NW6 was my stomping ground for quite a few years until recently. And having explored the area thoroughly for 5 years or so, it had got … stale. A few decent pubs, a few good Indian restaurants and the very notable Wet Fish cafe aside, I always found the mix of cafes and restaurants a bit odd, lots of distinctly average places in an area with a glut of young, well-heeled professionals.
So it was exciting to see a new opening (that wasn’t another Italian cafe or short-lived sushi restaurant). It was a smokehouse and bar, very on-trend and hopefully going to kick some life into the main high street, West End Lane. I was even more intrigued to see David Moore involved, the Michelin starred Marylebone restauranteur. We arrived at 9.15pm on a Thursday two weeks after opening and it was buzzing, people filling the 80 cover restaurant and a few standing at the long bar. Waiting at the bar, they clearly took their beer seriously with a decent draft selection and extremely good bottled selection, including some smaller London and USA brews. Supping my limited edition German style smoked Flue Faker from Camden, I thought this is looking promising.
We were seated at our booked table shortly after. The decor feels trendy with a slight “stripped back” look but clearly carefully crafted. I particularly liked the photography of high end London butchers on the walls, a nice dedication to the provenance of their key ingredient, meat. The menu is short, focused and full of treats for meat lovers. We opted for some pickles and hot wings to start. The pickles were an interesting mix of salted cucumber, carrot, gherkins and of all things, semi-dried tomatoes. Very fresh with good crunch, I liked the texture of them. I think they needed a touch more vinegary bite, although the carrot had plenty of garlic and the cucumbers a bit too much salt. But, a different variety and fresh. The wings were pretty generous (10 or so), and very moist and meaty for their size. It came with a heavy blue cheese dip and a nice touch of celery sticks. All good, BUT, they were not hot in any definition of the word. I’m all for subtlety in spicing, however the chilli kick was only just discernable. We had ordered some rye bread and marrow (a rather bargainous £1) which didn’t arrive unfortunately.
Mains, smoked ox cheek arrived for me. Nestled in the classic enamel tins was a decent hunk of cheek, with a very impressive blackened smoke crust. A selection of pickles were in there as well (I wish I had been told since I ordered coleslaw as a side). Beautiful fork-tender meat, it was unfortunately let down with a chronic lack of seasoning. Such a shame since it was perfectly cooked and the pickles cut through the fatty meat. Salt helped alleviate it but a good dry rub 14hrs earlier when the smoking starting would have been a lot better. Phil had the burger, a dangerous move given Phil’s notoriously high burger standards. He was pleased overall with a good medium-rare patty, although the soft bun and large wet tomato caused “structural issues”. A side of chips was fine, a crisp exterior although slightly light interior.
So, £50 for a couple of good beers, some sharing starters and mains was perfectly acceptable (good value even). But, they really have to get a bit more flavour in there, underseasoned smoked meat and underspiced “hot” wings are still hanging offences in some of the lower States of America. Let’s hope they are still settling into the dishes and will perfect them over the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be back.