According to the Oxford Dictionary: a barbeque is a meal or gathering at which meat, fish, or other food is cooked out of doors on a rack over an open fire or on a special appliance. Technically speaking, this is correct and covers most bases, but what this definition from the pedantic wordsmiths doesn’t tell you is just how many incarnations of the humble barbeque there are!
Is there really anything as satisfying as eating a hunk of meat (and vegetables too I suppose) that’s been cooked over a grill? No, no there isn’t, not in the Connie Dictionary of Deliciousness anyway. The classic Kiwi sausage sizzle will always hold a special place in my heart but recently my love of the barbeque has expanded to include the Korean version with spicier meats and an epic array of sides, and the American version with all the meats cooked low and slow.
My first taste of real American barbeque was in Austin, Texas where, for the first and only time in our lives thus far, we turned up at a restaurant before it opened and joined a queue. I’m not usually that punctual, and neither of us particularly enjoys queueing but for Franklin BBQ, we did and it was worth every slow step towards the meat… Since then, we’ve tried a couple of London’s replicas but have never been to Bodean’s BBQ, the first to bring the American barbeque across the Atlantic, until now.
To celebrate the opening of their new Covent Garden branch, we were being treated to a special Barbeque and Beer Pairing menu – five dishes, five beers… I knew this would be a big meal, even before the arrival of the first course. Thankfully, it was a light start – a Mexican chicken salad with Kona Brewery’s Big Wave Golden Ale. The salad was nice but for me, totally outshone by the beer which was fresh and zesty, and scarily drinkable – even for someone who doesn’t usually enjoy light beers.
Making more of an impression was the pulled pork and coleslaw that arrived next. The meat was juicy with hints of smokiness which I really liked; it went down a treat with a drizzle of the hot chipotle sauce and Boulevard Brewing Co’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.
I was surprised to see a fish course on the menu but I guess it’s good business practice to have something for those pescetarians who might accidentally stumble in? Jokes aside, I appreciated Bodean’s attempt at something a little different with their Cajun swordfish with mango salsa and okra, but it just fell flat. The fish was bland and the okra a bit underdone, the only saving graces were the sweet salsa and the half bottle of hot sauce I doused over everything. The Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA wasn’t too shabby either.
That minor blip in the menu was soon forgotten when I saw the baby back ribs and fries. Now this is what I was hoping for, a proper American style barbeque plate of goodness paired with a fantastic Boulevard Brewing Co’s Single Wide IPA. The ribs were quite simply delicious; the pork had a lovely sweetness to it and just fell off the bone with ease. All cutlery and shyness were momentarily abandoned and it was every carnivore for themselves as we fought over every last rib!
Our feast ended with a decadent chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream paired with my favourite of the evening’s beers, a Fullers Brewery’s Black Cab Stout. I don’t drink beer often, but when I do, stouts and porters are my usual choice so I was pleased to see one on the menu. It was the perfect match for something sweet and rich like a brownie.
Bodean’s BBQ exceeded my expectations and silenced my initial skepticism. I had chalked it down as a gimmicky chain restaurant… (how many branches does a restaurant need to turn it into a chain?) which is clearly a bit rough on my behalf. Some of the unexpected dishes like the chicken salad and the fish didn’t tickle my fancy at all, but when it comes to the stuff we do expect from Bodean’s, namely the meat, they certainly know a thing or two about getting that right!
Are you a barbeque lover? Is there a certain style you’re particularly fond of?
Thanks to Bodean’s BBQ for satisfying my cravings for a proper American barbeque right here in London, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone.