There’s a new restaurant in town. Everybody’s talking about it. Some people are lining up in the snow for an hour just to try it. It’s called Pitt Cue, and it’s a restaurant in London that serves what just might be the best BBQ outside of the American south.
I had a chance to try Pitt Cue on Friday. I went for a lunch meeting, and although London was covered in snow and I showed up five minutes before the restaurant opened, there was already a line out the door. Thankfully the others in my party had arrived even earlier and were first in the queue.
When the restaurant opened, we were shown downstairs to the dining room. It was a tiny square of a space with room for 30 if people got friendly. It was a bit dark and depressing, and I hoped the food would make up for the dim ambiance. It would have been nice to have the option of eating upstairs in the small bar that was empty when we arrived but packed by the time we left.
Our hostess showed us to a rustic wooden table and handed us neon pink paper menus. The options were basic: pick a meat, choose a side, and decide if you want any extras. We ordered St Louis ribs, beef brisket, chipotle slaw, burnt end mash, and a salad with ham hock, beets, and pickles. We couldn’t resist adding in portions of crispy pickled shiitake mushrooms and smoked hot wings for good measure.
The meal was a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. The food was served in rustic metal trays and simple glass jars that belied the rich complexity of flavors they held. My brisket was tender if a bit dry, and every mouthful seemed to reveal yet another layer of sweet or tangy taste. It was a decent take on American BBQ.
The sides were the real winners. My chipotle slaw was a riot of onions, peanuts, carrots, and cilantro. There was a great balance of flavors in it. That’s to say nothing of the ham hock salad, in which the salty ham, sweet pickles, and layers of leaves and crunch combined to perfection. The mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy, and the burnt ends added a nice bit of extra richness.
The extras were moreish, with the pickled shiitake mushrooms being the winner of the meal. The deep fried slices were packed with flavor, and the juxtaposition of the crispy outside and soft inside was just right. The wings were smothered in a tangy sauce that wasn’t spicy but had enough zest to make us keep reaching for more.
At the end of the meal we couldn’t resist trying one of the two desserts on offer. While the sticky toffee pudding sounded tempting, the cheesecake won me over. It wasn’t just any cheesecake, though. It came in a small glass jar and was more of a cheesecake-flavored cream than a dense piece of cake. Beneath it were layers of rhubarb, biscuits, and cornflakes. I liked everything about it except for the cornflakes, which were too crunchy and seemed superfluous at best and gimmicky at worst.
After dessert we fought our way through the packed upstairs bar to the exit, and I was glad to get out into the fresh winter air. My meal at Pitt Cue restaurant had been a good one, but I was going to need a long time to digest it before I would be hungry again. That said, the line out the door was so long that if I had gone to the end of it, I might have been ready to eat again by the time I got back inside.