There’s a whiff of charcoal and a glimmer of hot coals about the London food scene of late, as the trend for smoked cuisine rockets along. While everything from cocktails to olive oil is now getting the smoked treatment, it remains most popular as a method for tenderising and flavouring meat. Here’s our round up of the latest restaurants taking smoking seriously…
It’s all in the numbers, according to this new West Hampstead smokehouse: when cuts of meat (always free-range) hit 71°C (160°F) in the restaurant’s imported American-made smoker, the tissues “melt like butter” to create a uniquely tender, flavoursome result. Lamb breast and pork ribs get the treatment for eight hours, ox cheeks for twelve. Wash down with one of the 50 craft beers stocked here. Watch this space for more gastronomic goings-on along West End Lane as One Sixty’s owner David Moore – of L’Autre Pied and Pied à Terre fame – has tipped this to be the new Marylebone High Street.
The latest launch from the group behind Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern. At Spanish-influenced Ember Yard in Soho, a custom-built charcoal-fired grill takes centre stage. The menu even lists the specific wood types used for grilling each item. Dishes such as chargrilled octopus with mojo verde aioli and smoked-bream carpaccio with bergamot, coriander and bottarga show smokehouse cooking can be sophisticated and not all about the meat – although its Ibérico presa with whipped jamón butter has sent some reviewers into reveries, too.
The Big Easy
The signage outside says this new Covent Garden eatery is, first and foremost, a ‘crab shack’. Inside, though, two 1.5-tonne wood-burning Texan smokers and a ‘wall of fire’ tell a different story. American owner Paul Corrett has ensured both portions and service are up to the standards found across the pond (i.e. bigger and better, respectively), while the raw, industrial interior – all copper pipes, exposed bricks and concrete floors – points to the building’s original function as a Victorian electrical power station. Baby sister to the King’s Road branch, The Big Easy is vast, it’s noisy and theatrical – a good place to fuel up at the start of a night out with friends.
Chef Neil Rankin has serious pedigree when it comes to the BBQ/smoked food craze: it was he who kick-started the trend with food-van-cum-restaurant Pitt Cue Co in 2012 and, following that, Salt Yard. His latest venture, Smokehouse in Islington, homes in on what he does best, then, but it’s far from predictable or mundane thanks to an eclectic range of global flavours – from fiery gochujang from Korea to Sicilian specialty caponata via chimichurri (a sort of Argentinean pesto) paired with carefully-sourced, full-flavoured meat and fish. Vegetarians can tuck into coal-roasted aubergine and burnt leeks with duck egg and parmesan.
By Estella Shardlow @estellashardlow
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.