Review
4.0 £35pp

SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review

Smokestak has made the transition from street food stall to full-blown restaurant, and chef/owner David Carter has done it in style.

Originally from Barbados, Carter worked in some of London’s best restaurants, before heading back across the pond to study barbecue in the US. After much praise as a street food stall at Dinerama, Smokestak now has a hugely impressive permanent home in Shoreditch.

The styling is super industrial and very measured – dark wood, leather, metal, crittall windows, and barely lit filament bulbs. It’s cool as fuck, and I love it. It feels more refined, more stylish than other BBQ joints, and this vibe is carried though to their gorgeous Instagram feed. This place is different.

A rocky start

Our evening got off to a bad start. Our table for four wasn’t ready, so we were pointed to the tiny, windowless, near pitch-black bar downstairs. After resorting to using the torch on Mark’s phone to read the cocktail menu, we waited a further 20 mins for someone to tell us our table was ready.

Back upstairs, we were plonked on a corner of the chunky communal table. Ours had obviously been given to someone else… Unfortunately, Mark backed on to a narrow gangway near the open kitchen, and staff spent the rest of the evening nudging him in the back every time they walked past. Mark was not a happy boy.

To their credit, the staff were on it, and quickly brought up a round of free drinks to apologise. Smokestak’s cocktail menu is short but strong, and my tequila, smoke, lime, and ginger Smoke (£8.50) was bang on the money.

The food

Pulled pork is synonymous with barbecue, so Carter’s decision to leave it off the menu could be considered quite brave, but Carter is bored of it, and so am I. To fill this piggy shaped hole, you’ll find a range of grown-up, refined small plates with plenty to excite vegetarians as much as carnivores.

We got down to ordering a mix of things the table, as well as some dishes we greedily wanted all to ourselves.

The Crispy Ox Cheek croquettes are £4.50 for 3, so we order a fourth for an extra £1.50. They’re deliciously rich and come with a punchy mayo to dip in. Smokestak is best-known for brisket and you can have it two ways – as a bun or in thick slices as a larger plate. The Brisket Bun (£5) is small, but filled with juicy, fatty, melt-in-the-mouth meatiness that leaves you wanting more. Topped with some pickled red chilli, it’s a cracker. Order two.

Those veggie options I mentioned include dishes like Salt Baked Beetroot with goats cheese and hazelnuts (£6.50) and Smoked Aubergine with toasted cashew and burnt honey (£7.50). Both were well balanced, and made great sides for our meat choices.

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - Brisket Bun

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - Crispy Ox Cheek

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Wild Mushrooms, Beef Dripping Toast

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - David Carter

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Salt-baked Beetroot, Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Thick-cut Pork Ribs, Pickled Cucumber

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - Outdoor Seating

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Smoked Aubergine, Toasted Cashew, Burnt Honey

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - Kitchen

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Torched mackerel, Burnt leek

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    Beef Brisket, Barbecue

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK

  • SMOKESTAK, Shoreditch Review review - Scoffers

    SMOKESTAK - Outdoor Seating

We also had the delicious Grilled Baby Gem with bacon, and walnut gremolata (£5). I love cooked lettuce and have been chucking it on the barbecue for years, so I was glad to see something like this on the menu. The Wild Mushrooms on beef dripping toast (£7.50) was uber-rich, and whilst delicious, not something I could eat a lot of.

On to the stuff we were too greedy to share. Ribs were on my mind (they always are), so the only decision I had to make was beef or pork. I went for the Thick-cut Pork Ribs (£9), which were as tender and smoky as I’d hoped, and worked beautifully with the pickled cucumber that comes on the side.

Antonia changed her mind a dozen times, and ended up with the Torched Mackerel with burnt leek (£8), which was decent but didn’t stack up well in comparison to other dishes.

Emillie’s Beef Brisket (£9.50) glistened with juiciness and is served simply, with a small pile of pickled red chilli and a puddle of rich barbecue sauce. Top drawer.

The verdict

Smokestak lived up to the hype in some ways, but struggled in others. Carter himself seems like a lovely guy and came over to see how our evening was, give us a quick tour of the kitchen, and show off his huge $20,000 smoker.

Some dishes are pricey, eg. half a jacket potato for £5, but we managed to eat and drink well for about £35 a head. Besides, there are bills to pay and the overheads here must be massive…!

It’s right up there with the best barbecue in town, and if you’re looking for an example of how to move from street food stall to permanent restaurant, Smokestak is the blueprint.

Posted in: 4 Star, American, BBQ, British, Dinner, East London, London, Restaurants, Review

The Bill

4 Diners
Ox Cheek£4.50
Extra Ox Cheek£1.50
Brisket Bun x 2£5.00 each
Beetroot£6.50
Aubergine£7.50
Baby Gem£5.00
Jacket Potato£5.00
Beef Brisket£9.00
Mackerel£8.00
Pork Ribs x 2£9.00 each
Burnt Peach Old Fashioned£9.00
Smoke£8.50
Quince + Thyme x 2£8.50 each
Porter Mill Station (btl)£20.00
Kernel Pale Ale£5.50
Total£143.00
Per person£35.75

Contact Info

35 Sclater Street,
London E1 6LB

020 3873 1733
www.smokestak.co.uk

View on map

The Author

Gary Simmons

Founder of Scoffers and Design Superheroes, co-founder of Ethical Kitchen and in to all things foodie, Gary has eaten 13 meals in one day, a tarantula, a scorpion, the world's hottest chilli and most expensive soup.

Read Next

Giggling Squid, Hove Review

An indulgent dinner at one of Brighton's most authentic Thai restaurants

Opera Tavern, WC2

Probably the best tapas in London, with service to match

Jones & Sons, Hackney Review

A modern, friendly restaurant serving up the best British cuisine I've had for a long time

Get the Scoffers App and discover the best foodie offers, pop-ups and events in London & Brighton

Discover new places. Support local independents. Share new experiences. Save money.

Download on the App Store