BBQ season is finally upon us! The classic British pastime sees hundreds of us optimistically checking the weekend's forecast and then dashing down to Tesco's for those 20-pack chipolatas. American, Korean, Japanese influences… BBQing in England has rapidly stepped-up in recent years, transforming the practice from a few charred burgers with ketchup to a multi-meat, culinary spectacle. If, however, you’re hoping to avoid the pressure of hosting your own BBQ this year, we’ve compiled the Eaten Guide to the Best BBQ Joints in town. Lay down the tongs and let us guide you through the best places to get your meat fill.
If you know your grills, then you’ll definitely have heard of Smokestak. This Shoreditch BBQ joint has built a reputation as an all-round crowd pleaser, and charcoal grills and wood-fired ovens add a rustic, post-industrial elegance to both setting and food. Their signature dish, the melt-in-the-mouth beef brisket, is regularly hailed as the ‘best in London’ and justifies a visit by itself.
The Blues Kitchen serves Cajun-style BBQ against a backdrop of live nightly blues, swing and soul music. The menu comes straight from the Deep South with favourites such as Brisket, Jambalaya, Gumbo and Jerk Chicken. While the meat here obviously takes centre stage, honourable mention has to go to their Chicken Fried Cauliflower, which has earned its own legion of fans. Come for a night of blues, BBQ and enough Bourbon to transport you straight to New Orleans.
Sophie’s in Soho takes a ‘back to basics’ approach to BBQing and focuses on championing Great British Beef with simple, un-fussy classics. Sophie’s prides itself on offering both great food & great cocktails within a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere. Go for the steak or try one of their equally impressive fish dishes, and enjoy the theatre of watching it cooked in their open kitchen on the notorious ‘Infiernillo’ firepit.
Straight outta Kansas City, Bodean’s serves up a stacked meat feast that’s unabashedly American and seriously smoky. Bodean’s first opened its doors in 2002 in an attempt to combat the plethora of subpar American BBQ restaurants in London. 17 years later and the grillhouse is still doing what it does best - serving up smoky, salty, Southern-style meat to the hungry people of London.
The Covent Garden branch of the popular Temper restaurant boasts a snazzy, eclectic atmosphere and the world's (supposedly) largest wood-fire oven. Its head barbecuer, Neil Rankin, comes from an impeccable grilling background, having enjoyed successful stints at both Pitt Cue and Smokehouse. Temper is a ‘whole animal’ bbq, which means that they butcher most of their meat in-house in an aim to adhere to their zero-waste policy and give everything a superbly smoky flavour.
Our first Korean BBQ entry is the ever popular Arang, an unassuming, budget-friendly hotspot in the heart of Soho. Arang is one of London’s original Korean BBQ specialists and the favourite of many Koreans. Head here on any night of the week and you’ll see it packed with customers enjoying the BBQ along with classic kimchi, hot & cold bibimbap, Korean soups or making their way through the excellent set menus.
7. Berber & Q
For flavour alone, this restaurant packs a real punch with its Middle Eastern/North African/Ottoman fusion; think chickpeas, herbs, chilli, pittas, salads, pickles (& copious amounts of garlic sauce) all slathered over deliciously sticky grilled meat. Berber & Co also ensure that their veggies receive as much love and attention as their meat options, so be sure to check out their much coveted Cauliflower Shawarma & Blackened Aubergine.
Olle (meaning small pathway in the Korean-Jeju dialect) is the new kid on the block on the Korean BBQ scene. The meat at Olle is cooked in traditional Korean style on a grill built into the table, allowing you to watch as your food gets perfectly charred. Along with extremely premium marbled selections of Wagyu beef, pork and seafood, Olle is known for its Korean stews, served in traditional clay pots to give you a real taste of Korean home cooking.
9. Texas Joe's
Joe first appeared on our foodie radar when he successfully negotiated a deal on Dragons' Den for his original Beef Jerky. He has since gone on to open his restaurant, Texas Joes, in Southwark to showcase his love for slow smoked meats, country music, wood panelling and, of course, his Texan homeland. Far from being just another themed restaurant, the meat at Texas Joe’s really lives up to its name and packs a suprisingly mighty punch.
Kintan, a Japanese restaurant specialising in 'yakiniku,' the Korean-inspired grilling style, has sites at Oxford Circus and Holborn and serves up an interactive, grill-it-yourself experience. The meats, fish and veggies arrive at your table marinated and prepared but uncooked, and the fun lies in DIY BBQing everything yourself at your own personal grill under their staffs' helpful watch. Make sure to order the Kalbi Short Rib, Spicy Chicken and the Garlic Fried Rice!
Let us know in the comments your top picks for BBQ in your local area and remember to share your favourites on Eaten!