Monday, 7 May 2012

Weekend of Meat Part I: Duke's Brew and Que

This weekend I went up to London to spend the weekend catching up and eating with my lovely friend Jane.  As I've been eating mostly vegetarian for the past fortnight - not for any particular reason, but having once been a vegetarian for about 9 years, I tend to eat meatless meals more often than not - we decided to have a decadent weekend of meat eating.  I really appreciate those years of being a vegetarian, as they taught me to appreciate meat as a bit of a luxury and really enjoy it when I have it.

So, pigs and cows, thank you for providing the deliciousness of our Friday culinary escapade to Duke's Brew and Que in East London.  A cosy and inviting barbeque restaurant/bar adding to the long list of funky American-style meat hangouts in London (eg. Meat Liquor, Bodeans, Pitt Cue, etc) it has a simple menu of ribs, burgers and sliders (sort of mini burgers/meaty sandwiches) with a not-so-simple (in a good way) beer list and lengthy cocktail menu.  A refreshing thing about Duke's is that they take advance bookings.  I have no idea why many of these places have a 'no reservations' policy, the cynic in my says that a hefty queue outside your establishments somehow adds to the legend, status and anticipation.  But to me it's just a massive hassle, a bit of a cheek and leads to leg and brain ache.  Or maybe they want you to get paraletic before you dine.  Jane mentioned that she waited in the queue for almost 2 hours to get into Pitt Cue, getting rapidly drunker from drinks bought at the pub across the road.  Once she got inside she and her companion had a further wait at the bar where more drinks were consumed.  Needless to say, by the time they sat down to eat the food didn't really matter any more.  Anyway, back to Duke's...

Beef ribs and a sunshine-coloured mac n' cheese
The meat was really moist but didn't quite fall off the bone quite as softly as Bodean's or Brighton's BBQ Shack.  Still the smokey aroma lingered with me long afterwards (in a good way).  We shared pork ribs and beef ribs, the pork ribs benefitting from a slightly spicy marinade and crispy fat - these probably had the edge flavour-wise for us, but the beef ribs' sheer size and juicyness was irresistably seductive.  Also the bottles of homemade BBQ sauce were excellent, particularly the sublime mustard and horseradish one which we wanted to steal.  The aforementioned cheap beer was also brilliant.  Mac n' cheese had a lovely tangy cheese flavour but for me was a tad dry.  I appreciate this is a matter of opinion though as I like mine unctuous and saucy with a crusty top, whereas Jane likes hers pretty much 'set' all through.  Each to their own!  Also, they brew their own beer at Dukes, and kudos to them for serving it by the pint.  One of my pet gripes at a lot of these new meaty diner-ish haunts is that because they often only serve imported (eg. American) beers it's frequently only sold in over-priced tiny bottles.  With a sigh of relief I found that Dukes' cheapest homebrew sets you back just over £3, and I cheerfully imbibed a pint of their amusingly named 'Neck Oil' out of an old-fashioned glass tankard.  Note to other restaurants - some of us like drink a lot but save money for extra food.  Save the glass and let us have some draft beer, hey?

THE BAD (but not that bad):
Accompanying coleslaw could have been creamier - there didn't seem to be much dressing and it almost ressembled mass-produced stuff.  Also felt that the restaurant is a little chilly and on a (granted, unseasonably) cold early May night we felt a bit of a draft at our window-side table.  The only really bad thing was the pickle on the side - not sure if these were homemade or not but it was bland, watery, more like a cucumber than a lovely crunchy sweet pickle.  This is hopefully a small touch they can improve on.

Pork ribs, disappointing pickle.

Overall I reckon I'd give it an 8/10.  Worth taking the Overground out to East London for and sampling pretty good barbecue and a brilliant beer menu.  And their unisex bathroom with communal tin tub for handwashing and its own piped-in music is also a highlight...

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