Smokestak have come a long way since I was first seduced by their delightfully sticky ribs at Street Feast in Shoreditch. Smokestak is well-known amongst meat lovers near and far. So much so that their first restaurant is now frequently listed as one of London’s (and even the UK’s) top barbecue joints. One Friday, we decided to take the afternoon off to go and review Smokestak at their home in Shoreditch.
It’s a very “Shoreditch” spot just around the corner from Boxpark. The outside is fairly unassuming and easy to miss – or it would be if it weren’t for the smoky aroma that leads you right to the door. Inside it’s all wooden benches, misty windows and dark, moody iron. It’s all very industrial looking with a huge open fire oven/grill that wouldn’t look out of place in a factory.
We’re seated quickly having booked an hour in advance, but we’re visiting at an odd time. Usually you’d be queuing much longer if you visited at such short notice. We were seated at a small, round wooden table for two and chose a bottle of Grenache/Syrah red to accompany our meaty feast (£25). The menu is split into five main (unnamed) sections which roughly equate to nibbles, starters, mains, sides, desserts.
I’d heard great things about the crispy ox cheek so these were a must order for me. They were crispy croquettas filled with the richest, most tender meat you’ve ever tasted. The anchovy mayonnaise to dip them in made this already indulgent dish, even more so. Honestly, I could have eaten about a thousand of these alone but as more meat was on the way, we thought it best stick to our one portion to share (£6).
For starter we shared the brisket bun with red pickled chilli which you can get in two sizes (£5.50 or £9). Again, this was delightful. Messy as hell to eat, but brilliant! Handily they’d already clocked that we were sharing and had halved it for us. It made for a rubbish blog photo but much easier than us attempting to cut with our cutlery. The brisket was really, really juicy and the brioche bun was sweet, contrasted with the sharpness of the pickled red chilli. I really don’t know what else to say about this, other than it was dead tasty and you should definitely order it!
Mains & Sides
For main we shared the 30 day dry aged beef short rib with more pickled red chilli (£16.50). I know, I know, it’s more beef with more red chilli but honestly, I have no regrets. This beef just effortlessly slid off the bone, leaving it completely clean. It wasn’t overly saucy, leaving the flavoursome rib to do most of the talking.
As a side, I went for something quite different to what I’d usually order and got the charred greens with tahini, pomegranate and peanuts (£6). Such a good decision! I fell so deeply in love with this dish that I’m crowning it the best veggie dish I’ve ever had, and have recreated it numerous times at home since (none quite as good as Smokestak’s though…). It was so simple but the freshness of the pomegranate combined with the slight bitterness of the charred greens and creaminess of the tahini dressing was incredible. The added crunch of the peanuts just topped it off (pun unashamedly intended!).
We had thought that we’d probably order the pork ribs with pickled cucumber next but were getting full and had to make a tough call between that or desserts. My sweet tooth won out.
Sometimes when you visit these kind of places the dessert can be a bit of an after-thought, but not at Smokestak. The sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream ice cream was rich, oh-so sweet but not overly heavy.
The rhubarb and hazelnut crumble with sheep ricotta ice cream was also lovely but the sticky toffee pudding was the real star of the desserts.
I absolutely loved Smokestak and, along with Les 110 de Taillevent, it’s one of my favourite meals I’ve had in 2018 so far. For me Smokestak was streaks ahead of our meal at Hawksmoor, both in quality and in value (although I think Hawksmoor still wear the crown for desserts).
Price: ££ (just under £80 for two of us including wine and service)
Nearest Tube: Shoreditch High Street (though Old Street and Liverpool Street are both walkable)