Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates Lads Night
PHOTOS: Karolina Wiercigroch

Remember those anti-gentrification protests on Brick Lane a couple of years ago? The ones where an angry mob took to the streets and lobbed missiles at the Cereal Cafe and burned an effigy of a police officer? It was like the Guardian comments section had come to life, but it’s difficult not to feel some sympathy when a Pret takes over an iconic local coffee room and a new FroYo shop is named after the poshest square in London.

Smokestak is definitely a part of this whole hugely complex affair. It’s a barbecue restaurant that opened at the back of a block of new-build flats off Brick Lane, and it’s definitely not somewhere where you’ll find many old-school Cockney or Bengali folks. But unlike many of the bland businesses moving into the area, Smokestak actually brings something new to the table.

Namely, Smokestak does the best Southern-style barbecue in London. Everything about this restaurant is set up to give you the impression that they take their meat REALLY SERIOUSLY, from the counters that look like charred coals, to the industrial-looking decor that makes it feel like you’re sitting inside a gigantic smoker.

And the food is very, very good across the board. It’s a brilliant restaurant to come with a few like-minded people (i.e. those intent on eating a shedload of meat) and dive deep into the menu, or to sit at the bar with a drink and a few small plates. Smokestak has one of the best briskets we’ve ever eaten, and the pastrami and crispy ox cheek nuggets are standouts on a deep menu full of things that’ll make you want to return for round two.

The restaurant does get rammed on occasion, so plan ahead if you’re planning to show up with a group - the dining room isn’t the biggest. And definitely don’t show up with a mob, unless you want to end up on the 10 o’clock news for scaring the nice people at the FroYo shop.

Food Rundown

Cured Pigs Jowl

This is like the sweetest, most delicate bacon you’ve ever eaten. It’s intense like good San Daniele prosciutto, except crispy, which is as good as it sounds.

Crispy Ox Cheek

These are essentially tiny cubes of slow-cooked beef that have been breaded and deep fried, kind of like a super meaty croquette. So yes, you want to order them.

Brisket Bun

The brisket bun gets all the love on Insta, and if you were to grab a drink at the bar and only order one thing, this would be it. It’s what Smokestak does best, summed up in a couple of memorable bites.

Pastrami, Sour Cabbage, And Pickles

Like the meltiest, most tender cured beef you’ll ever eat. It’s a little different to the pastrami you might have tried at Monty’s or an NYC-style delis, and it’s something you’ll definitely want to savour.

Thick-Cut Pork Ribs, Pickled Cucumbers

These are fine, though we’ve definitely had better. We aren’t huge fans of all the sauce slathered over the meat, and given the choice, we’d go for the beef ribs over these.

Beef Brisket

Because meat is the new bread, this is everything we like about the brisket sandwich but without any pesky bun getting in the way of us going all-in on that incredible beef. Take that, bread lobby!

Beef Rib, Pickled Red Chilli

This was good, and like a budget stripper, it’s a lot of meat for the money. Again, it kind of pales next to the brisket, but it’s a good option if there are a few of you to share.

Heritage Tomato, Roasted Pine Nuts

You’ll need the sweet-and-sourness from these tomatoes to counter all that smoke, salt and fat. Also, we’re pretty sure that this is the only thing on the menu that doesn’t contain pork fat.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

If you’re ordering this after all of that barbecue, you’re undeniably a champ, and we’re also a little worried for you.

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