Old fashioned American cooking is making a comeback of sorts (or perhaps a debut) and, as ever, London is in on the trend. First it was burgers, but now we’ve got so many gourmet burger joints in this city it’s tough to pick one. Then it was Mexican food – namely burritos – namely California-style handhelds. Now there’s a takeaway burrito stand on every corner. The next had to be BBQ. And by BBQ, we’re not talking burgers and sausies grilled up in the back garden. No, we’re talking real, authentic Southern Barbecue – massive slabs of beef and pork that’re smoked for hours and get your fingers sticky.
Barbecue is all the rage in London at the moment, so we of course had to sample some. We’ve tracked down some of the best BBQ restaurants in London, the kind that bring good old Southern know-how to their cooking. Expect huge cuts of meat, secret-recipe sauces, and ‘all-you-can-eat’; these joints represent a carnivore’s dream…
Collecting accolades left, right and centre, from the ‘best ribs this side of the Atlantic’ (The Times) to ‘Best American Restaurant’ (Tio Pepe nominated), Bodeans brings some of that Southern warmth to four busy London areas. The diner family now consists of Soho, Fulham, Clapham and Tower Hill branches, and it’s only getting bigger. This isn’t just because of their seriously good barbecued meat sandwich – the chain hosts American beer festivals and screens US sports, too. BBQ neophytes should go for the platters for 2, which offer a sample of the best bits from the barbie.
The Big Easy
Modelled on the old-school crab shacks of the Gulf Coast, The Big Easy serves up all kinds of meats and fish, but is perhaps most famous for its real home-smoked BBQ, or as they say: “the only Bar-B-Q worth coming back for”. All their meat is smoked over hickory, smothered in their (secret) signature sauce, and served with home-made fries and coleslaw. Look out for themed nights and ‘all-you-can-eat’ days, like The Big Pig Gig (every Monday, 12-close).
Pitt Cue founders Tom Adams and Jamie Berger bought a knackered burger van last year, in an attempt to bring their version of American BBQ to London’s street food scene. Now they’ve moved in to a proper joint off Carnaby Street; the food is totally unpretentious, delicious, and quite cheap, too. One of Pitt Cue’s huge main courses is under a tenner, and if that still isn’t enough, an extra portion of meat can be added, or as many sides as you like. Their no reservations policy may mean you have to queue for a barbie, but it’s worth it.
Red Dog Saloon
The Red Dog Saloon’s award-winning smoker has been shipped over from the States – it’s just like the original fire pits used in the South. As a result, their BBQ taste is authentic, and the chefs can smoke bigger cuts of meat in there than your average barbeque can handle. Hence the invention of ‘The Devastator Challenge’, which is indeed as hardcore as it sounds. Their beautifully tender meat has been in the smoker for up to 16 hours, and you can even order it for breakfast.
Duke’s Brew & Que
Duke’s might just be the most innovative BBQ or rather, ‘Que’, around. Their ‘mini buns of luv’ (barbecued, pulled pork slathered in KC sauce in a roll) are super-popular at just £3.50 a pop, as are their own pit smoked baked beans. If you’re hungrier than that, go for the pork or beef ribs; portion size will not disappoint. Duke’s chefs also grill fish – whatever happens to be fresh on the day – and behind the bar is a selection of American beers to wash it down with.
The Rib Man
Running basically the best (and one of the only?) mobile BBQs in London, The Rib Man himself travels between King’s Cross and Brick Lane, toting his mouth-watering rolls, wraps and racks until he sells out, and he does sell out, every day. Just as he was taught when he became a butcher at age 15, he prepares his meat in the early hours of the morning, so that his grub is ready for locals and punters alike come breakfast time. He is most famous, however, for his personal brand of hot sauce – so fiery that he doesn’t display it with the other sauces – customers must ask for it. Whether you opt for the smoky or the treacherously spicy, The Rib Man’s stand is a meat fiend’s paradise.
The Big Smoke
Not exactly a proper London BBQ restaurant, the Big Smoke is a pop-up joint inside (or, more, out the back garden of) Fulham’s Elk Bar. Though the modern lounge at first glance seems an odd place to get your fingers sticky, the fact that they’ve brought in award-winning British BBQ master Andy Annat to man the helm of the first and only ceramic BBQ smoker in London equals some pretty decent Southern grub. Though the menu boasts several different BBQ items, the truly authentic dish (and real reason to make the trek out) are the baby back ribs, smoked to damn-near perfection and lathered in a spicy sweet BBQ sauce that even God-fearing Texans would deign to criticise. The special cocktail, a Jack Daniels Old Fashioned, provides a welcome digestif for all that porky goodness.