Hipsters are a confused bunch. For years, they’ve wilfully ignored the blatant fact that the longboard is an ineffective means of transportation. They’re also using an ever increasing number of products with which to sustain their facial hair. It’s a beard. If you’re trying the caveman look, just leave it alone for fuck’s sake. The latest induction into their mystical culture of calf tattoos and odd socks? Tiny restaurants.
To regular law-abiding people, a restaurant in which you’re offered less space than you would at your own kitchen table would feel unfair. But to the hipster, it seems the more uncomfortable, the better. “Oh Atticus, have you tried that new Red Onion Ash pop up in the car park of Haggerston Recycling Centre? The plates are made from old Pepsi Max cans!” We do owe some gratitude to Atticus and his crew though. For without this particular hipsterism, London wouldn’t be blessed with the vibrant communal eating spaces or quality street food markets it now is. Nor would it have so been so kind to some of our favourites - Hoppers, Bao, Gunpowder, all adorably tight spaces. So provided the food is up to scratch, we’re happy to squeeze in, even if it does mean we finish the meal with a dead leg and a new friend we didn’t want.
This brings us to Smoke And Salt, the latest residency to take over one of the tiny repurposed shipping containers at Pop Brixton. And they’re performing kitchen aerobics in more ways than one.
In addition to a restrictive space, Smoke and Salt also takes a somewhat restrictive approach to their cooking, by using the ‘ancient’ techniques of smoking, curing and preserving to prepare their food. They take British ingredients and prepare them slowly and deliberately - the prep calendar is portioned up in days rather than hours. And then they tend to chargrill them, and top them with things like truffle ponzu and jalapeno salsa.
The result is a small selection of interesting, and occasionally excellent dishes, all at reasonable prices. The menu changes pretty frequently, but you can expect to eat things like an outstanding chicken leg that was brined for hours before being scorched, or a simple plate of tomatoes that’s better than you’d expect it to be. Not everything’s perfect - our pork belly was a little overdone, and a few dishes are skippable - but there’s enough good happening here to make it worth a visit.
The menu is small, so it’s hard to gauge whether Smoke and Salt have what it takes for a move to Soho or similar, but they’re certainly going about it the right way. This place feels a little like a test kitchen, and we can easily picture Smoke and Salt joining Kricket and co. in the future. But if prep time has any bearing on how long we’ll have to wait for that, it could be one for the grandchildren. Maybe bigger restaurants will be cool by then.
Good bread. Light airy fluffy butter. Get it already.
The best thing on the menu. The gorgonzola and chimichurri are perfect together and the optional add-on of chewy Wilshire beef takes it to the next level. Don’t order it without the beef.
Served with sriracha and jalapeño salsa, the trout is a nice dish worth ordering. It’s spicy and fresh thanks to big chunks of chilli and lots of watercress.
A truly brilliant dish. The chicken is juicy and tender and full of big flavours thanks to a truffle ponzu and daikon slaw. This is a dish we hope is here to stay and a really memorable plate of food.
When was the last time you were surprised by a tomato? Exactly. Get these.
These are perfectly grilled and are accompanied by a strong garlic aioli. It works, but it’s still runner beans. If you’re going to leave something off your starter order, make it this.
Even if there was room to jump for joy in here, you wouldn’t want to for this one. It’s not as tasty as it sounds or looks.
With the smoked tofu and pickled peanuts, we thought they were trying a little hard on this one. It’s not bad, but not a must-order.
This did not melt in the mouth. It was overcooked, which for somewhere like Smoke and Salt is such a shame.