I think a tinge of homesickness may be creeping up on me after having moved to London recently One thing I truly miss is American southern style barbeque. I never thought prior to moving here that there was an American BBQ scene in London, yet there is! I had to see for myself when a local friend recommended one.
Whether you go to Austin, TX or New York City, you can find delicious Southern style barbecue in so many states in America. There's been a big movement of young urbanites learning the craft of barbecuing that's led to a continuous spread of the cuisine to broader ranges outside of the south. Of course, having tried barbecue in the South myself, there's nothing like it. But many people will mimic the traditional style and come very very close.
Different types of wood, styles of smoking and seasonings create a different flavor of meat. I didn't know what to expect when I was told a traditional American cuisine was made in London. I'm not saying you can find these restaurants in every town of London like you can in the Southern states in America. But I will take what I can get, no matter how few, to get a taste of home.
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A friend took me to a lively place called SmokeStak in Shoreditch. It's a rustic yet stylish restaurant with a relaxed vibe and ambient lighting. It's a place you can come dressed up or casual. But the place is dimly lit, so who's going to see what you're wearing anyways?
What's amazing about this spot is that the smoker is among some of the seated tables, basically built into the brick wall. We ended up sitting at one of the tables right next to the smoker, which was absolutely astonishing to see at work.
We left around closing time and the employees kindly showed us how they were smoking the meat overnight for the next day. It was impressive from anyone's perspective. All of this meat is smoked each day for over 15 hours to make it onto your plate for dinner.
Our group started the evening off with some refreshing cocktails. I have to say the cocktails are unique and delicious with elegant garnishes such as time and grilled citrus. They remind me of what you would find in a modern, trendy cocktail bar.
We moved on to the sea bream crudo with grapefruit, pickled ginger and jalapeño for an appetiser. It was a perfect balance of tender and crunchy textures along with sweet, tart and acidic flavours that covered the fresh fish. It was an excellent pairing with my refreshing cocktail.
We moved on to the creamy, well seasoned bone marrow flat bread. Having only eaten bone marrow a handful of times with great experiences, I always like to try it again if it's on the menu. I have to say, this was such a decadent and rich bone marrow. It was like eating a savoury pudding. I love that they charred it and served this dish with flat bread on the side to scoop it up. I could have gone for a second round.
The charred greens with tahini, pomegranate, and peanuts sprinkled on top was our next dish. I wanted to clap for whomever thought to char these greens. It matched perfectly with the whole Southern style barbecue cuisine. There was bitterness from the char, creamy savouriness from the tahini, and a sweet crunch texture from the pomegranate and peanuts.
Each dish had a great balance of salty, creamy and acidity, which kept us from feeling overwhelmed by any of them. As you can see, many of these elements are seen in Southern style cuisine. But at Smokestak, it's an elevated, modern twist to these delish dishes that really liven up the palate.
We then had the star dishes of the night - the meat. The crispy, tender ox cheek with a creamy anchovy mayo was a burst of crunchy yet juicy goodness in your mouth. With the contrasting textures came the perfectly paired flavours of the anchovy mayo with the ox cheek. Despite it being a small dish, it's quite a heavy one. I'll be dreaming out this one for some time.
This dish I was ready to dig into the moment I laid eyes on it was this sweet, tangy pork belly rib with pickled cucumbers. All of the meat glistened in the ambient lighting and was just fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy. This type of heavy, savoury barbecue always needs something pickled served with it to balance out the richness, and they did just that.
Of course, a traditional southern BBQ is incomplete without a beef brisket. If it's on the menu, you can't skip over it if you truly want to compare southern style barbecue. A properly seasoned and cooked brisket means everything in this cuisine.
This tender beef brisket had a side of tangy mustard barbeque and pickled chilli peppers, but it wasn't needed. The brisket alone was tender, glistening with juices, and well-seasoned. Can you see it glistening? The best dreams are made of these briskets. I have to admit that it sizes up pretty well next to authentic Southern style barbecue.
This rustic and classy spin on American southern BBQ was just what my nostalgia of home needed as I battle homesickness. I love that you can come to Smokestak for some modern twists to traditional southern BBQ and just hang out chatting with friends over delicious cocktails.
It's not the exact same as what I expect with southern BBQ, but that's what's great about this place. It has it's own unique interpretation and modern execution of traditional southern BBQ. There's also an atmosphere facilitating the enjoying of food with excellent, attentive service and great recommendations upon request. You just need to be present to create happy memories with friends over positive conversations.
Whether you're new to London or just new to American-style BBQ, go check out Smokestak or any other the other barbecue restaurants around London to get a taste of what I'm talking about. You'll find excellent service and great conversations here. Leave a comment below and share your experience.
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