The Big Smoke BBQ in Fulham
Britain’s best BBQ was alight in Fulham’s Elk Bar last night, with its innovative pop-up Big Smoke BBQ offering tantalising, slow-cooked meat and lethal cocktails in a breezy al-fresco courtyard.
Big Smoke BBQ, a Mint Group concept, is supported by multi-award winning BBQ chef – or “crackerjack”, as they’re known in the business – Andy Annat. As three time UK BBQ champion, Andy spent a year learning the tricks of his trade in the BBQ capital of the world – America’s Deep South. His passion and enthusiasm for BBQ is evident, describing in detail the steps he takes to ensure the meat is barbecued to perfection. The secret, apparently, lies in his use of the ground-breaking Primo ceramic grill that uses charcoal rather than gas and can retain heat for up to twelve hours.
The food was cooked on charcoal that had been aflame since the early afternoon, generating white hot heat, plenty of moisture, and a gorgeously rich smoky infusion in all the meats we were presented with. The grill can also take a variety of woodchips to create different flavours, including the wood chips of Jack Daniel’s barrels to give the meat an extra kick. The food cooking was interactive, with Andy the ringmaster of the BBQ, spraying the ribs dramatically with bottled beer, and calling for volunteers to help prepare the beer-infused chicken. This made for a fun-filled and entertaining dining experience.
The meal was complemented by tantalising but mildly terrifying cocktails with names like Mad Dog – an enormous margarita with two Sol beers upturned into it – and the Ginger Bread Ale Flip – an intriguing combination of Jack Daniel’s and Perique tobacco liqueur. For the less adventurous, there was an extensive selection of wines and beers.
Dinner was brought out on enormous wooden boards: mountains of pork and beef ribs, succulent ‘Squealer’ burgers with pulled pork, and even some red pepper hummus, all of which were devoured with alarming frequency. The Big Smoke BBQ would be an ideal place to come and share a platter of ribs and a few beers with your closest friends. However, the abundance of sticky glaze and finger-food would not be ideal for a first date; it is nigh on impossible, after all, to eat a colossal, juicy, hickory-smoked beef rib with any semblance of dignity. Andy stayed true to his word about the tenderness and moisture of the meat: the treacle-glazed pork ribs were phenomenal, offering just the right combination of succulence and chewiness.
“The meat of the rib,” he explained, “should not fall away from the bone in the way you might think. When you take a bite, you want to be able to see your bite marks in the meat.”
Seating-wise, the restaurant is also suited to larger parties, with its rustic bench-style tables making for a more communal dining experience – at one point a guest, spotting a few unfinished ribs at the centre of a table, asked if he could tuck in “if you’re done with them?” This jovial, open atmosphere is complemented by the Elk Bar’s al-fresco dining area – a self-contained oasis of calm beneath the shade of brightly coloured marquees and tropical plants. Combined with the warm weather and the scent of freshly barbecued meat, this setting is an ideal way to while away a summer’s evening with friends.
Price-wise, the burgers ranged from £5.95 to £8.95, the ribs are £13.50 for a rack of 12, and a half/whole chicken is £8.95/£16.50 respectively and comes served with fries and coleslaw.
Big Smoke BBQ: 41/60
The Big Smoke BBQ takes place in the courtyard of the Elk Bar, 587-591 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5UB. To book call 020 7385 6940.