The restaurant that everyone in London is seemingly raving about right now is Pitt Cue Co in Soho. Despite only being open since mid January, it’s already gained a massive following and there are regular reports of lengthy queues snaking down the road. As with the opening last year of the excellent José in Bermondsey and Ducksoup in Soho it seems that if they get it right, even very small places can generate huge interest.
Originally working out of a van located underneath Hungerford Bridge, to rave reviews, the Pitt Cue guys specialise in BBQ as only a red blooded, baseball capped American called Hank would recognise. No incinerated sausages, half cooked chicken or carbonised beef patties, which pass for BBQ in this country. This is the real deal. Think heaps of shredded pulled pork, meltingly tender beef brisket and ridiculously massive portions of sticky, smoky and unctuous ribs.
Regretfully, I never managed to eat at the van, but as soon as I heard they’d up scaled to a restaurant proper, I knew I had to get my ass down there and experience it for myself.
Allegedly seating just 30 but even this number of covers seems a little generous, from what I saw. With that many seated, it would mean eating your meal whilst sitting on a strangers lap with someone’s elbow lodged in your eye.
First off, I have to say I know pretty much sod all about proper American BBQ. I know what it consists of. I just haven’t eaten it. It pretty much doesn’t exist in this country. But over the years, I’ve listened to accounts from various individuals who have experienced the real deal in the US. Tales that have been invariably highly emotionally charged, misty eyed and awed which have left me with the distinct impression that my life is just a wasted empty husk until I’ve eaten some of it for myself.
I’d like to report, having now experienced proper BBQ at Pitt Cue, the hype is all true, my husk has been well and truly stuffed full of the meaty goodness and I’m a believer.
Sadly ‘E’ couldn’t accompany me on my ‘Road to Damascus’ proper BBQ conversion. Her Pescatarianism precludes eating all the good stuff, so she stayed at home to no doubt gnaw on some dry nuts and berries. Instead, I was accompanied by Niamh, a girl who definitely knows her way around a bit of pork and isn’t at all squeamish about gnawing on a meaty rib.
I’d heard some disconcerting reports of people queuing for over an hour to get in the door. There's a no reservation policy, and with the temperature plummeting to minus brass monkey, I planned on getting there for 5:45pm, a time I’d been assured by those in the know would almost guarantee a swift entry. Spot on – straight in through the busy upstairs bar, down the stairs to a packed but very bijou space. The smoky, meaty smells emanating from the kitchen had me drooling before I’d even looked at a menu.
Deciding that the already somewhat infamous Pickle Back would kick start the meal nicely, we quickly got stuck in. A shot of Bourbon, quickly followed up with a shot of pickling liquor. The raw alcohol burn instantly quenched with a savoury sweetness. It seems very odd to be knocking back pickling liquor, but it works amazingly well.
A couple of very decent cocktails later, (things are a little hazy on the booze front but I’m pretty sure I drank a Big Mac ‘n’ Rye and a New York Sour in quick succession), our food began to arrive.
First to arrive, the most amazing Beef Ribs, large and thick, dark and sticky. An absolute joy to eat; soft mouthfuls of meat tearing away with each effortless bite. The accompaniments of pickles, a nice sharp vinegar ‘slaw and a chunk of chargrilled bread to mop up with were spot on.
Meanwhile Niamh was demolishing a portion of St Louis pork ribs. We swapped plates half way through so we could try everything. If anything, the pork ribs were better than the beef. Even more sticky, tender and soft. Amazing.
At this point, I better mention the burnt end mash. I’m a total mash potato fiend. Whoever had the idea of covering it with the crispy off-cuts of meat and gravy deserves some kind of medal. Beautiful stuff.
A side order of smoked hot wings with pickled celery was very good, in fact they must have been pretty damn great as I’m not normally a big fan of chicken wings but I stuffed all of these in my gob in no time at all.
Deep fried crispy pickled shitake were another stupendously good side dish, beautiful crisp batter with a tangy moist mushroom inside, a great accompaniment to cut through all that meat.
We decided to share a bowl of rather fantastic sticky toffee pudding with bourbon salted caramel sauce and prune and Armagnac ice-cream, (yep, it was every bit as good as it sounds) and that was us, done.
With mains coming in at around £10 each, sides £3-£4 and cocktails £6, the bill, considering we’d both drunk three cocktails and ordered a fair bit of food came to around a very bargainous £40 each. Looking at the menu, it would be very easy to visit and easily spend less than £20 per person if you didn’t start hitting the booze hard. Considering the quality of the food, the prices are ridiculously cheap.
So, there it is. I loved Pitt Cue. There’s nowhere else serving food like this in London. Their American style BBQ is everything I’d heard it was and more. What else is there to say? Basically it’s frigging awesome. Yes the restaurant is crammed, busy and you may have to queue, but any trials encountered are well worth it to eat food like this as a reward. Go!
Pitt Cue Co
1 Newburgh Street