Barbecue has become mainstream in the UK, I don’t mean the half-cooked chicken and plastic sausages of summers past, but the rich and vibrant world of slowly smoked meats. Pulled pork is on every menu, it’s available in Sainsburys, everything’s getting ‘smoked’ and there are an array of top quality restaurants in London. Three of the best are Pitt Cue Co, John Salt and Smokehouse – one thread joins them all together and that is Neil Rankin.
Neil really made his name on the London foodie scene with Pitt Cue Co – brilliant barbecue in a tiny location off Carnaby Street. He then moved north to John Salt, cooking stunning food with more of a British/Asian twist. His latest move is to Smokehouse – a stunning little pub in Islington, I’ve been desperate to go for ages, so a friend’s birthday provided the perfect opportunity!
We popped in on a quiet Saturday lunchtime, the inside is everything you’d expect of a modern gastropub/restaurant- lovely aged wood and big bright windows. An enormous chalkboard lists their very impressive beer selection – definitely worth a sample.
They were serving their brunch menu, but no limp pancakes or watery yoghurt here. They offer a wonderful selection of sharing dishes with which you fill the table and proceed to eat far too much – it’s marvellous.
The Islington charcuterie was nice, if a little sparse – for £7 I’d have liked some hams or olives as well.
The chopped brisket and pulled pork were heavenly – fall apart meat, lovely potatoes and unctuous spicy sauce. All topped with a perfectly cooked duck egg.
Foie gras, apple pie and egg yolk was a decidedly classy way to start the day – generous chunks of the liver worked beautifully with the tart apples and creamy, custard like yolk.
The bacon chop was spectacular – moist, tender and full of piggy goodness.
For dessert I had a very good toffee apple cobbler – rich doughy sponge atop alocholic apples with just a hint of crunch. Beautiful stuff. My glamorous dining companion had their chocolate tart – coco pops, nougat and pistachios.
Smokehouse cook excellent food – there’s big flavours but all handled with a deftness and a refinement that is all to rare. The service was bright and friendly and there was a lovely chatty atmosphere. If you’re looking for something that’s a step above your average gastropub – this is the perfect solution. It’s smart, fun and best of all – British. I can’t wait to go back and give their evening menu a full working over.