Smokestak Barbecue, London

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.

Smokestak Barbecue, London | Cake + Whisky

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.

Smokestak Barbecue, London | Cake + WhiskySmokestak Barbecue, London | Cake + Whisky

Unsurprisingly, the brisket bun (a butter-brushed soft bun pilled high with super soft meat and pickled chilli) is an absolute dream.

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So are the thick-cut pork ribs. Rich, fall-off-the-bone meat, finger-licking good sticky glaze, punchy cucumber pickles, textbook barbecue perfection.

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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.

Smokestak Barbecue, London | Cake + Whisky

Try the Celery, fennel, almond slaw, with delicate notes of preserved lemon and cumin. It’s fresh and light, crunchy and surprisingly moreish.

Smokestak Barbecue, London | Cake + Whisky

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.

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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!

Smokestak35 Sclater St, London E1 6LB
Smokestak Barbecue, London

Darbaar

The more you know about something, the more demanding you become.

Which is why I never, EVER order lemon tart in the restaurant. And why my boyfriend had never found an Indian restaurant he was happy with in London.

So it’s with trembling legs that I led him to Darbaar for dinner.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Opened by the end of last year by Abdul Yaseen (of the Cinnamon Group fame), Darbaar was designed to bring the regal feel of the Maharajan court to London.

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Which is exactly the vibe you get from the restaurant itself.

It’s a very ‘grand’ sort of place, with velvety curtains, honey-coloured wood and golden touches here and there.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Which makes Darbaar the perfect spot for a business lunch or a late-night romantic date.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

The menu draws its inspiration from all around India, featuring both classics and unusual dishes, as well as a couple of re-visited British classics.

The cocktail menu goes along the same lines, with loads of tropical twists on classics.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Including a (slightly scary) Cinnamon Mai Tai…

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…and a deliciously refreshing Spicy Mango (frozen) Daiquiri!

With fresh mango, ginger & chilli blended together with rum, it’s an absolute must-have for any mango lover! (plus I’m sure it counts as one of your 5-a-day!)

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Amritsari Spiced Calamari Fritters

A.K.A. deliciously soft calamari rings encased in crisp, spicy batter and served alongside a creamy red pepper dip.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Followed by super moist, succulent Nawabi Chicken ‘Pasanda’ kebabs.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Drizzled with the most delicious green chutney!

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

There were high expectations regarding the Butter Chicken.

A true Indian classic, and #1 dish to judge a restaurant on, according to my boyfriend.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

 

His verdict? ‘Promissing’.

Which might not sound like much, but is the closest he’s ever come to being happy with Butter Chicken in London!

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

With a side of Masala Okra, which I wasn’t sure I’d like but ended up scooping up more than my fair share of!

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All with some bread and raita. Just as it should be.

But if the starters and mains were rather on the traditional side of things, the dessert was anything but.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

A stunning, modern take on Kulfi.

Darbaar, London | Cake + Whisky

Beautiful in its simplicity, the parfait-style frozen dessert, perfumed with almond, saffron and cardamom was served alongside black-salt seasoned berries. It just made so much sense and was the perfect way to end the meal.

Just like most Indian restaurants, the more the merrier! Go with loads of friends, totally over-order and share it all.

In terms of a rating? Let’s say naan out of ten.

Darbaar, 1 Snowden Street, London EC2A 2DQ  Darbaar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Darbaar