Thursday, 22 December 2016


Fans of London’s street food scene – and let’s face it, who isn’t? – will already be familiar with Smokestak from Street Feast Dalston Yard (now at Dinerama) and the legendary beef brisket buns with pickled red chillies.

Well, David Carter has come in out of the cold and opened a bricks-and-mortar version off Brick Lane on Sclater Street E1. I would say that you can't miss it, but we watched many a perplexed punter wander past the forbidding Game of Thrones-esque door and only return once they had failed to find anything more welcoming. If you get lost, just follow your nose.

The doors set the scene for the brooding industrial interior  - smoky concrete walls, exposed pipes and towering windows, this is about as masculine as a restaurant can get. Everything about it is big, solid and no-nonsense, either wood, steel, or matt black, and the focus of it all is the huge four and a half tonne smoker brought over from Houston.

That said, the general vibe is really warm and relaxed - unusual in such a new restaurant (it had only been open ten days when we went). The staff were charming, friendly and just attentive enough, never rushing us but always busy. Carter himself was the still centre of the storm, stationed calmly at the bar with his laptop, advising chefs and front of house staff as and when needed.

We were waiting for stragglers at our table (yep, you know who you are . . . ) so we early birds ordered a couple of cocktails and a cheeky little starter to keep us going. We opted for the smoked girolles on beef dripping toast which turned out to be a phenomenally good call; robust, punchy, with real depth of flavour, this set the scene for the rest of the meal. Do NOT miss this. You can thank me later.

The cocktails were pretty good too; I had the Smoke (rude not to, really, given the theme) with tequila, smoke, lime and ginger, and my companion had the Burnt Peach Old Fashioned, a great take on the classic with bourbon, burnt peach, warm spices and bitters. 

The boys arrived and we went for a bottle of the recommended red wine and the 40ft pale ale. To go with, we ordered scratchings; this turned out to be huge light-as-air swirls of crispy skin, a great appetiser for what was to come.

I lived in Texas for a couple of years (yeah, it's a long story) and this was a return to the larger than life barbecue fare I remember - and then some. Texans love their beef, and take their barbecues very seriously. Politics? Sport? Religion? Tackle a Texan about what kind of wood chips to use, what spices to include in the rub or how long is long enough and you could find yourself at the wrong end of the second amendment.

For mains, we had the beef brisket, which I was happy to see arrive with a sprinkling of the pickled red chillies on the side, and the pork ribs with pickled cucumber. The beef was exceptional; meltingly tender and perfectly seasoned even without the barbecue sauce, and great with the zing of the chillies.

The thick-cut pork ribs were also really good; chunky, succulent and delicious.

Opinion was more divided on the sides: the roasted carrots got a universal thumbs up, same for the wonderfully fresh and crisp celery, almond and preserved lemon slaw, which was so much more than a sum of its parts.
The grilled baby gem lettuce with bacon and walnut gremolata was okay, but I felt its flavours were fighting with the meat mains, which was a contest it was never going to win. The jacket potato with sour cream and chive was the troublemaker; three of us, myself included, loved it but one of us wasn't a fan of the texture - a smooth, almost pureed potato and sour cream mix in a crispy skin.

I'm sad I didn't get to try the salt-baked beetroot . . . next time!

So gluttonously on to puddings. We tried the sticky toffee pudding, which was judged to be everything one would want from the dish, and I was hoping to try the toasted oak ice cream with salted hazelnut praline but unfortunately they were out of the ice cream so I had to have the burnt butter ice cream instead. This was good, but now I have yet another reason to go back . . .

Yours, addicted to smoking,

Girl About Town xx

Square Meal

Smokestak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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