You'd be forgiven for assuming that by now, American BBQ restaurants in London would’ve reached their peak. The unfortunately reality is that in 2017, the vast majority of restaurants serving BBQ are absolutely woeful*.
In fact, almost 6 years after Pitt Cue Co first starting slinging cue from a rickety trailer on London’s South Bank, there are less than five places worth spending your money - these are Pitt Cue Co, Little Pitt, Hotbox and, until recently Shotgun (RIP).
Let’s add Smokestak to this list.
You enter the restaurant through a set of unassuming but thick, iron doors which rise floor to ceiling and take a good lean to open. Smokestak is a feast for all the senses, the smell of burning wood and roasting meat are the first things to hit you.
The second is the interior design - it’s a striking room which is purposely modelled in moody black and carbon, iron, mesh, steel but with comforting touches. All of these drive you to think about slouching into one of their comfortable leather chairs, knocking back a high-proof stirred drink and watch the world on Scatler street go by.
Unfortunately there was no time for musing or extended drinking at an all-too-short lunchtime visit. Thankfully the menu is also brief so we ploughed our way through the following:
The opener, sweet and sticky pigtails are a show stopper. But also serve as warning shot, the dishes at Smokestak are absolutely not - as I once had a senior food writer explain - ‘mushy baby food for adults’. The only way to eat these is to grab them firmly and gnaw the bones. Dignified? Perhaps not. Delicious? Undoubtedly.
Back to the regular BBQ programme - two chubby brisket buns land. These are well portioned units with a doorstop wedge of juicy meat in the middle. These smokey, melting morsels are kept in line with a cap of pickled red chilli which ripple through all this richness.
Crispy ox cheek - three neatly arranged cubes of slow cooked cheek pannéd, fried and with a swipe of smoked mayo, they also disappeared rather quickly. Don’t fill up on these tots though, it was surprisingly the non-meat dishes which stole the show here. Firstly a handful of slick, almost melting wild mushrooms on sourdough had the vegetarian Whats’app crew quite literally buzzing (little did they know it was the beef dripping which really made this dish sing).
The second unexpected stunner was deep fried monkfish tail on a house made romesco - founder David Carter’s homage to Bajan fried fish - what a dish.
A quick note on drinks, a fleeting lunchtime visit wasn’t enough time to properly work through the short but appealing cocktail menu which features six drinks - all of varying base spirit. Much has been made of the Burnt Peach Old Fashioned, and whilst i’m one for not messing with the classics, this was a welcome variation.
Given a few more friends and evening booking there would be no hesitation in getting through a dangerous amount of these. We'll be back in numbers.
*For a rather entertaining and thorough read which chronicles a journey through some of these woeful establishments in London’s BBQ scene I recommend reading @pickyglutton's comprehensive London BBQ breakdown - https://pickyglutton.com/category/barbecuebbq/