Much like this famous restaurant critic, I thought I was done with barbecue. Thought I had seen it all, tasted it all and that there wasn’t much point in having to deal with smoke-scented coats and sweaters if the only thing I got for all that hard work was dry meat the texture of cotton-wool covered in ridiculous amounts of overly sweet barbecue sauce.
And then Smokestak came along and convinced me that maybe, there were times when smoke-scented winter coats were worth it.
The decor alone makes it clear that this is not your average ‘Murica-inspired diner. No red leather booth, no US flags, no ketchup and mustard in squeezy bottles. Instead, plenty of grey shades, dark wood, unpolished metal and leather details. Industrial, stylish, to the point.
The menu goes in the same direction: no pulled pork, a few true-to-their-roots classics, and plenty of twisted ones, all cooked with incredible attention to detail.
Unsurprisingly, the brisket bun (a butter-brushed soft bun pilled high with super soft meat and pickled chilli) is an absolute dream.
So are the thick-cut pork ribs. Rich, fall-off-the-bone meat, finger-licking good sticky glaze, punchy cucumber pickles, textbook barbecue perfection.
Somewhat gruesome-sounding pigtails turns out to be little morcels of crackling-like sticky joy. An instant favourite.
And unlike many other barbecue restaurants, where anything that’s not meat is hardly ever worth ordering, side dishes at Smokestak are as stellar as the main bits.
Try the Celery, fennel, almond slaw, with delicate notes of preserved lemon and cumin. It’s fresh and light, crunchy and surprisingly moreish.
Order the Smoky rarebit jacket potato. Not doing so would be a mis-steak.
Blackened, crispy skin spud, scooped out, pimped with plenty of cheesy, ale-y rarebit mix, then re-stuffed, and quickly popped under the grill to emerge in all its golden, cheesy beauty.
But then again, there are many other things to love about Smokestak. The strong, perfectly mixed cocktails. The paper-thin, delicated slices of bacon-like cured pigs jowl… Not to mention what’s possibly the best sticky toffee pudding in the whole of London.
Because when it comes to great barbecue, Smokestak doesn’t just meat expectation but exceeds them from start to finish. It makes decisions very, very hard to make and pretty much garantees you’ll leave very, very full indeed.
Good thing the little Shoreditch pocket Smokestak is located in is a nice place to go for a walk afterwards… Everyone knows that ace street art and a therapeutic dose of thrift shopping is the best way to fight off the meat sweats!