Blackfoot and I haven't had it easy. I have made multiple bookings before but they never happened, and that one Sunday when I turned up to a very limited brunch menu didn't quite hit the spot for me. So the night before my favourite girl moves her life over to Switzerland, taking her one step closer to the States, we decided to pig out here.
It's a casual restaurant with a piggy menu, not to the extent like St John, where they could make a dish out of every bit of the pig, more just the typical ribs and belly. I already tried the whipped lardo on toast last time when I came for brunch, thought it was a tad too salty, so we launched straight into the mains.
Sticky and Aromatic
Braised with lemongrass, ginger and lime leaves, deep fried and stacked up with crispy garlic, chilli and spring onions
The flavours were spot on, it giving off plenty of lemongrass and garlicky fragrance. The ribs were coated with a sweet honey glaze, then came a brief wave of mild heat from the chillies, finally leaving a trace of meatiness. The meat was slightly dry from the deep-frying, I prefer my ribs juicier and tenderer, but this was still enjoyable. It kind of reminded us of Chinese deep-fried bbq ribs with honey glaze...
Love me Tender
A rack just the way Elvis would have wanted - Southern BBQ-style. Served with pecan coleslaw
This on the other hand achieved the fall-off-the-bone texture, but the flavours were far less sophisticated and structured. Just the regular barbecue sauce smothering a rack of ribs. One of the things I hate about bbq ribs is when the sauce has cooled and looks like a plasticky slab of goo. This kind of arrived like when it came lukewarm. I've had better.
The Long Smoke
Whole belly smoked in applewood chips. Sichuan pepper, black treacle and star anise crust, cooked low and slow for six hours. Carved up and served with pecan coleslaw and pickles
We thought it was going to be a hunk of pork belly glistening its own juice. Sadly not. This piece of pork belly didn’t arrive hot, probably lukewarm at best and it looked rather unappetising; the opaque layer of lard and with smidges of grey charcoal did a great job at reminding me how it plans to invade my arteries... Looking back, it wasn’t even worth the risk. The meat was bland, no trace of fragrance from the sichuan pepper or star anise, or hints of sweetness from the treacle, or even subtle smokiness, just meat cooked to death enveloped by a bitter ring of burntness. There wasn’t even a sauce / dip to drown the hopelessness. Fail.
Clam & Pork Stew
Pork shoulder slow-cooked with leeks-a-plenty, finished with palourdes and a smooth coriander sauce, then spooned over hunks of toasted ciabatta
This dish simply didn't work. We were expecting it to come in a pot with a thickish consistency as a comfort dish. Instead it was a watery broth with a few chunks of dense pork shoulder, empty clam shells stuffed with leeks and lots of bread. I was really disappointed with the meat, the cubes of pork were very lean and they turned into dry, sinewy blocks from excessive boiling. Another flimsy dish.
We had some fries and chilli pork crackling on the side. Not bad.
We didn’t go for dessert, but I’m throwing in what I had last time on a very quiet Sunday lunch, for info.
Whipped lardo on sourdough toast
Unlike Barnyard, the lard is whipped to a translucent, thick-ish consistency - it looked like kaya toast from Singapore. The sea salt sprinkle was a tad too heavy-handed but the rosemary worked for me. Didn’t fall in love with it, but glad I tried it.
Bacon Porridge with maple syrup
Don’t know if this is on their menu anymore. I really enjoyed it, I reckon it’s the winning combination of maple syrup and bacon. The bits of fried lardon and bacon mingled well with the syrup-drenched sweet porridge. I have porridge every morning already, wouldn’t mind mixing it up with a bit of bacon every now and then.
Hash and Egg with Onion Gravy
I think this was good. It didn’t really leave much impression in my memory though, except the onion gravy, which I liked because reminded me of a French onion soup. And boy I am a sucker for that.
I had high hopes for Blackfoot. When a restaurant dedicates itself to one thing, they usually do it well. And Shan tested this place out and said great things about it. Changes in the kitchen? Team lost the steam? None of the dishes stood out in a positive way this evening, and when a place that specialises in pig haven’t nailed ribs and belly, there isn’t much else going for them. Given there are now good options at Exmouth Market, I don’t think the piggy is getting a second chance anytime soon.
Come to think of it, I have eaten a lot of bad meals recently - bring me something good!
46 Exmouth Market
Tel: 0207 837 4384