, there are marble
worktops – one with an old-fashioned meat grinder clamped onto it –
rustic blue and white tiles featuring vignettes of Dutch country life, a
set of antique-shop enamel weighing scales and a wooden butcher's
block, opposite which chiller cabinets are stuffed with chicken pieces,
meatballs, mince and smoked bacon.
But look closer, and there's something very un-retro. The butcher's block, rather than being blood-stained and knife-chipped, is pristine; the meat grinder is for show too, filled with beans instead of beef. Even if you don't speak Dutch, the shop's name gives away the biggest break from tradition before you're even inside: De Vegetarische Slager – The Vegetarian Butcher.