This is a long overdue post. We came to Smokestak back in early February when it was one of the hottest restaurants in town, but I simply didn't have time to write about it.
It was an impulse visit on a Friday night, so it was inevitable that we had to wait for a table in the dingy basement bar that was too close to the toilet. After putting our name down at the reception, we just had to hang around till the staff came to look for us... it was a good 75min wait.
Our server was decidedly distracted when she took our orders, kept looking away at another table and stopped midflow as her mind was pre-occupied with some other tables; granted she was attractive so I'm sure she gets away with it. She recommended 'everything' on the menu because 'everything was amazing', but the one highlight was the brisket bun and the beef brisket, which was the same as the brisket bun, without the bun. Okay, thanks.
Crispy ox cheek
We started with the ox cheeks, slow smoked shreds of tender meat packed in a crispy breaded shell, served with a dollop of garlic aioli. It was quite good, exactly what was expected. It could do with more gelatinous collagen to make the textures more interesting.
Wild mushroom, beef dripping toast
We were debating if we wanted to get the mushroom on toast, turned out to be one of the more memorable dishes of the evening. The thick chunks of fungi piled on the sourdough toast, which soaked up the thick savoury bovine gravy like a sponge, bursted together with the succulent mushrooms in mouth to unleash the juices. It got a bit too salty after a couple of forkfuls, but scrumptiously comforting.
Pastrami, sour cabbage, pickles
I'm a fan of pastrami and salt beef, and this did not disappoint. The slices of pink meat were smoky, tender and flavoursome, with a rind of gelatinous lard for my guilty pleasure. The cucumber pickles were sugary sweet, which I preferred to the usual tangy gherkin. He wasn't overly impressed, as all pastrami tasted similar...
Thick-cut pork rib, pickled cucumber
The pork ribs were probably the most disappointing item. The hunky ribs were smothered with sickly sweet barbecue sauce, meat was soft and juicy and everything - but it's so boring. I think it's me, perhaps I just dislike restaurants serving ribs with box-standard barbecue sauce. It's a one-dimensional taste that has become extremely dull. I'll just stop ordering it from now on.
Brisket bun, pickled red chilli
The brisket bun wasn't half as exciting as the server made it out to be. While the fatty bits melted in mouth and were clogging up my arteries, the leaner muscles were slightly parched and sinewy. The charred edges were way too burnt and hard for consumption. The worst of it all, was that the bun was smeared with the same sauce as the ribs... the random chopped chillies scattered on the meat weren't doing anything. Make a proper chilli barbecue sauce please.
Jacket potato, smoked rarebit
The baked potato was excellent - fluffy, grainy and topped with a thick layer of gooey cheese, like mashed potato stuffed back into the skin.
We were on the fence with Smokestak. They were supposed to ace the meats, yet none of the meat dishes were outstanding. They weren't bad, they were just okay - but we were expecting something much better than okay. There were other elements that made the experience less than great; our much distracted server, the deafening group high on beer; the tiny space we were seated facing the stairs... all added up to make us feel Smokestak wasn't worth the trouble.
35 Sclater Street
Tel: 0203 873 1733