Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Review: Pitt Cue Co, Soho, London

It might just be my sources but the word on the meat scene of the capital has been dominated for some time by three words: Pitt Cue Co. For those of you who have been out of the loop, the minuscule Soho-based restaurant has been making (cow-shaped) ripples in the food scene for a while now - the hype about their no reservations policy has been matched only by that of their fabled barbecued offerings. And, of course, the publicity has started a vicious (ever hungry) circle as the eatery gained popularity which created longer queues and in turn fed its cult status among carnivores.

The combination of urban food myth and char-grilled meats made it an ideal place to take The Boy during one of his infrequent visits to London. Having done our research, we arrived 30 minutes before opening and joined the already sizeable queue. I must admit that, having lived in Britain for my entire life, I'm something of a queue-connoisseur; we Brits like to form lines for everything. However this queue was unlike pretty much any queue I'd witnessed before; the queuee's (as I shall call them) were cheerful. Maybe it was the quirky Soho setting or maybe the glorious smell of searing ribs combined with low blood sugar was making everyone delirious but people were waiting patiently and happily. After several months of shoulder-bargy, foot-squashing, tube-cramming, irate-to-the-point-of-evaporating-with-rage London commuters, I started to think I was seeing things.

Around 6pm, the kitsch lace curtains that lined the bar's windows began to twitch and, finally, the doors opened. I half expected the air of patience to dissolve and for us to rush the entrance like eleven year old's at a One Direction album signing but instead the doorway was barred by a friendly gentleman - keeper of the keys, if you will - who organised the tables. The Boy and I only just made it over the threshold; the queue was cut short just behind us. The place was jam packed and we were seated to eat in the bustling bar which was fine for two but probably would've been a pain for a larger group.

We ordered and proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes masking the rumbling of anticipation emitted by our impatient tummies with pleasant conversation while nursing pints of house "Whatever" lager. Dubbed "Whatever" because it's exactly that: any beer that takes their fancy at the time. We got lucky; it was equally moreish and thirst-quenching. Despite the noisy setting, it was quite nice to see the bar staff working away while we waited. They seemed in their element as they churned out cocktails and pulled pints.

Enamelled trays were set down in front of us with a satisfying clink against the wood of the table and I bearly had time to take note of it's contents before instinct took over and I had to start gobbling. I'd chosen brisket with a side of chipotle 'slaw. The meat was so tender; it could have been cut with a spoon. Satisfying for the novelty if nothing else. It was somewhat drowned in barbecue sauce but, to fair, it wasn't your average barbecue sauce. It was seductively smokey and packed full of umami flavours - literally finger licking! The 'slaw was delish and surprisingly refreshing - the creamyness was a delightful contrast to the fragrant sauce on the meat.

The Boy went for pork ribs with burnt end mash and this definitely didn't disappoint. The ribs were mammoth. Literally! Like the gigantic ones that are strapped to the side of Fred's car in the closing titles of the Flintstones. They were juicy and tender too. I found myself feeling rather jealous as The Boy knawed (caveman-style - very apt) on the bones to extract every ounce of flavour. The burnt end mash was much nicer than it sounds - creamy smooth mashed potato covered in a layer of burnt scrag ends from the barbie. Seriously good stuff.

Pickles and a hunk of char-grilled bread were included as standard and worked well. The briny sharpness of the pickles helped to cut through all of the strong flavours while the bread was essential for making the meal finish sociably - I have no doubt that we would've been licking the trays at the end if this hadn't been provided.

All in all, the meal was good value and we thoroughly enjoyed everything (okay, if I'm being picky, they do that annoyingly fashionable thing where they price everything by one decimal place - £1.5 rather than £1.50 - but that can be forgiven). Be prepared to turn up early on a busy night and wear comfortable shoes for the queue. Other than that, if you're in London and you like meat, all I will say is that you must go.

Pitt Cue Co can be found at 1 Newburgh Street, Soho, London W1E 7RB. Open Monday - Saturday for lunch between 12pm and 3pm and for dinner between 6pm and 11pm. Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus.

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