Three brilliant BBQ joints in Soho and Covent Garden

Rewind 10 years and London’s BBQ joints were few and far between – in 2004 only one of our three choices, Bodean’s, existed, and it had only been in business for two years. Restaurants that served US food tended to be unfocused and formulaic, churning out easy versions of popular dishes for undiscerning punters. The art of real BBQ – the big smokers, the carefully guarded dry rub recipes, the precise temperature control, the long cooking times – was barely recognised, let alone practised.

What changed? If you ask us, the growth of pop-ups and food trucks helped; it allowed people with passion and knowledge to get a start in the industry and begin opening up new dining trends. That’s roughly Pitt Cue’s story, and as businesses like it grew in influence, they set the scene for bigger investments like Big Easy. Either way, good BBQ is now all over town, and we’re lucky to have three of the very best within walking distance.

Bodeans

Sat on a corner in the heart of Soho, this BBQ and rib joint comfortably pre-dates the trend for hipster junkfood – you’ll struggle to find a trace of irony anywhere. There’s table service downstairs and a livelier fast-food-style diner upstairs, with US sports channels on the TV. Is it the best BBQ food in London? Probably not, but it has earned its keep in a demanding part of town, and continues to thrive despite the flood of BBQ newbies in the neighbourhood. Plus it’s perfectly located for a post-pub feed in Soho, and, unlike at Pitt Cue Co, it doesn’t take a minor miracle to get a table.

Address: 10 Poland Street, W1F 8PZ
Walking time: 20 minutes
Landmarks on the way:

  • Zimbabwe House, designed by Charles Holden, who did extensive work for London Underground (including its headquarters in St James’s Park
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Leicester Square

Big Easy

Housed in an old power station, this reinvigorated version of a once rather uninspiring brand earned an approving review from the Guardian critic Jay Rayner when it opened – and if the fiercely carnivorous Rayner tells you a meat-focused restaurant is good, you listen. Their revamp consisted of hiring both staff and equipment from the US: over came Kenny Callaghan and Pete Daversa, from New York’s Blue Smoke and Hill Country Barbecue Market respectively; close behind them came a set of real-deal smokers. Relaxed and quiet it ain’t, but that isn’t what BBQ is about – on flavour and authenticity, Big Easy delivers the goods. Even better, it’s literally just around the corner from our front door.

Address: 12 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA
Walking time: 3 minutes
Landmarks on the way:

  • Vaudeville Theatre
  • Maiden Lane is a former bridleway marking south side of Covent Garden

Pitt Cue Co

Pitt Cue began life as a food truck on the South Bank, making the leap to a ‘proper’ restaurant around two years ago. We’ve put proper in quote marks because this is some of the most casual sit-down dining in town. With only 30 seats it’s strictly first-come-first-served, and things get decidedly crowded in the ground-floor bar, where there’s some space to prop yourself up by the wall. Ribs are the clincher here, and they come up beautifully, rich and slow-smoked with that elusive ‘bark’ on the outside. If ribs aren’t your bag there’s pulled pork and brisket too, but the menu offers little else except a range of sides (beans, mash, sprout tops). They stick to what they’re good at, and no wonder – they’re very good at it indeed.

Address: 1 Newburgh St, London W1F 7RB
Walking time: 20 minutes
Landmarks on the way:

  • Zimbabwe House, designed by Charles Holden, who did extensive work for London Underground (including its headquarters in St James’s Park
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Leicester Square

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