1st February 2024
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Holly Algar from Thrings chats to a traditional family butcher in the heart of the New Forest
“Nobody chooses to be a butcher – you just sort of fall into it” says Neville Hallis, behind the counter of his shop in Lyndhurst High Street.
This happened to Neville almost 40 years ago when he was working in a chicken factory and spotted an advert for an apprentice butcher.
“He asked me if I was squeamish, I said no, and that was that. I got the job,” he remembers.
After almost four decades later and now a master of his art, Neville decided to open in Lyndhurst around three years ago. Simply called The New Forest Butcher, the shop is steeped in 130 years of history.
“It’s survived two World Wars, recessions, Covid... it’s been here a lot longer than I have,’ he says. “I just see myself as its custodian.”
All the meat is locally sourced, from locally shot game to pannage pork to the hundreds of turkeys he’ll sell at Christmas.
Neville is passionate about this local connection. “People really need to be educated about food miles,” he said. “Take beef for example – in the supermarkets a lot of it comes from Argentina – that’s a lot of miles! Everything here comes from in around the Forest, and it’s about the same price as you’d find it in Waitrose. It’s all about education so people understand the difference.”
Neville and his small team pride themselves on customer service as well as the quality of the meat, all butchered on site.
“If people want to know how to cook their steak, we’ll tell them – as long as they keep to that they won’t cremate it,” he says, adding with a smile: “The meat is always tender when it leaves the shop!”
As well as serving tourists during the summer and local people all year round, the shop supplies meat to local Co-Op stores and businesses. Shortly after taking over the shop, Neville found two trade journals dating from 1929 in the attic, featuring a sausage recipe that used to create his Lyndhurst Special sausages, one of his most popular products.
But by far his biggest seller are Scotch eggs. More than 1,000 are handmade each week– the eggs boiled, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs, and deep fried in the back of the shop. Variations including caramelised red onion, black pudding, smoky bacon and a hot Spanish version all sell in the shop and are supplied to other butchers across the south-east.
All this means Neville doesn’t get much time to himself. “It’s hard work, so you have to be dedicated, and Christmas is coming so we’ll be busy,” he says. “I haven’t had any time off in two years, but you never know – maybe I will soon!”.