Pulled Pork at Pitt Cue Co


Was it worth waiting in line for 90 minutes to eat at Pitt Cue Co? In a word: yes. Yes. Yes yes yes. A thousand times: yes. I’m tempted to actually type ‘yes’ a thousand times. I don’t mean writing it once, copying and pasting until I have ten, then copying and pasting till I have a block of one hundred, then copying and pasting that till I’ve written it a thousand times. I mean actually typing it a thousand times. And probably with ‘Shift’ held down – nope, no Caps Lock.

“A sauce that was no doubt bad for you, but had such a wholesome, homely taste that you couldn’t really believe it”

This place is just fun. I admit that I’m a bit behind the curve. I’ve wanted to go for ages, but this was my first visit. Yes, on plenty of occasions the mammoth wait has put me off. And whilst a lot of that is down to the (justified) buzz about the place, it’s also a lot to do with the fact they really don’t have many covers.

To be fair, we only waited about 45 minutes outside, and once inside we started on the Picklebacks – PCC’s signature ‘cocktails’, which is, in fact, a shot of bourbon chased by a shot of pickle juice. Yes, you read that right – the juices they use to pickle their gherkins. I know you’ll roll your eyes and not believe it but, honestly, it’s surprisingly good. We got through nine. Outrageously good and horribly messy rib tips kept us going, until, finally, we got a table.

And it was worth it. Boy was it worth it. The pulled pork was look-no-teeth tender, with a sauce that was no doubt bad for you, but had such a wholesome, homely taste that you couldn’t really believe it. And you know what? It actually tasted of meat. There was actually animal, rather than blasted-out-of-existence mush, in spite of the best efforts of cooking for no doubt hours and hours. Perfect.

“Virgin Picklebacks all round!”

I’m glad there were a few of us, because we got a chance to share sides, every one of which was delivered exactly right. Bone marrow mash had a richness that ended forever debate about how to make a proper mash. Baked beans proved that, yup, Beanz don’t (necessarily) Meanz Heinz. Chilli Slaw was spicy and crunchy, rather than limp and wet. And sprout tops were green but tasted naughty while definitely one of our five-a-day.

And yes, those pickles – brined in that juice – crunchy, sweet, sharp. Virgin Picklebacks all round!

5/10 of Time Out’s top 100 dishes

Mussels with Nduja at Elliot’s Café


There are a few dishes on the Chowdown Showdown list that we are worried about. This was one of those – because Time Out warned that everything in Elliot’s is seasonal, so this could not be on the menu when you visit. Helpfully, they point out that everything at the ‘café’ is delicious, rather missing the point of the challenge they set when compiling a list of 100 top dishes! But luckily, Rachael spotted it on the menu and we rushed there the next day.

“A range of Mediterranean influences, from fresh Italian to complex, African-influenced Spanish”

I must admit I’ve not come across Nduja before. I can’t say I’ve a great deal of experience with it now, because this spicy, spreadable sausage had melted away completely into the soupy sauce in this dish, leaving the mussels bathed in a spot-on hot, tomato broth. I felt envious, because Rachael had a substantially larger portion than I did – I think they were trying to emphasise that all their dishes are for sharing by dividing two portions unevenly between two bowls!

The dish is balanced just right – and while the moules did take their usual place as more protein and texture than a taste explosion themselves, they take on a velvety, warming flavour and aroma that hints at a range of Mediterranean influences, from fresh Italian to complex, African-influenced Spanish. There’s a hint of citrus cutting through the oniony and herby vegetable bulk.

We each asked for extra bread, which is definitely needed for mopping!

18/100 top dishes according to Time Out

Cinnamon Bun at Nordic Bakery


The first two things to say about the Nordic Bakery’s cinnamon buns are superficial: firstly, they’re enormous and, secondly, they’re not in your average ‘swirl’ shape, but have more of a pain au chocolat appearance.

The first bite of these treats hits you, initially with its treacly, uber-sweet blast, and then with a warmth pungent with spices, not just cinnamon – arguably not even mainly cinnamon – but instead with cloves and nutmeg and maybe cardamom. You know after this single mouthful that this isn’t your average cinnamon bun.

“So is this haute cuisine?”

The amount of glucose packed into one of these cakes makes them chewy, and stick in your teeth. I’m not convinced I find this especially pleasant, and they could definitely have eased off on the sugar to my taste. The mix of spices certainly make the bun a bit different, and a distinct change from a plain old cinnamon bun, which has an attractive simplicity but also an ‘easy’ nice taste that is more pop music than Beethoven.

So is this haute cuisine? Well it isn’t clear that the mix of flavours is straightforwardly pleasant. There’s a complexity that I’m not sure quite works. I guess ‘challenging flavours’, like ‘challenging music’ make for variety, but I wouldn’t rush back for this as a reward…

86/100 top London dishes according to Time Out.

Frenchie Burger at Bar Boulud


I’m not one of these people who think ‘how great can a burger be?’. To me, a burger can be genuinely one of the great international dishes. I certainly have that thought about steak – it’s just a slab of meat, isn’t it, and how unimaginative do you have to be to serve a slab of meat to which you’ve applied nothing but a spot of fire? But haché that steak, season it, grill and pair it with the perfect bun, salad and sauce and suddenly you can show culinary genius in spades.

I’ve had a long-standing arrangement that, whenever my friend James is in town from Geneva where he now lives, we head for a posh burger at one of the (what were limited numbers of) gourmet outlets that are now springing up everywhere in London. We’ve tried Joe Allen’s off-menu sandwich, and that of Haché Burger Connoisseur, back when there was only one; ditto Byron. So with James in town we chose to combine challenges and head for a Chowdown Showdown burger – Bar Boulud’s Frenchie.

“A burger can be genuinely one of the great international dishes”

The burger has been variously described as ‘mini’ and ‘petite’, but I think what I’m presented with is a perfectly manageable size of dish – I don’t rate a good burger for sheer volume of meat outside watching Man Versus Food. It’s the A-grade ingredients that we’re being treated to that brings in the punters both sides of the Atlantic to Daniel Boulud’s ‘bars’. Morbier cheese, pork belly confit and tomato compote are the chef’s weapons of choice – though the truth is I know this because Time Out informs me it’s so, not because I have such finely tuned taste buds to identify it.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never found myself thinking ‘this burger is dry…’ (not since those black gristle burgers at school), ‘…and could do with the addition of pork belly’ (though I definitely didn’t know what pork belly was back then). I’m not going to pretend I could tell what this added, but you know what? I think it works, and the meat has a rich, woody flavour that is certainly a cut above.

It’s hard: I’m not sure this burger has that pure, simple flavour that a really great burger has without being boring, but I could definitely eat this again.

32/100 best Time Out dishes

Soondooboo Chiagae at Koba


Korean food is still a bit of a mystery to me. I think it remains a mystery to many people who are totally at home guzzling miso soba or steamed dim sum. It’s not at all that I don’t like it – a good bibimbap is easily up there with the perfect, reliable comfort foods, with the added joy of scrambling it together yourself and the need for a special bowl. So the opportunity to be challenged to try a different dish that I would probably never think to order really appealed.

“We’d have to come back for barbecue”

As soon as we got inside the restaurant, I knew I’d have to return. Everyone else was eagerly devouring centre-of-the-table barbecue that seemed to be the place’s signature offering. We’d have to come back for this.

This was a spicy, tomato, seafood stew, with a tangy Eastern flavour, served with plain white rice. Bites of squid, octopus and mussels swim with a variety of tasty vegetables.

Our fellow diners ordered – you guessed it – bibimbap, and I’m glad they did, since it had just that mix of tastes, textures, colours and heat that pushes the dish into the pantheon of superb national staples. Which isn’t to say that our seafood soup-slash-hotpot wasn’t superb, but it didn’t seem the most exciting thing on the menu.

I’d have hoped that each different type of seafood would have a distinct flavour, above the spicy, tomato-y broth, but apart from their textures there was little to distinguish each forkful. The overall result was delicious, but not as varied as I was looking forward to.

I’ll be back, probably, but for barbecue. And maybe bibimbap.

82/100 best Time Out dishes

Salted Caramel Ice Cream at Oddono’s

Ice Cream

Oddono’s is right opposite GBK, where we’d just indulged in Kiwi Burgers (another of the Chowdown Showdown list). I’d resisted the black and white malt option with my burger, since I’d known we were stopping off across the road for ice cream – so the expectations laid on this gelateria were high.

“I’ll certainly be heading back to Oddonno’s”

Like any of the new breed of London ice cream shops specialising in traditional Italian gelato, the flavours are numerous and range from the obvious – dark chocolate – to the unusual – panettone. As you might imagine, the latter is seasonal, and Oddonno’s recently announced that Salted Caramel had been promoted from occasional treat to permanent flavour. Is this a sign that Salted Caramel is now over? Rachael asserts this happened when they started selling salted caramel truffles in M&S. I can’t deny it’s a more standard pairing than even two years ago – but rightly so, they go together like cheese and pickle, like eggs and bacon, like hot dog and onion. Though not necessarily all in ice cream form!

I like it. In fact, I really like it. I made the mistake of asking for panettone with salted caramel on top, so the flavour wouldn’t be masked by the melting panettone, but the waitress took this to mean I’d like less of the salted caramel. Which was a shame, as I thought it was a stand-out flavour. Luckily, I’ve got a voucher for a litre takeaway tub, so at least half of that will be salted caramel.

What else can I say about ice cream? Well, it isn’t Gelupo, and it doesn’t have the same sense of adventure in its range. If you’re trying to impress a date you should definitely take them to Bocca’s frozen sibling. But I’ll certainly be heading back to Oddono’s. At least for another litre!

56/100 Time Out recommended dishes in London

Kiwi Burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen


There is honestly no humanly possible way to eat this burger. Or rather, there’s no standard burger middle ground between using cutlery and cramming the whole thing into your gob with vegetables and meat and condiments flying everywhere. But then, this burger does feature beetroot, egg, pineapple and cheese – let’s ignore for a minute the lettuce, ketchup, mayonnaise, sesame seed bun. Oh, and the huge beef patty!

“All in all, a pretty tasty burger, but would I rush out to have it again?”

I’m tempted to suggest this is a ‘concept burger’, rather than one intended to be, say, actually eaten. But what concept? Not ‘New Zealandism’. Not even ‘gourmet’. Maybe plain and simple gluttony.

The question is, setting apart the impossibility of eating this in any way half graceful, did it taste nice?

I’ll be honest, having been on something of a gourmet burger quest, I don’t rate GBK that highly. Yes, they’re a cut above the standard new-wave posh burger, but they’re no Byron Burger, and certainly not a Meat Liquor Dead Hippy or off-menu Joe Allen burger.

That said, this is the original GBK, before they went franchise-crazy, and they have new ‘testing’ burgers, which haven’t yet made it to the standard menu – oh, and they don’t take Taste Cards for that reason.

“There is honestly no humanly possible way to eat this burger”

And the verdict? You know what? It was pretty good. The egg has a perfectly runny yolk, adding a real homeliness to what is obviously essentially comfort food. The pineapple didn’t even slightly overpower, giving a tart, sweet, fruity bite. I’m no great fan of beetroot, and I’d probably have it without if I had it again, but I can’t pretend it didn’t add another, distinct flavour that genuinely added something.

All in all, a pretty tasty burger, but would I rush out to have it again? I do go to GBK every so often, but that’s because it’s reasonably cheap – with a Taste Card. Without an offer, it’s a rip-off. And since the franchises really do vary considerably in quality, I wouldn’t bet on another outlet’s Kiwi monstrosity tasting as good. I doubt I’ll rush back to the Northcote Road store, but I may well make a beetless kiwi my standard go to (half-price) burger at GBK.

72/100 of Time Out’s top 100