Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Can't get enough ribs

So I told you I love ribs, right? I'm still salivating over the thought of that meal at Pitt Cue Co. But I needed another fix, and it turns out you don't have to hang around Soho at 6pm on a weekday evening and hang around 45 minutes for a table if you want tasty rib meat with sweet and sticky sauce. Not when the rib man is stationed just a couple of miles from work and home.

So rib man is Mark Gevaux, a butcher of many years, and a man passionate about good quality meat, cooked to perfection. He has his stall at eat.st (round the back of Kings Cross near the big new developments) on Thursdays and one on Brick Lane on Sundays. A food day will start in the early hours of the morning, getting the ribs cooking in a barbecue for hours and hours to the point that the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

I was lucky enough to catch rib man on a sunny Saturday when eat.st was open for business to coincide with the Guardian's Open Weekend. It was pretty early and quiet, so no wait for the food. The options were simple - rib meat in a roll - with either/both rib man's homemade Holy Fuck (i.e. very spicy) and BBQ sauces. I went for both - knowing that as much as I like it hot, I also like it sweet, sticky and smoky.

I cycled home in record time, clambered up the stairs, onto the roof terrace and unveiled the beautiful rib roll onto a plate, grabbed a couple of kitchen towels, poured myself a glass of water. It was delicious; succulent, smoky meat, mouthwateringly tender and moist, complimented beautifully by the mixture of the BBQ and mega spicy sauces.

I guzzled up every last scrap of meat, soaking the stray bits of sauce up with the last bits of roll. £5 well spent. And in a warm food coma for the next hour or so.

The rib trend continues developing - and even closer to home - Duke's has opened in De Beauvoir Town, just down the road, and dishing up ribs and home-brewed beer. It's unrelenting, this gentrification meets ribification/gastrofication. I'd be exhausted, obese and penniless if I made it my quest to in all the exciting new openings just in Hackney. But I'll do my best and keep reporting back.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Burgers: down south

The search for London's best burger continued, and took me to the South. To Brixton, where a Victorian arcade has seen a new lease of life after years of decline. A community management company has started looking after the arcade, and leasing out the dinky units to small, independenty food outlets.

Over the last year or so, a number of them have had the Jay Rayner treatment – a glowing review from their locally residing national restaurant critic at large. Walking around the arcade on a chilly winter Friday evening, it was clear that his is the golden touch. Kaosan thai restaurant, and Honest Burger, where we were headed, both reviewed by Jay, were completely packed, with clusters of young urbanites gathered outside, waiting for a table to come up. Many of the other restaurants were empty or had just a few diners - but this may rectified now that Jay has done his greatest hits!

The early bird catches the worm, and my friend turning up at 6.20 was enough to bag us a table at Honest Burger. We kept our coats on and didn't drink too much to allow for the lack of heating and toilets. The menu was simple and limited – a couple of regular burger combinations, a special, and a small selection of sides. We both opted for the special – that week, a burger with chorizo and manchego and a spicy salsa of chili, garlic and parsley. They came with a side of rosemary salt hand cut fries, and we ordered a red cabbage and apple slaw to accompany.

The burgers were small, but perfectly formed. They came in a fantastic brioche bun, a good, thick slab of top quality manchego and a thick piece of meaty, smoky chorizo. The patty itself was small compared to the likes of Lucky Chip and MeatLiquor, and not as greasy – a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. It tasted more wholesome, and the references on the walls were about the sourcing of the beef. Quality and er...honesty dominate.  

I think I was most impressed by the fries – the rosemary worked brilliantly, and you could tell that the potatoes were good'uns. The slaw was tasty, but again, more on the wholesome side than the badass greasy diner side. So it's a question of what you want fom yout burger. If you're looking for an honest, wholesome, fancy burger, this is as good as it gets. If you are after the greasy American experience, you're better off with Lucky Chip, Meat Liquor and possibly Byron.


While we're on the subject of burgers, I've blogged about Meat Liquor before, but went again with a big group of friends recently. We went off peak, knowing that a table for ten in such a popular eaterie could be hard to come by. We didn't have to wait long for a table, and were well accommodated, and went all out on sides and starters.

The chili cheese fries were beyond amazing, in their entirety, although the regular fries we had as a side didn't compare with those from Honest Burger. The slaw was closer to my ideal – creamier and fattier, and deep fried pickles were a revelation – I even managed to eat blue cheese in the form of the dip that came with them.

I need to square the circle again and visit Lucky Chip before too long. Burgers or bust.