Just off Carnaby Street, Londoners line up at Pitt Cue Company to delight in pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs complemented – if you’re 18 or over – by some American bourbon.
The unassuming entrance and the finger-licking grub inside would not seem out of place in Bowling Green, Kentucky, although Pitt Cue is actually 3,500 miles east of Bowling Green in Soho, London.
In recent years restaurateurs have been traveling across the Atlantic for inspiration, fostering a boom in the ambitious goal of creating American comfort-food dining in London.
Those who are homesick for some vintage American cooking should try this restaurant, which showcases the best of both cuisines, as long as they don’t mind the wait.
Pitt Cue is an 18-seat restaurant in Soho, which opened in September after a successful nine-month run as a food truck. Since then, it has been packed every weekend, with lines out the door and down the street.
I waited about 30 minutes at lunchtime for a table. The host led me past the bar to the dining room downstairs, a cramped basement area with stone flooring and bare putty-colored walls. It had a utilitarian design. The only light emanated from retro lamps hanging from above. Utensils were thrown into a metal jar in the center of the table and our dining neighbors were a little closer than I would have liked.
My initial skepticism, however, was erased when our meal was served. It was not the usual British version of barbeque, which is usually encrusted with charcoal and soot, but smoked, slow-cooked meats.
Jamie Berger, the owner of Pitt Cue Co, described the restaurant’s food as “a marriage of American techniques and recipes with rare breed English meat.”
This marriage began when he was born and raised in
Atlanta, Georgia where he became accustomed to the techniques used in slow-treated comfort food. Later, he pursued his education in England and became inspired to get into the restaurant business.
The juicy and textured pulled pork dish served with bone marrow mash to the sticky toffee pudding with Kentucky bourbon exemplifies this marriage of cultures.
Another highlight of the meal were the smoked beef ribs. They were thick and juicy and laced with sweet notes throughout, rather than char, an unfortunate staple of British barbecue. The tender beef brisket was a more original kind of alchemy and had just the right amount of chew before it fell off the bone. It was a unique blend of London and Southern flavor not found anywhere else.
Pitt Cue Co. does not take us on a theme park ride back to America but serves barbecue unique to Britain, contributing to Londan a domain that was, until now, monopolized by America.