35 Sclater Street, E1
If you’ve been to a Street Feast in the last three years, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a scruff of beards lining up in front of Smokestak’s wood smoker, waiting to get those substantial follicles into some USDA grade brisket. Now, you can enjoy this sight all year round as Smokestak has vowed to bring “’cue to the masses” with its first permanent restaurant.
In an entirely nondescript warehouse-style building in Shoreditch. There’s barely any signage to announce its arrival, just an almighty waft of smoked meat. Old workshop tables surround an open kitchen, with black carbon stained concrete walls and steel panelling, rather like you’re inside a giant smoker – see what they did there? Roller-shutter garage doors give way to a heated, outdoor terrace and a dingy, candelit bar resides below.
As a born and raised Barbadian, founder David Carter was so dismayed by British barbecue he quit his job as general manager of award-winning Japanese restaurant Roka, bought a 4.5 tonne smoker in Texas and set up his own business to show us how it’s done. He moved to London in 2008 to join Gordon Ramsay at Claridges before re-opening the Savoy Grill as restaurant manager.
Unlike your common or garden barbecue joint, there isn’t a sliver of pulled pork to be seen and for that we’re truly thankful. Instead, there are one or two classics a section – the brisket is back and so are the pork ribs – but the best menu items are found just outside your comfort zone. Abandon all table manners for the pigtails, sticky cubes of crispy pork to nibble off the bone, and the smoked girolles on beef dripping toast, a moreish winter warmer you’ll be mopping up with bread, spoons, fingers – whatever’s close and wipes the plate clean. Even the humble jacket potato is transformed into a hefty decadence; it’s enormous and approximately 70 per cent cheese. The sticky toffee pudding is gooey and comforting, but the toasted oak ice cream, with butterscotch and sea salt, truly tantalises.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE?
It’s a messy business and table space is limited, so don’t be bringing along a pile of paperwork. But if you can drag your clients out of the City steakhouses, you’ll be richly rewarded with a livelier atmosphere and adventurous food. Online bookings can be made for tables up to 6 at smokestak.co.uk.
There are six cocktails to choose from, most of them bourbon-based, around 25 wines including a few ravishing South American reds and four varieties of beer from Carter’s neighbours in Dalston, 40FT, Kernel Brewery and Brew By Numbers.
A hip hidden gem whose willingness to explore unusual cuts and flavours produces dishes that are as memorable as they are moreish and lifts Smokestak above your average American-style barbecue joint.
ONE MORE THING...
Take some potent perfume/aftershave if you’re going back to the office. You’ll smell like an arsonist.